‘A city of lawsuits:’ Milwaukee’s settlement with ACLU scaled back amid squabbling

MILWAUKEE — A city committee voted 3-2 on Monday to approve a scaled-down, multi-million dollar settlement with the ACLU of Wisconsin over police stop and search procedures, though some aldermen would rather fight the civil liberties group in court.

The revised deal will cost taxpayers at least $3.4 million. Of that, the city will pay a maximum of $1.5 million to a consultant required by the settlement. Aldermen had balked at an earlier consulting fee of $3.5 million, threatening to reject the whole settlement.

The city has also switched consultants with the ACLU’s approval, said Alderman Michael Murphy. Chicago-based Hillard Heintze is out, and the Crime and Justice Institute of Boston is in, Murphy said. He said the contract has not been finalized.

Aldermen Mark Borkowski and Bob Donovan voted against the settlement. Afterward, Borkowski told reporters “we’ve become a city of lawsuits” and said he’d rather see the city fight the ACLU in court.

But Alderman Bob Bauman said that was out of the question and a long legal battle was a “really, really big risk.” The city could spend $10-15 million in attorneys fees with no guarantee of a win in court, he said.

The consultant fees are on top of the $1.9 million that Milwaukee will pay for the ACLU’s attorneys fees and court costs. The city plans to borrow that amount, adding up to $1 million in interest payments.

The ACLU sued on behalf of several plaintiffs who alleged that the Milwaukee Police Department unfairly targeted African Americans and Latinos with its stop and search policy. The consultant will monitor MPD’s compliance with the changes laid out in the settlement.

The full Common Council is scheduled to take up the payment at its meeting July 10.