September 25, 2023

MILWAUKEE – Five years after entering into the Collins settlement, the Milwaukee Police Department remains out of compliance with many of the settlement’s key provisions to ensure constitutional policing, according to a new report released Friday.  

The ACLU of Wisconsin today reaffirmed that enforcement of the Collins settlement will continue until the City and its police department have been in compliance for a period of five years.

The latest Crime and Justice Institute report – published annually by an independent consultant tasked with evaluating the city’s level of compliance with the terms of the agreement – found that Black Milwaukeeans continue to be subjected to stops, frisks, and encounters at far-higher rates than Milwaukeeans of other races. The report also finds that MPD officers continue to stop and frisk people without reasonable suspicion, as required by law, at rates that violate the settlement.

According to the report, Black residents of driving age are 4.5 times more likely to get stopped than white drivers, more than 10 times as likely to be subjected to a non-traffic field interview, eight times more likely to be subject to a frisk-based encounter, and more than twice as likely to be frisked once stopped by police.

In 2018, the City of Milwaukee entered into a settlement agreement requiring MPD and the FPC to change stop-and-frisk policies, ensure stops and frisks are documented and constitutional, and improve training, supervision, auditing, and discipline of officers on stop and frisk and racial profiling issues.

The settlement also required that MPD improve the citizen complaint process, maintain the Milwaukee Community Collaborative Committee, release data publicly, use an independent consultant to evaluate compliance with the settlement requirements, and eliminate racial bias.

"Everyone deserves to be treated fairly and equally, no matter where we live or what we look like," said Olga Akselrod, senior staff attorney with the ACLU's Racial Justice Project. "When police stop us based on our race or ethnicity, it doesn’t make us any safer. Instead, these deeply-entrenched inequities compound the damage done to communities the police are sworn to protect."

"While it is certainly a positive step that the recorded volume of unconstitutional policing has diminished since the settlement was established, the extent to which Black Milwaukeeans continue to be overpoliced and discriminated against is unacceptable," Akselrod continued. "As we reach the fifth year of Collins, it remains clear that this settlement is still needed."

“While the settlement agreement will persist until the City reaches full compliance, it is important for all of us to recognize that our vision for public safety in Milwaukee must focus on investing in strong communities and addressing root causes of harm," said Dr. Melinda Brennan, the Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. "We can work toward preventing harm – and not merely responding after the fact – by addressing root causes of crime and investing in proven solutions, like affordable housing, mental health services and economic opportunity.”

In November, the ACLU of Wisconsin will be launching a “Know Your Rights Tour,” where the organization will hold a series of trainings around Milwaukee to educate residents – particularly Black youth – about what their rights are when interacting with law enforcement and how to use them.