By Gretchen Schuldt
WJI just charted its 100th Milwaukee County case of felony second offense possession of marijuana.
And yes, the defendant in the 100th case was African-American. Not much of a surprise there, since 87 percent of the defendants in these cases were African-American.
Another non-surprise: the defendant in the 100th case was arrested in the City of Milwaukee, north of I-94, where 80 of the arrests occurred. (We've found just eight cases so far stemming from Milwaukee arrests south of I-94 and a total of 11 originating with arrests in the suburbs. One arrest took place on I-94.)
And, finally, yes, as in many, many other cases, the 100th arrest started as a traffic stop, this time for excessively tinted windows. Police said they smelled marijuana, and the rest is history recorded in court documents.
So is the racial / geographic concentration just a coincidence?
Absolutely not, judging from data dug up by the ACLU during litigation over the city's stop-and-frisk policy. The city and civil rights organization settled the federal class action lawsuit last month.
The ACLU found that between 2010 and 2017, Milwaukee police conducted more than 350,000 pedestrian and traffic stops for which they have no record of reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or a traffic or vehicle equipment violation, as required by the U.S. Constitution.
Former Police Chief Edward Flynn contributed to that number through his policy of encouraging traffic stops in certain neighborhoods as a crime-fighting measure.
The city has agreed to rescind the policy.
Flynn said in a 2009 memo said that "the intelligent, assertive use of police authority to stop people and vehicles can be an invaluable tool that reduces crime and enhances safety in these same neighborhoods. ..."
"Traffic enforcement will continue to be a key part of our policing strategy going forward," he said.
"It must be recognized that many of the people we stop will be released without further action. In this context, how our authority is employed is as important as a results of its use," he said.
Gretchen Schuldt is executive director of the Wisconsin Justice Initiative.
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