February 24, 2014
Which of these groups does not belong with the others: the ACLU, the tea party, Common Cause or Americans for Prosperity?
If you think they could all fit in a coalition under the Gold Dome, give yourself a peach-colored star.
This era is known for its polarization in Washington, and Georgians on the left and the right certainly have their differences about how state legislators should address certain issues. But unlike in national politics, diverse coalitions still can and do emerge on high-profile state issues.
The ACLU and Common Cause have reputations as liberal groups, particularly nationally; the tea party and Americans for Prosperity lean solidly to the right. But representatives of those four outfits, along with the libertarian Institute for Justice, are pushing legislators to change Georgia’s civil asset forfeiture laws -- which allow law enforcement to confiscate private property without a criminal conviction, or in many cases even a criminal charge.
October 31, 2013
Under civil asset forfeiture laws, police can take people's money and property without making an arrest. They just have to suspect the assets are tied in some way to illicit activity. Since much of the money police seize ends up paying their own salaries and bankrolling their departments, they have a strong incentive to abuse these laws.
If you would like to learn more about the ACLU of Georgia’s efforts to reform civil asset forfeiture in Georgia, please sign up for our legislative action alerts at http://www.acluga.org/get-involved/action-alerts/
Watch the video here: https://www.aclu.org/policing-for-profit
October 31, 2013
July 20, 2013
Following the Federal District Court’s order today in Georgia Latino Alliance for Human Rights, et al. v. Deal, et al., a coalition of civil rights groups announced the next steps in their effort to dismantle the state’s anti-immigrant law, HB 87. Significant parts of the law have been blocked by the courtsbut one provision remains that allows police officers to ask the federal government to verify the immigration status of individuals who are lawfully detained on state-law grounds. It does not allow for stops, arrests or even extending detention just for immigration verification. Today’s order holds that challenges to that provision’s implementation must be brought in other suits, rather than the original case that the coalition filed before HB 87’s effective date in 2011.
July 19, 2013
The patrol car in Acworth was a bit of a trailblazer in 2010. That's when the department mounted three stationary cameras on the rear of the car -- designed to scan traffic, snap still images of license plates, then match the tag number with a national database.
"And it's checking for wanted people, stolen cars, stolen tags, things like that," said Capt. Mark Cheatham.
They're called "license plate recognition" systems or LPRs, and they're increasingly becoming fixtures on police vehicles across the country. Acworth police say they have retained in a database every image taken by their LPR system, including the time and location of each image.
That includes the vast majority of images that have never produced a police investigation.
"All the information is kept in house," said Cheatham. "And should there be a need to look and see if we've ever had contact with a specific vehicle, then we can research that." Cheatham says the police images are subject to release under the state Open Records Act.
And that raises questions among critics
"With this technology, it constitutes a significant invasion of our privacy," said Chad Brock, staff attorney for the ACLU of Georgia. "Law enforcement can see what types of ... political events we're attending, what churches we are attending. That creates a whole host of constitutional concerns."
Critics say say the state should put limits on how long police can retain surveillance images that aren't part of active law enforcement investigations. "We do not believe it's acceptable to retain information indefinitely, particularly when you have collected data on innocent individuals," Brock said.
Acworth police counter they are merely gathering images on public streets that anybody can gather -- with camera equipment that's available commercially.
July 17, 2013
The ACLU has released the most comprehensive report to date on law enforcement’s use of license plate readers, one of the fastest-proliferating technologies in the government’s surveillance arsenal. Learn about how your movements on the road are being tracked and recorded: www.aclu.org/plates
June 18, 2013
A new study looking at marijuana arrests across the country shows that African-Americans are arrested significantly more often than white people throughout the United States. And few areas display that trend more than Fulton and DeKalb counties.
The American Civil Liberties Union, looking at pot possession arrests between 2001 and 2010, found that black people who are found with weed are almost 4 times more likely to be sent to jail than white people who get caught with pot. The nonprofit, which compiled the study using the Federal Bureau of Investigation's Uniform Crime Reporting Program and U.S. Census data, says the analysis is the first of its kind to look at the specific issue on a county-by-county level in all 50 states:
"[Marijuana arrests have] needlessly ensnared hundreds of thousands of people in the criminal justice system, had a staggeringly disproportionate impact on African-Americans, and comes at a tremendous human and financial cost," the ACLU's report says. "The price paid by those arrested and convicted of marijuana possession can be significant and linger for years, if not a lifetime."
June 05, 2013
A federal judge in Arizona recently held that Sheriff Arpaio and his Deputies have engaged in racial profiling against Latinos in Maricopa County. The decision found that policies and practices of Arpaio and his office are discriminatory, violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments of the Constitution, and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.
The ruling which came asresult of a lawsuit by the ACLU and other organizations vindicated not only immigrant communities in Maricopa County who have long endured Arpaio's reign of terrorbut also communities across the country including here in Georgia where programs leading to racial profiling such as 287(g) have been in effect for several years.
287(g) enlists local police as immigration officers and has been active in four Georgia counties - Cobb, Gwinnett, Whitfield, and Hall.
June 05, 2013
Human rights advocates across the country and in Georgia are calling upon their Congressional representatives to vote in favor of an amendment proposed by Rep. Polis (D-CO) that would right grave wrongs in the current House appropriations bill.
This week, the House of Representatives will vote on the country's 2014 budget with allocations that directly impact both the safety and civil rights of Georgia residents. As currently proposed, the budget will provide an additional $44 million dollars above the White House's requested amount for the 287(g) program that enlists local police as immigration officers and has been active in Cobb, Gwinnett, Whitfield, and Dalton for several years. The program has had devastating consequences, including diminished community trust in the police, as documented by the ACLU of Georgia in reports on Cobb and Gwinnett.
March 14, 2013
The ACLU of Georgia joined affiliates throughout the country by submitting open records requests to determine the extent to which local law enforcement agencies are using federally subsidized military technology and tactics that are traditionally used in military operations overseas. The ACLU of Georgia submitted these requests to 11 of the largest law enforcement agencies in the state. We hope to receive responses in the coming weeks and we will continue to monitor this situation. You can find out more about this project at http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/03/06/aclu-police-militarization-swat_n_2813334.html