ACLU Tells University of Washington Police to Quit Spying on Students

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She said her name was "Tani" and that she wanted to come to a meeting. The members of the University of Washington's Student Workers Coalition say they didn't have any reason to suspect she was anything other than a student that, like them, was interested in social justice. A couple days later, however, two Coalition members saw "Tani" get out of a cop car. She was wearing a uniform.

Tani, it turns out, was Officer Tanesha van Leuven of the campus police. And what she was doing, says the ACLU, was spying.

The Daily originally broke this story back in April. What's new about it now are the e-mails obtained by the ACLU between Officer van Leuven and her superiors, that detail why she was trying to "infiltrate" the Coalition.

"I did not hear any talk about taking a major arterial or freeway," she wrote, discussing a janitorial strike the Coalition was trying to organize. "I did not hear where they would exactly 'march' on campus. I will attempt to locate the location of the next meeting to see if a plain clothes officer could fit in."

The ACLU got the e-mails after it says it decided to take a closer look at how UW police were monitoring political and religious groups in light of the case of Phillip Chinn. Chinn, the subject of a recent Seattle Weekly cover story, was the target of covert surveillance, a fact he only found out after being arrested for DUI on his way to an anti-war rally.

Chinn was recently awarded more than $400,000 for his troubles. And speaking of the latest spying allegations, UW's spokesman told the Times that the issue had been addressed through conversations with the department.

"I think it was not characteristic of our department," he said. "I think it was just an error in judgment and it partly resulted in the fact there is new leadership in the department. It is not going to happen again."

 
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