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Milwaukee Council OKs $3.4 Million Settlement Of Police Stop-And-Frisk Lawsuit

Retired Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, pictured here at a press conference in 2015, presided over the city's police department during the period when the ACLU alleges it stopped over 350,000 people without reasonable suspicion.

The city of Milwaukee has approved a $3.4 million settlement over its police department's alleged stop-and-frisk practices, more than a year after a lawsuit accused Milwaukee officers of targeting black and Latino people through racial profiling.

Milwaukee police made more than 350,000 unlawful stops between 2010 and 2017, according to the American Civil Liberties Union and its Wisconsin chapter. The ACLU sued on behalf of six African-American or Latino plaintiffs who had been stopped – in some cases, multiple times — without reasonable suspicion.

The federal class-action lawsuit claimed the plaintiffs were the victims of a "vast and unconstitutional stop-and-frisk program," according to ACLU press releases.

Former Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn has denied the use of stop-and-frisk practices, but acknowledged his department's policy of traffic stops in areas with high crime rates.

Along with the cash payout, the settlement will require police officers to release data about all their stops to the public. Officers will also be trained on racial profiling issues, and law enforcement will be subject to oversight from an independent consultant.

As WUWM's Marti Mikkelson reports, Mayor Tom Barrett is expected to sign the settlement, which passed the city's Common Council on Tuesday by a vote of 12-2:

Alderwoman Milele Coggs voted in favor of it — she says she hopes it closes a sad chapter in the city's history.

"So that we never again are back at the same situation that we were at, where there is even a possibility that 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. That's an end I would think we all want to get to, to prevent future lawsuits," Coggs says.

Mikkelson reports that Bob Donovan, one of two aldermen who cast a dissenting vote, was concerned about the amount of money the city has paid out for police misconduct settlements, which he quoted at $23 million since 2015. He also registered concern that the settlement could make police scared to take action for fear of legal reprisal.

The Milwaukee Police Department has long been under scrutiny for its treatment of black residents.

In a recent high-profile incident, Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown, an African American, filed a federal lawsuit in June accusing police of unlawful arrest when officers used a stun gun on him over a parking violation.

The city also settled a $2.3 million lawsuit last year with the family of Dontre Hamilton, who was shot dead by police in 2014.

And as NPR's Gene Demby reported in 2013, more than half of all black men in their 30s and 40s in Milwaukee have been incarcerated — and almost two-thirds of them come from the city's six poorest ZIP codes.

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