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ACLU Sues Milwaukee Over Alleged Racial Profiling


The ACLU has released new information about a class-action lawsuit that it's filing against the city of Milwaukee. The group says that over seven years, police stopped tens of thousands of people without cause. Here's LaToya Dennis from member station WUWM.

LATOYA DENNIS, BYLINE: For years, black and Latino residents here have complained about being racially profiled by police. Resident Stephen Jansen says his experience came three years ago as he was walking home from college just after midnight.

STEPHEN JANSEN: He asked if I had any marijuana, if I had been smoking and such.

DENNIS: Jansen, who's black and Native American, told the officers no and that he doesn't smoke marijuana. The ACLU alleges that between 2010 and 2017, Milwaukee police made more than 350,000 stops without reasonable suspicion of a crime being committed. Three experts, including a former Texas sheriff, reviewed hundreds of thousands of records compiled for the report. The Milwaukee Police Department denies that it has a stop-and-frisk policy. But a year ago, the ACLU filed nine lawsuits against the city over what it says is just that. ACLU attorney Karyn Rotker.

KARYN ROTKER: You can't just stop someone on a hunch or because you know at some time in the past they did something wrong or because you don't like the way they look. You have to have some kind of suspicion to believe that they're violating a law.

DENNIS: In recent months, Charlottesville and Philadelphia have come under fire for their policies that some say mirrors stop and frisk. While neither the mayor of Milwaukee nor the police department will comment on the report, former Police Chief Edward Flynn, who retired just last week, ran the department during the review period. He says the police department is not biased against any group.

EDWARD FLYNN: They are going to be racial disparities in our interventions that match our victimization populations.

DENNIS: Flynn says in cases where more black residents are pulled over than white residents, it's because police are patrolling in greater force in largely African-American neighborhoods. The ACLU lawsuit against the city is set to go to trial in May. For NPR News, I'm LaToya Dennis in Milwaukee. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.