By Gretchen Schuldt
A Milwaukee police officer testified he would invite traffic stop subjects into his squad car if the stop was in the Downtown police district, but not if it was in a central city or North Side district.
Officer Froilan Santiago made the statements during a 2017 deposition taken during a Federal Court lawsuit alleging that Santiago used excessive force during a traffic stop. The suit is pending.
"So then getting back to my question," attorney Nathaniel Cade, Jr. asked Santiago, "how many times since 2006 have you initiated a stop of someone and suggested that they get out of the vehicle and get into the front seat and look at the computer?"
"Now, like I said, District 7, I wouldn't do," Santiago said. District 7 headquarters is at 3626 W. Fond du Lac Ave. on the city's North Side.
"Depends on the situation and environment," he continued. "District 1 is a different type of environment where it's more of people as far as the -- more able to communicate and more different lifestyle of the individual based on our training in District 1 -- or based on what -- my experience at District 1, it's a lot more common than if I was at District 7. "
District 1, Downtown, is headquartered at 749 W. State St.
He continued: "District 7, if you stop that person, that person is going to run. He might have drugs or guns, based on where I've worked at. District 7 or District 5."
District 5 is based at 2920 Vel R. Phillips Ave.
"District 1, you have a high percentage of people who's in college, who's in business, work, and stuff like that, and you deal with them differently as far as – and their behavior at that moment in time. I don't know," Santiago said. "Like I said, it's just discretion of the individual of what's going on."
"So you're profiling the driver of the vehicle based on the district that you're in because it's more likely that if they're in a poor neighborhood, that it's drugs and guns?" Cade asked.
"You asked me how I'm going to perform my traffic stop," Santiago responded.
The plaintiff in the lawsuit, Jimmy Harris, alleges that Santiago in November 2010 stopped the car Harris was driving and asked him to get out of the vehicle. Santiago said he stopped the car because it was black and the color listed on DMV records as gray. It was about 4:45 p.m. and dark at the time of the stop.
The same mistake about the car's color had been made previously, according to the suit, and Harris offered to show Santiago on the squad computer how the error was made. Santiago accepted, but then "suddenly grabbed Mr. Harris' left arm that had recently been operated on and used it to maneuver Mr. Harris..."
This 29-minute video shows parts of Harris' encounter with police.
Harris told Santiago he was hurting Harris' arm; Santiago told Harris to stop resisting, the suit says.
Santiago told Harris to sit on the curb and then called for backup. The officer grabbed Harris by the arm and threw him against Harris' car. Santiago beat Harris while slinging him around by his injured arm, the suit says.
Other officers arrived. One of them stood on Harris head with all of his weight, another put a knee on Harris neck and back "causing him to nearly faint;" two officers pulled Harris arms backwards, "making Mr. Harris feel that his stitches would split open and causing him extreme pain that prevented him from fainting."
"District 7, if you stop that person, that person is going to run. He might have drugs or guns, based on where I've worked at. District 7 or District 5." -- Milwaukee Police Officer Froilan Santiago
The officers searched Harris' car without cause, the suit says. Santiago said during his deposition that he smelled marijuana. Santiago also said he first notice Harris' car because it was weaving. He did not mention that in reports filed at the time of the incident.
Harris was taken to the hospital, where he was given pain medication. He fell asleep and when he woke up, Santiago was in his room.
Santiago took Harris to the Courthouse parking structures and left him handcuffed in the squad for two hours, according to the suit.
No charges were filed against him.
The suit alleges Santiago and other officers used excessive force and violated Harris' constitutional rights.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel has a bit more on Santiago here. His name comes up a fair way down in the story, just above the "Medical Examiner's Report" subhead.
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