MILWAUKEE -- Milwaukee aldermen said they were stunned to learn the cost of a proposed settlement with the ACLU of Wisconsin over police stop-and-frisk procedures has ballooned to more than $6 million.
For the second straight week, the Common Council's Finance committee delayed a vote on the funding, citing concerns over the rising costs.
"I feel like I'm buying a used car from a not really honest dealer here," said Alderman Michael Murphy, after a Milwaukee Police representative briefed council members Tuesday, May 8 on the costs of a consultant mandated in the proposed deal.
Under the settlement, the city will pay an estimated $3.5 million over five years to Chicago-based consultant Hillard Heintze to oversee changes to stop and search procedures within the Milwaukee Police Department. The lawsuit alleged the department's search practices unfairly targeted African Americans and Latinos.
Taxpayers will also pay $1.9 million to cover the ACLU's attorneys' fees and court costs. City budget officials plan to borrow the money because Milwaukee's rainy day reserves are low, adding an estimated $1 million in interest.
The trial is scheduled to start on May 21, meaning the council would have to schedule a special meeting before then to approve the funding for the settlement. Council President Ashanti Hamilton said the other option was to ask city lawyers to fight the ACLU in court.
"We also want to accomplish the things that (the ACLU) was pointing out, but it’s difficult to do if you don’t have the resources in order to make it happen," Hamilton said. "I think council members need to mull over the cost-benefit of challenging this."
Under terms of the settlement, Milwaukee is required to use Hillard Heintze as its consultant. The police representative who briefed aldermen Tuesday said the consulting costs will decline over the five-year period, but will average $700,000 per year.
"Here in Milwaukee, we don’t print the money," Murphy said. "These are real dollars that have a material impact. If you spend money on lawsuits, you can’t spend it on services."