PHOENIX — There was a coordinated effort between Valley police departments and the FBI to gather intelligence on local Black Lives Matter protesters throughout the past year, according to an audio recording obtained by ABC15.
During a meeting on October 15, Phoenix police officers described to a pair of FBI agents how information flowed from an informant to various Valley law enforcement agencies.
The meeting was set up so that the FBI could interview Riley Behrens, a protester who had agreed to provide information to local law enforcement and federal officials about regular demonstrators and activists who organized events.
“Riley's been giving information to (Phoenix) PD through Gilbert PD,” said an unidentified Phoenix officer. “Gilbert PD has been spreading that information to Phoenix and Tempe, Mesa, and Gilbert.”
Protesters and their attorneys have long suspected that police and prosecutors have been surveilling certain demonstrators and targeting leading activists for arrests.
In some cases, body camera footage shows officers clearly identifying certain protesters in the crowds before moving in to specifically arrest them.
Police reports from various criminal cases also mention intelligence briefings about protests but don’t elaborate on where the information came from.
During the meeting, FBI agents went through a boiler-plate rundown of how their informant process works, including how they protect sources and investigate “conspiracies.”
“You'll be assigned a number and a different name. So any time you give us information, nothing goes into your true name. So there's reports that will be generated when you give us information, it's hard to tie it back to you,” an agent said.
He later continued, “If you find yourself still as part of the group, and they come up with a plan, or what we would call a conspiracy to go do something, we can give you authority to continue on in that conspiracy and not be charged.”
The date of the FBI meeting occurred two days before a group of protesters were arrested and eventually charged as a criminal street gang.
The charges, which have since been dismissed, were based on gross exaggerations and lies presented to a grand jury by Phoenix officers and Maricopa County prosecutors.
Both Phoenix and the Maricopa County Attorney's Office have ordered outside misconduct investigations.
The recording of the October 15 meeting further contradicts claims made by Gilbert police, who underplayed their department’s role in protest cases coming out of Phoenix.
Previously, ABC15 exposed recordings showing that Gilbert Police Detective Terry Burchett helped a retired Phoenix detective set up an off-the-books interview with Behrens.
The detectives' goal at the meeting was to “protect” officers and a prosecutor entangled in the scandal.
The Maricopa County Attorney’s Office is now looking into the clandestine meeting.
[Editor’s note: This report is part of an ongoing series of ABC15 investigative reports called “Politically Charged.” The series can be found at ABC15.com/protests. Contact ABC15 Investigator Dave Biscobing at Dave@ABC15.com. ABC15 is not publishing the recordings of the March 4th, 2021 and October 15, 2020 meetings because they are the subject of ongoing reporting.]