Posted on Aug 20, 2013

by Rex Michael Hupy

Two men and a 15-year-old boy are suing a group of Milwaukee police officers over allegations that the officers conducted illegal strip searches while other officers watched, without intervening.  The plaintiffs allege that the police officers squeezed their genital areas and probed their rectal areas, claiming to be looking for drugs. 

This incident follows the October 9, 2012, strip search scandal, in which four officers were charged with criminal misconduct for conducting illegal strip searches and cavity searches.  The strip and cavity searches allegedly took place in public, during a traffic stop, and in the District 5 station.  Under police regulations, strip searches must take place in private and cavity searches are only to be done by a trained physician or doctor; never by a police officer.  

Recently, the Milwaukee Police Department implemented a new policy to further regulate police conduct with citizens in response to public unrest over similar incidents and in order to counter a growing mistrust of police officers.  The new regulations, like the old regulations, require officers to document all consensual searches of citizens and provide a copy of the documentation to the citizens they searched stating the date, location and reason for the search.  Under the new law, police officers must now document the names of all people searched, as well as provide audio and video of the consensual searches.  Furthermore, strip searches can only be conducted with the approval of a captain of the department or higher authority, permission may be given by a lieutenant, only if no higher rank is available.

The implementation of the new policy raised eyebrows and begged the question as to why Milwaukee police officers will follow these new, strict policies, when they have a history of not following the old, less strict policies.

Joel Plant, Chief of Staff for the Milwaukee Police Department, said that these changes are necessary because “without the trust and partnership of the community that is being policed, the department cannot affect its mission.”

However, it is evident, due to the continuation of illegal searches, that the Milwaukee Police Department needs a new way of combating police misconduct, other than creating new policies.  The Milwaukee Police Department can implement the strictest guidelines for their police officers, but if the police officers continue to break the rules, infringe on the rights of citizens and are not held accountable for infractions, the strict guidelines accomplish nothing and the trust will never come back.  The Milwaukee Police Department needs to enforce the rules and standards that it sets for their police officers and have a zero tolerance policy for misconduct, just like it has set for the public.