By Ana Martinez-Ortiz
Earlier this week, Milwaukee’s Common Council voted to approve the settlement between the city and a group of Black and Latinx residents who were represented by American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).
The settlement regarded the Milwaukee Police Department’s (MPD) stop-and-frisk program, which was viewed as unconstitutional by the ACLU. Under the fourth amendment, American citizens are protected from unlawful search and seizures.
According to the Associated Press, by approving the settlement, Milwaukee has agreed to pay $3.4 million in the settlement as well as adhere to an agreement drafted by the ACLU.
The agreement, which was a part of the settlement, would refer to the MPD and the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission. It would require them to make some of the following changes, including changing the policies regarding stops and frisks, releasing stop-and-frisk data to the public and documenting every stop-and-frisk to name a few.
“Under the agreement, the department would take specific steps to ensure that officers have reasonable suspicion as required by the Fourth Amendment when they conduct stops and frisks,” said Karyn Rotker, a senior staff attorney with ACLU Wisconsin.
Under the program, ACLU claimed that the MPD stopped and searched thousands of residents without a reasonable cause and that a majority of them were Black or Latinx. According to ACLU, the MPD conducted 350,000 pedestrian and traffic searches without a reasonable cause between 2010 and 2017
All six of the plaintiffs involved in the case identified as Black or Latinx. Per ACLU’s website, they conducted a preliminary analysis of Milwaukee police’s database and found that between 2010-2012 Black or non-Hispanic people made up 72% of the stops.
Through the case, ACLU hoped to end the stop-and-frisk program, specifically its tendency to target people of color as well as conduct an agreement to ensure better bias-free policing.
According to ACLU Wisconsin’s website, “Traffic and pedestrian stop rates in Milwaukee are more than six times higher for Black people than for white people.” They also said that car searches of Black and Latinx drivers are 20 percent less likely to find drugs when compared to white drivers.
Charles Collins was the lead plaintiff on the case which was referred to as Collins vs. Milwaukee.
In a statement on ACLU Wisconsin, Collins said, “I was stopped by Milwaukee police and treated like a suspect when I wasn’t doing anything wrong.”
Like Collins, the other plaintiffs stated that they were doing normal activities when they were stopped by police. Activities including walking down the street or driving around the city.
Mayor Tom Barrett, must sign the agreement to complete the approval and is expected to do so soon.