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Courts / Law

ACLU Sues Sarasota Police Over Cell Phone Tracking Program Records

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Credit The ACLU of Florida

The American Civil Liberties Union of Florida has filed a lawsuit against the Sarasota Police Department for access to information about a controversial cell phone tracking program.

For the past several months, the ACLU of Florida has been looking into how police departments use controversial cell phone trackers known as “stingrays.” To do this they’ve been sending public records requests to departments all over the state. So far, they’ve been stonewalled a lot, but something strange happened with the Sarasota Police Department.

According to ACLU of Florida spokesman Baylor Johnson, just a few hours before the ACLU was going to meet with Sarasota Police to look over records, officials canceled the meeting. They claimed the files belonged to the U.S. Marshals Service, which is part of the Justice Department and isn’t subject to Florida’s public records laws.

Johnson said that’s why the ACLU of Florida filed an emergency motion in state court. He said the files shouldn’t be shrouded by a federal agency.

“This is different from what we’ve seen before, because the use of stingray devices isn’t anything new, but that police would go to these lengths in collaboration with a federal agency to evade a public discussion on how and when these cell phone tracking devices are being used, that’s different and really alarming,” Johnson said.

In a statement, Sarasota Police Deputy Chief Stephen Moyer said, “at this time, the Sarasota Police Department has a different opinion than that of the plaintiffs of this lawsuit.  We will continue to work with our legal counsel on this matter.” 

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