Last year, the ACLU sued the city of Milwaukee, based on the police department’s stop-and-frisk program. An analysis of police stops in Milwaukee found significant racial bias in who was being stopped and the areas where these stops were occurring.
A settlement was reached in July, which requires significant reforms in how the Milwaukee Police Department performs and documents its work. Gretchen Schuldt, the executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative, has been closely following this case.
She says the agreement requires the city to provide more details for pedestrian and traffic stops, including demographics, location, reason for stop, results of the stop and more. The ACLU told Schuldt that the officer rate of completing documentation for those types of stops was very low, so more training in how to properly report will likely be necessary. She adds that the complaint process will need to be overhauled – the Fire and Police Commission can no longer ignore complaints or require complaints to be notarized.
“There is just a ton of work ahead for the city and the ACLU and the consultant that the city agreed to hire to do this and report,” says Schuldt. “They will be reporting on civilian stops and civilian complaints and they’ll be required to get the community involved. It’s a very extensive far-reaching settlement.”
According to Schuldt, the settlement also includes language that bans officers from asking hostile questions, applying moral judgments to the dress, grooming, income, lifestyle, or criminal histories, and giving police officer testimony more weight than complainants.
“Eliminating that type of stuff should be a step forward for giving complainants more credibility and evening the playing field between the police and the complainants,” she says.
The agreement requires that the Milwaukee Collaborative Community Commission, a group developed to add community voices to the on-going conversation about improving the relationship between Milwaukeeans and the police force, be maintained. Schuldt adds that there will be public reporting and a consultant who’s allowed to request data.
“I’m really looking forward to those first reports … I’m very hopeful. I just hope the police department is sincere in its efforts to implement,” she says.