Civilian Review Of Surveillance Okd

Posted: September 16, 1987

Mayor Goode yesterday announced new guidelines requiring police for the first time to get permission from a civilian authority before conducting surveillance to gather intelligence on political organizations.

Stefan Presser, legal counsel for the American Civil Liberties Union of Pennsylvania, said no other city in the country required civilian review of police surveillance.

The new policy was outlined by Goode in a letter to a coalition of protest groups that have sued the city over police surveillance during the Constitution bicentennial celebration. The policy calls for the city's managing director - along with the police commissioner and his first deputy - to give advance approval of police plans to gather intelligence. The police request must be submitted in writing to the three officials.

Once surveillance is approved, the commissioner must receive a report on the information gathered at each meeting secretly attended and give approval to continue surveillance.

The policy allows for "extraordinary cases" in which a written request cannot be submitted first. In those cases, the police commissioner and managing director would give the approval, but the written request would have to be submitted to them the next day, under the policy.

David Kairys, an attorney for 15 groups that have filed the federal suit, called the policy "the best procedure in the United States" to protect against improper intelligence gathering and said it should "foreclose the surveillance abuses the city became used to 10 years ago."

In the lawsuit, filed in June, the protest groups contend that their First Amendment rights were violated by police infiltrating their meetings and by police and federal officials limiting their efforts to demonstrate at public events during the bicentennial.

In his letter yesterday, the mayor stated that he would be issuing a policy directive "in the near future" to guarantee citizens the right to ''reasonable access to public functions." The letter states that the mayor believes citizens should "be able to protest and be visible, to carry signs and to wear buttons or clothing expressing their views."

Even so, Kairys and members of several of the protest groups said at a news conference yesterday, the new policy does not totally satisfy them. They said they would not necessarily end their lawsuit pending before Chief U.S. District Judge John P. Fullam.

One obstacle to a settlement is differences between the city and police about when surveillance is called for. While high-level officials will now review plans for surveillance to make sure they are justified under police guidelines, the city has not agreed to tighten those guidelines.

The guidelines, drafted last year under the direction of Police Commissioner Kevin M. Tucker, allow the police to conduct surveillance of any groups reasonably suspected of engaging in or planning criminal activity.

The organizations that have filed suit contend that the guidelines allow police to infiltrate meetings of groups that support peaceful acts of civil disobedience. They want surveillance limited to groups involved in violent activity.

Goode in July expressed support for such a change, and said he had asked Tucker to review the matter, but Tucker said later in an interview that the change was unneccessary. He said the guidelines already protect political protest groups.

Karen Warrington, Goode's spokeswoman, said yesterday that the mayor had no further comment beyond what the letter said. Tucker said last night that he had recommended the new review process without changing the guidelines. He said of the review process, "I always maintained for the protection of all our citizens that we should be able to convince fair, reasonable people of the correctness of our actions."

Kairys yesterday said that the new review process was a result of negotiations between the protest groups and city officials.

In July, police officials revealed that undercover officers had attended meetings of three groups involved in the lawsuit: ACT, a group supporting a nuclear freeze; the Pledge of Resistance, a church-sponsored group that opposes U.S. policy on Central America; and the Philadelphia Lesbian and Gay Task Force. Tucker has since called that intelligence gathering "legal and proper."

In his letter, Goode wrote that "the city recognizes" that the protest groups involved in the lawsuit "have played a positive role in making our Constitution a vital document."

The mayor did not address the merits of the past surveillance, but states in the letter that no groups involved in the lawsuit are currently subject to surveillance.

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