The Milwaukee Common Council approved a $3.4 million settlement in a lawsuit alleging the city’s police department targeted African American and Latino residents for its stop-and-frisk policy without probable cause. The racial profiling went on for years. “Ultimately we hope that these types of situations cease and desist,” said Alderman Khalif Rainey.
Alderman Michael Murphy said settling the case would save taxpayers millions of dollars it would take to continue with litigation. Milwaukee did not admit to any wrongdoing. Murphy said it is his hope the settlement “improves community relations, especially with people of color.”
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin sued the PD last year on behalf of six people who claimed that were stopped at least once, if not multiple times, since 2010 for no apparent reason. The ACLU found that Milwaukee officers made more than 350,000 stops – both traffic and pedestrian – over seven years, from 2010 to 2017, for which they have no documented explanation. The rate at which African American residents were detained for traffic or pedestrian stops was more than six times higher than Caucasians, according to the agency’s findings.
ACLU has represented plaintiffs in similar cases in Chicago and Boston, alleging racial profiling by many of the officers. New York put an end to its stop-and-frisk procedures in 2014 following a federal judge’s ruling that the policy was unconstitutional.
Milwaukee’s settlement will require the department to document every time they use the stop-and-frisk method going forward and explain why the stop was made. They will also have to include demographic information of those stopped on their reports. Officers will receive training on the new policy, continual monitoring by a third party, and supervision of potential racial profiling practices.
$1.5 million of the settlement funds will be allocated to an independent consultant tasked with monitoring the department’s progress in identifying unlawful stops and disciplining offending officers. The rest of the funds will go to attorneys’ fees and the residents who brought the lawsuit against the department.
The ACLU indicated that the stop-and-frisks had increased during Former Chief Edward Flynn’s oversight. He retired from the department in February of this year. While Flynn denied his department ever had a designated stop-and-frisk program, he insisted traffic stops in “high crime areas” led to the reduction of crime. The ACLU’s findings correlated these areas with data showing they are largely populated by minorities, and specifically, African American residents.
In 2017, Milwaukee paid $2.3 million to settle a wrongful death lawsuit over the killing of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill African American man fatally shot by a police officer after the officer roused him from a park bench. Officer Christopher Manney shot Hamilton fourteen times after workers at a nearby Starbucks called police to complain about him sleeping on the bench. The case sparked a slew of protests within the city after Manney failed to be charged.
The year prior, in 2016, Milwaukee paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit brought to court by 74 black residents who claimed the city’s police officers illegally strip-searched them during a period of four years between 2008 and 2012.