Milwaukee Common Council Approves $3.4M ‘Stop-And-Frisk’ Settlement With ACLU

Mayor Expected To Give His Approval On The Same Day

Milwaukee Police Department Squad Car
Gretchen Brown/WPR

Milwaukee’s Common Council has approved a $3.4 million settlement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin over the city’s “stop-and-frisk” policies from 2010 to 2017.

The ACLU lawsuit claimed the Milwaukee Police Department disproportionately stopped people of color without “cause or suspicion.”

Mayor Tom Barrett is expected to approve the settlement later Tuesday.

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The ACLU sued the department last February on behalf of Charles Collins and five other plaintiffs who were stopped by police on at least one occasion from 2010-2017. The ACLU sought better oversight of officers and the release of stop-and-frisk data for analysis.

The settlement includes $1.9 million to pay for legal fees, and $1.5 million will go to consultants who will help examine and change any discriminatory stop practices over five years. The settlement was approved on a 12-2 vote. Alds. Bob Donovan and Mark Borkowski voted against the settlement.

The original total cost of the settlement was expected to run more than $6 million because of costs associated with consultants, shocking some council members.

After negotiations, the city attorney’s office settled on $3.4 million.

During the council meeting, some members expressed their frustration with the city’s climbing litigation costs as they relate to police misconduct.

Donovan estimated settlements since 2015 costing upwards of $23 million, though another alder said he suspected the number to be higher. Donovan was critical of what he thought was a rush to settle the suit by the city attorney’s office, although other members of the council said taking it to trial could have cost the city millions more.

Donovan, one of the two dissenting votes, also slammed the department’s mismanagement and worried the settlement would discourage officers from conducting proactive policing, something he said residents want.

“I’m worried that officers will just put the blinders on and drive by as long as they can get away with it,” he said.

Donovan was also critical of the ACLU for following through on the settlement even though Ed Flynn, the former police chief who implemented the stop-and-frisk policy in question, retired early this year.

But Alderwoman Milele Coggs said the ACLU’s legal costs were actually higher than $1.9 million and they were negotiated down by the city attorney.

She also stressed the goal of the consultants was to examine current police practices.

“So that we never again are back at the same situation where we were at where there is even a possibility of whoever is chief instituting practices and policies with the department that end up with us being in lawsuits where there is even the suggestion of racial profiling,” she said.

Still, Alderman Russell Stamper II said perhaps it was time for the council to take another look at how police settlements are paid out.

“What we have to think about is three things: remain the same with the self-insurance with the police department, have the police department insure themselves or from now on, misconduct money comes out of the police department,” Stamper said.