ACLU Lawsuit Says Milwaukee Police Target Blacks & Latinos as They Go About Their Daily Lives w/ Unconstitutional Stop & Frisk Policy

From [HERE] The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) of Wisconsin [advocacy website] filed suit [complaint, PDF] in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin Wednesday alleging that the Milwaukee Police Department [official website] discriminates against black and Latino men in its stop-and-frisk program. The complaint states that the policies of the police department violate the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the individuals affected as well as Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. While the ACLU maintains that the policies were adopted as part of a "broken windows" policing strategy, Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, a racist suspect in photo, rejected [statement] the claims, saying the department had "never used the practice of 'stop and frisk,'" and that there had "never been a quota system." The claim seeks injunctive relief, among other requests.

The police department targets tens of thousands of people without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity, the legal requirement for a police stop. The department’s repeated violations of Milwaukeeans’ constitutional rights are driven by racial profiling, with preliminary data showing significant disparities between police stop rates for white people and for Black and Latino people.

For almost a decade, the Milwaukee Police Department has pursued an aggressive and unconstitutional policing strategy promoting large numbers of stops and frisks citywide. Between 2007 and 2015, the department almost tripled their traffic and pedestrian stops, from around 66,000 to around 196,000, following the launch of the program in 2008.

Milwaukee residents have long protested that police officers are conducting stops and frisks of innocent people, and particularly treating people of color as suspects for no good reason, stopping innocent men, women, and children as they try to go about their daily lives. The department conducts far more stops and frisks in the parts of Milwaukee that are predominantly Black or Latino than in other areas. [MORE]

Stop-and-frisk [JURIST backgrounder] policies have led to litigation in other cities. In January the New York Police Department settled a lengthy dispute [JURIST report] over the issue. One of the primary criticisms of the stop-and-frisk policy is the possibility of racial discrimination [JURIST op-ed]. Other criticisms indicate that the procedure itself is unwieldy and ineffective [JURIST op-ed], emphasizing quantity of searches over their quality and resulting in an unnecessary drain on department time and resources.