More than 18 months after settling the ACLU's stop-and-frisk lawsuit, City of Milwaukee officials may finally be forced to develop a real plan with a real timeline for implementing the changes it agreed to make in training, policing, and data collection.
"The city as a matter of social responsibility and social justice needs to demonstrate a sense of urgency and more substantial progress," Ald. Tony Zielinski said during a meeting of the Common Council's Judiciary and Legislation Committee this week.
The committee unanimously recommended the full council approve Zielinski's proposal that the Fire and Police Commission be required to present a plan next month with specific action steps and timelines for implementing the settlement.
The most recent report from the Crime and Justice Institute, Boston-based consultants hired to monitor settlement implementation, showed some "pretty substantial noncompliance," ACLU attorney Karyn Rotker told the committee.
"Nobody, even us, would say 'month one you gotta be out there doing everything perfectly,'" she said. "But it's been over a year and a half."
Noncompliance, she said, "is not just a little bit of a mistake or minor problems, and it does raise concerns for us about the entire process and how that is done."
The consultant's report, despite limited conclusions that can be drawn from it, "shows some racial targeting – people of color are more likely to be frisked, but less likely to be found with contraband than white people...which also raises some really serious concerns for us," Rotker said.
The July, 2018 settlement requires the Police Department to collect detailed information about each stop, but has failed to do so, she said.
"Doing data collection right is so critical because so much of the settlement depends on that, right?" she said. "You need the data to figure out what is going on on the streets, whether people are being properly stopped or not, whether all stops are being reported, which is also a concern."
Rotker also said the city was supposed to publish, twice yearly, a community status policing report.
"As far as I know, there has not been one yet," she said.
The ACLU of Wisconsin, along with the American Civil Liberties Union and the Covington & Burling law firm, brought the class action stop-and frisk lawsuit on behalf of African-American and Latinx residents who challenged the constitutionality of MPD's traffic and pedestrian stops and alleged they were racially biased.
The city denied wrongdoing but agreed to alter several practices.
"What we really want is to see a sense of collaboration and a sense of urgency....We want to see someone pick up the ball and run with it a little more quickly," Rotker told the committee. "And we are concerned about when we seem to be having the same conversations over and over again."
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