Analysis Group Works with ACLU in Stop-and-Frisk Litigation against the City of Milwaukee
Reports identify bias in motor vehicle and pedestrian stops
BOSTON, MA – Analysis Group, one of the largest economics consulting firms, worked with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and Covington & Burling LLP on their lawsuit challenging the Milwaukee Police Department's stop-and-frisk program on the grounds that it violated residents' rights under the Fourth and Fourteenth Amendments to the US Constitution. The case (Collins, et al. v. City of Milwaukee, et al.) was settled after a year and a half of litigation, leading to changes in how Milwaukee police conduct, document, supervise, and monitor stops and frisks moving forward.
In the litigation, expert reports were submitted by Analysis Group affiliate and University of Pennsylvania Professor David Abrams and criminal justice consultant Margo Fraiser. Professor Abrams assessed the degree to which race and ethnicity motivate motor vehicle and pedestrian stops, as well as searches conducted during those stops. Ms. Frasier assessed whether motor vehicle and pedestrian stops were appropriately documented and legally justified. An Analysis Group team including Vice President Shannon Seitz and Associates Rebecca Scott and Nick Vigil supported both in developing their reports.
“The challenge in this case was how to fully utilize complex and varied datasets to either prove or disprove a pervasive bias. After analyzing years of census data, police reports, and driving records, a clear picture emerged,” said Professor Abrams. “The data showed that, even after controlling for factors other than race and ethnicity, black people in Milwaukee were significantly more likely to be subjected to traffic and pedestrian stops and to be searched after being subjected to a traffic stop, even though it was highly unlikely that these stops and searches would result in the discovery of drugs or weapons.”
The data revealed several things.
- Black drivers were stopped at more than six times the rate of white drivers, and black pedestrians are stopped at a rate 500 percent higher than that of white pedestrians. These differences reflect the inclusion of control variables for the crime rate, demographic composition, and overall differences in location and time.
- Officers were more likely to exercise leniency toward white drivers than toward black or Latino drivers in issuing speeding tickets. In particular, black and Latino drivers are, respectively, 12% and 16% less likely than white drivers to be cited at a speed just below a threshold that would result in a higher penalty.
Ms. Frasier's study concluded that, in a majority of documented traffic and pedestrian stops, officers had failed to identify individualized, objective, and articulable reasonable suspicion of criminal activity or vehicle equipment violations prior to conducting the stop. Her report also concluded that Milwaukee police officers routinely failed to document race and ethnicity information about people subjected to such stops.
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