A member of the Michigan Association for Consumer Protection discovered that the Michigan State Police had been making inquiries concerning the activities and political views of the group and its members. The result of this revelation was Benkert v. Michigan State Police, a suit challenging the legality of such a politically motivated inquiry, as well as attacking the entire "subversive investigations" apparatus of the state police. Following publicity about the suit and the police admission that the "inquiry" was "unauthorized," the complaint was amended to greatly expand the suit. It has since proceeded with fourteen plaintiffs as representatives of "a class action which seeks to declare the existence and operation of the Michigan State Police and Detroit Police 'subversive units' illegal and unconstitutional; to enjoin their continued existence and operation; and to enjoin a wide range of illegal and unconstitutional police activity." The complaint further alleged that this spy apparatus operated primarily against those who expressed "political, economic, religious, social or other unpopular or critical views" in "lawful, peaceful and constitutionally protected" ways. That criminality was not the focus of this police surveillance was explicitly alleged.
The specific factual allegations by plaintiffs in Benkert were wide ranging, encompassing numerous police illegalities in addition to the allegation that the state police served as political police for a state legislator. The complaint asserted numerous violations of the United States and Michigan constitutions and laws, and sought wide-ranging relief. The most significant thrust of the complaint focused on first amendment rights and values.
This Article in no way intends to litigate vicariously the significant issues raised in Benkert. The brief discussion of that case is to provide some background for an understanding of the empirical study and analytical discussion that follows. It is hoped that this Article will help relieve the first amendment dilemma posed by secret police intelligence apparatuses through a study and analysis of over seven hundred pages of police political intelligence documents obtained through discovery in Benkert.
55 U. Detroil Mercy J. of Urban L. 877 (1978)