New Procedure for Strip and Body-Cavity Searches Needs Public Input, Community Groups Say
Letter to Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission Urges Open Meetings
MILWAUKEE – Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin and 12 community organizations urged Milwaukee’s Fire and Police Commission to hear public testimony before approving a new standard operating procedure on strip searches, body-cavity searches and other types of “citizen contact.”
Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn indicated at the March 21 commission meeting that the department was revising the procedure.
The change comes in the wake of public outcry over a series of police misconduct allegations. Last October criminal charges were brought against four Milwaukee police officers for conducting illegal strip and body-cavity searches. Recently the commission revealed that in 2012, police made 260,000 officer-initiated traffic and subject stops in Milwaukee, a city with about 600,000 residents.
The commission has not said whether it will solicit public testimony before adopting the new procedure. In a letter sent today, the ACLU of Wisconsin and other organizations urged the commission to hold open meetings to allow citizens to comment on the policy.
“Given the seriousness and complexity of these issues, it is imperative that this process be transparent,” the letter said.
“The public should be allowed to provide feedback on a matter that affects them hundreds of times a day,” added Chris Ahmuty, executive director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Clearly this is an opportunity for the department to increase public trust.”
The organizations are: American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, ARACOPA Coalition, Black Health Coalition of Wisconsin, Justice Coalition, MICAH, NAACP – Milwaukee Branch, National Lawyers Guild-Milwaukee Chapter, Peace Action Wisconsin, Repairers of the Breach, Reproductive Justice Collective, True Skool, Urban Underground and Voces de la Frontera.
The ACLU of Wisconsin is a non-profit, non-partisan, private organization whose 7,000 members support its efforts to defend the civil rights and liberties of all Wisconsin residents. For more on the ACLU of Wisconsin, visit our website, like us on Facebook or follow us on Twitter at @ACLUofWisconsin and @ACLUMadison.