Police in Lake Worth, Fl., have recorded all calls coming into and going out of the dispatch center in a practice now being challenged in court, reports the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. A lawsuit by former officers and a current police employee turns a spotlight on the issue raised by the Bush administration’s use of secret electronic surveillance to hunt for suspected terrorists: Can law enforcement eavesdrop on the conversations of U.S. residents without a court order, and without the knowledge or consent of those being monitored? “This case is about invasion of privacy and a violation of the law,” said attorney John C. Davis, who represents former Lake Worth officers, Ralph Brillinger and Richard Sluman, and Lori Nedzweckas, a police dispatcher now married to Brillinger.
Davis said callers to the police emergency line were advised their calls were recorded, but no notification was given on other lines, meaning that thousands of residents’ conversations were taped illegally. About 150 calls were made to and from the police communications center during an eight-hour shift. “We are not claiming that they cannot record emergency calls. But these were not emergency calls,” said Davis. “They were willy-nilly recording [all] calls, and the law is clear that they cannot do that.” The case stems in part from a personnel squabble that has roiled the Police Department and led to three years of litigation.