Stop-and-Frisk Suit Could Cost $6 Million
Council members struggle with the rising price tag. Will they approve settlement?
The likely price tag has gone from $1.9 million to over $6 million. The council learned of the increased cost Tuesday morning at a special meeting of the Finance & Personnel Committee and ultimately decided to hold the measure at the full meeting of the Common Council that followed.
“I feel like I’m buying a used car and not getting an honest deal here,” said Alderman Michael Murphy.
A previous committee hearing had ended with an open question about how much a consultant required as part of the settlement would cost. That consultant, Chicago-based Hillard Heintze, could receive $3.5 million over five years to work on police department practices.
In addition, there are software and monitoring compliance costs that come with the consent decree associated with the settlement. And the need to use emergency borrowing to fund the $1.9 million base settlement would further increase the long-term costs of the measure.
Murphy expressed frustration with the growing costs of the suit in a post-meeting interview, stating “if you spend money on lawsuits, you can’t spend it on services.”
The lawsuit was filed as a class action by the Americans Civil Liberties Union in February 2017. The $1.9 million settlement would be dedicated to attorney’s fees and costs. The plaintiffs were not seeking damages.
Hamilton, who characterized the ACLU as a “friendly plaintiff,” said holding the measure on Tuesday “would give us a little breathing room about the impact of this decision, not the outcome, because we all want the same outcome.”
A release announcing the suit from the ACLU states: “Between 2007 and 2015, the Milwaukee Police Department almost tripled their traffic and pedestrian stops, from around 66,000 to around 196,000, following the launch of the unlawful stop-and-frisk program in 2008.” Plaintiffs listed in the case include Charles Collins and State Assembly Representative David Crowley.
The city had attempted to get the suit dismissed after Police Chief Edward A. Flynn retired. The chief, who was named as a defendant, was identified as the “sole architect” of the practice which the ACLU argues violates the fourth amendment of the U.S. Constitution that requires police to have reasonable suspicion for a stop. The ACLU also argues the MPD’s practices violate the 14th amendment by conducting stops “motivated by race and ethnicity.”
The city has spent millions on settlements in recent years including a $2.3 million settlement to the family of Dontre Hamilton and a $5 million settlement regarding strip and cavity searches.
The council approved the creation and funding of a risk manager within the Fire and Police Commission in the 2018 budget. The position, designed to reduce lawsuit exposure and improve department practices, has not been filled.
The police department has a budget in excess of $300 million in 2018.
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More about the Stop-and-Frisk Lawsuit
- City Hall: Stop-and-Frisk Suit Could Cost $6 Million - Jeramey Jannene - May 8th, 2018
- Court Watch: City Seeks Dismissal of Stop & Frisk Suit - Gretchen Schuldt - Mar 21st, 2018
- ACLU Suit Challenges Milwaukee Police - Jabril Faraj - Feb 26th, 2017
- ACLU Challenges Milwaukee Police Department’s Unconstitutional Stop-and-Frisk Program Conducted Without Reasonable Suspicion and Based on Racial Profiling - American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin - Feb 22nd, 2017