Metro Nashville police use GPS to track gang members

Metro Nashville police use GPS to track gang members

  • GPS units to track gang members in Nashville. 

Historically, Global Positioning Systems have been used to monitor sex offenders in many counties in Tennessee.  In Wednesday's Tennessean Brian Haas reports: "Metro police have begun using GPS units typically reserved for the state's most dangerous sex offenders to track gang members. Police and the Tennessee Board of Probation and Parole announced a pilot program on [last week] that will track 10 convicted gang members to keep them out of "exclusion zones," areas their respective gangs have been known to frequent. Gang members found in those zones could face more jail time."

Tommy Overton, a longtime Nashville criminal defense attorney, said police branding someone a gang member is troubling. "You're making a determination that an individual is 'in a gang' without having a hearing," Overton said. "I just think it's possibly setting a bad precedent as people being singled out without due process, based on potential hearsay or just because somebody might have some sort of symbol on their arm."

I can see the advantages to GPS tracking.  First for the individual it is preferable to additional jail time; and, for the community, it allows law enforcement to know ahead of time when someone might be in an area that is often rife with gang activity.  But, the persistent question remains, is it a violation of an individual's civil rights to be prohibited from going to certain places (First Amendment protections).  Equally as problematic is the branding of a person as a gang member.  How is that determined?  How long does that stigma last? What is the standard that makes this determination. Are people who are associated with people who are labeled gang members included, because of their association, in this tracking system too?

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