MILWAUKEE — Twelve men who claim Milwaukee police officers violated their rights by conducting illegal strip and cavity searches under the pretense of looking for drugs are seeking to join others who already have sued the city and police department.
In their motion to join one of several federal lawsuits, the men allege the officers and supervisors of District 5's anti-gang unit engaged in a "racially motivated conspiracy" to deprive black residents of their rights. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports it's the first motion to make that allegation.
The motion, filed late Thursday, says the conspiracy arose out of Chief Edward Flynn's "proactive policing" strategy, which "encouraged and rewarded high volume traffic stops, field interviews, searches and arrests in the African-American 'high crime' neighborhoods of District 5."
The 12 men are black. All the accused officers are white.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports (http://bit.ly/1nIYSc0 ) a total of 47 people have already sued the city and police department over the searches, which plaintiffs say happened from 2008 through 2012. All of those plaintiffs are also black, and all but one are men.
Police spokesman Mark Stanmeyer has said the department does not comment on pending litigation.
The motion says no black officers were part of the district's anti-gang unit. Two supervisors who worked in District 5 during the years the illegal searches were occurring are black.
Former officer Michael Vagnini was convicted of four felonies and four misdemeanors as a result of illegal searches. Three additional officers pleaded no contest to misdemeanors and were forced to resign from the department.
Flynn has acknowledged the department received complaints about illegal body cavity searches for a couple of years before asking the district attorney's office to investigate in 2012.
Information from: Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, http://www.jsonline.com