MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee officials are trying to lower the $6 million proposed cost to settle a lawsuit alleging that police officers targeted black and Latino residents for questioning without probable cause.
The city's Common Council will consider limiting the costs of a consultant to monitor police practices as part of a settlement agreement with the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported. The tentative deal sent to the Council on Monday would lower the city's settlement costs to about $3.4 million.
The ACLU of Wisconsin filed the lawsuit last year accusing Milwaukee police of routinely conducting stop-and-frisks "motivated by race and ethnicity." The lawsuit alleges that such stops violate the Fourth Amendment, which protects against unreasonable searches and seizures, and the 14th Amendment, which ensures equal protection of law.
The city tried to have the lawsuit tossed earlier this year following the retirement of former Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn, who the city alleges was the "sole architect" of those practices. Flynn has denied that his department practiced stop-and-search.
Police Chief Alfonso Morales, Flynn's successor, ended the Neighborhood Task Force that performed most of the traffic stops. Morales said the department won't use quotas for stopping and questioning people.
The settlement calls for the Milwaukee Police Department, the Fire and Police Commission and the civilian oversight board to reform stop-and-search practices, improve data collection and require officers to undergo more training. The consultant will monitor compliance with the agreement. The proposal caps the consultant's fees to about $1.5 million over the next five years.
"We've gotten to a point where I think we've been able to reduce the costs and come to equitable terms as it relates to the consultant," said Alderman Michael Murphy. "I think they're almost there. I don't want to be too optimistic, but hopefully we'll get to a place where both parties will agree."
The settlement needs approval from the Common Council's Judiciary and Legislation Committee, the full Council and Mayor Tom Barrett.