MILWAUKEE (AP) — The Milwaukee City Council approved a $5 million settlement Tuesday with dozens of African-American men who alleged illegal strip searches by police.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett’s chief of staff, Patrick Curley, said in an email Tuesday to The Associated Press that the mayor plans to approve the settlement in a day or two. The proposal would settle 14 federal rights lawsuits pending against the city of Milwaukee over search practices. Four Milwaukee officers have been convicted of crimes in connection with illegal body searches from 2008 to 2012. All four were forced to resign.
The men bringing the lawsuits alleged that they were subjected to illegal strip searches and body cavity searches by police officers looking for drugs. While the city has denied liability, City Attorney Grant Langley said last month the settlement is in the city’s best interest.
In two separate council actions, Aldermen Mark Borkowski and Russell Stamper II voted against settling and paying, the Journal Sentinel reported.
Borkowski said the settlement shows the “wimpification of police.” He called the plaintiffs and their attorneys “ambulance chasers.”
After the meeting, Borkowski said there are “policies and procedures that need to be abided by” among police officers, but said only a couple of “bad apples” were involved.
Other aldermen criticized Borkowski’s comments.
“We don’t get to choose whose constitutional rights we decide to respect,” Alderman Ashanti Hamilton said
Under the settlement, the 74 men will share $2.7 million in compensation. Another $2.3 million will go for attorney fees and costs. The agreement also provides that the plaintiffs will pay child, support, restitution and other debts.
Stamper and Alderwoman Milele Coggs raised concerns about the conditions placed on the settlement.
“In my mind’s eye, it’s sexual assault,” Coggs said of the searches. “It almost seems punitive to me to include in restitution so many categories that we’ve never done before.”
One of the attorneys for the plaintiffs, Flint Taylor of the People’s Law Office in Chicago, called the settlement historic.
“We are very pleased the city of Milwaukee has finally stepped up and taken responsibility for the damage that our clients suffered at the hands of a unit of officers in the Milwaukee Police Department,” attorney Flint Taylor told The Associated Press.