City considers $5M settlement for strip searches

Posted at 10:24 PM, Dec 15, 2015
and last updated 2015-12-15 23:24:11-05

MILWAUKEE -- Questionable police work will cost Milwaukee taxpayers millions of dollars. The city wants to settle dozens of cases that accuse Milwaukee Police of illegal strip searches.

Lawyers say the proposed settlement is unprecedented. 74 men, all African American claimed they were illegally strip searched. 131 officers were named in the federal lawsuit. The city now wants to settle for $5,000,000 dollars.


The odds seemed stacked against milwaukee police. Lawyers for alleged victims showed off documents that suggest a pattern and practice of illegal searches from 2008 to 2012.
The I-team's Jermont Terry broke many stories of illegal strip searches of citizens like Joseph Mays.
"They got me standing there totally naked and handcuffed," said Mays.
Four officers were convicted and later resigned from MPD during the strip search scandal. The accused ring leader in the trial case, Michael Vagnini is serving a two year prison sentence.
Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett says the proposed settlement ends an embarassing and expensive nightmare for Milwaukee Police.

"This was a sad chapter in the Milwaukee Police Department," said Barrett. "The vast majority of officers who work for the police department are excellent public servants but as you saw here when there was some bad apples the Chief took the steps to get them out of the bushel."

The settlement means alleged victims will share $2.7 million dollars. Pay outs range for $15,000 to $60,000 with most getting $40,000 dollars each.
The payday for lawyers adds up to $2.3 million dollars.

"Our clients were subject to illegal strip searches," said Milwaukee lawyer Jonathan Safran. "A number of them were subject to illegal and unconstitutional body cavity searches all of them suffered from humiliation."
The city had hired a legal team to help with the lawsuits - that was costing taxpayers $100,000 a month. The Milwaukee Common Council still has to sign off on the deal. That could happen next month.