ACLU sues Milwaukee, widening challenge to police stop-and-frisk

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By Julia Harte | WASHINGTON

WASHINGTON The American Civil Liberties Union
sued on Wednesday to halt Milwaukee’s stop-and-frisk policy, a
nationally controversial policing practice that critics say
unfairly targets people of color and has been endorsed by
President Donald Trump.

Police defend the practice as an effective way to deter
crime, despite scant evidence that it lowers crime rates, and
say innocent people should not fear being stopped and searched
by officers in the interest of public safety.

In its lawsuit, the ACLU charged that Milwaukee’s
stop-and-frisk program discriminates against black and Latino
people and unconstitutionally lets police stop people without
reasonable suspicion of criminal activity.

Milwaukee’s city attorney declined to comment. Milwaukee
Police Department Chief Ed Flynn said in a statement that he
rejects the label “stop-and-frisk” for the police department’s
anti-crime practice, but added that traffic stops in high crime
areas have been proven to reduce the number of non-fatal crimes.

The ACLU has successfully challenged stop-and-frisk programs
in two other cities, reaching court-enforced reform agreements
with Philadelphia in 2011 and with Chicago in 2015.
Stop-and-frisk by New York City police was halted after a
federal court ruled it was unconstitutional in 2013.

In Milwaukee, the ACLU is seeking a court order to end the
practice there, citing studies and officer testimony that said police conduct overly aggressive stop-and-frisk patrols in
largely black and Latino neighborhoods.

Trump, a Republican, repeatedly endorsed stop-and-frisk
during his 2016 election campaign and civil rights advocates are
concerned that his administration will dismantle policing
reforms pursued by Democratic President Barack Obama.

“This work is even more important now when it doesn’t appear
that similar reforms will come from the Justice Department,”
said ACLU attorney Nusrat Choudhury.

Darius Charney, a Center for Constitutional Rights attorney
who brought the case in New York, said he expects civil society
groups to start intervening in Obama-era police reform
agreements if Trump’s Justice Department stops aggressively
enforcing them.

Trump’s main anti-crime action has been an executive order
directing the U.S. Attorney General to establish a task force on
crime reduction and public safety.

In Milwaukee, violent crime per capita was higher in 2015
than in 2007, according to FBI data, even though the Milwaukee
police made nearly three times more traffic and pedestrian stops
in 2015.

Tracy Adams, a plaintiff in the lawsuit, said her
17-year-old son has been stopped and searched by officers for no
clear reason several times while walking through his
neighborhood, beginning when he was 11.

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