Two police officers must pay a Milwaukee man more than half a million dollars for violating his civil rights by searching him without a legal reason and wrongfully arresting him, reports the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A federal jury determined that officers Michael Gasser and Keith Garland Jr. did not have a reason to stop and search Leo Hardy, 40, outside his mother’s home in 2012. With the verdict, jurors were essentially saying that Milwaukee police, like their counterparts in New York City, had used unconstitutional “stop and frisk” tactics.
The officers did not have “reasonable suspicion,” the lowest level of proof required for officers to search someone, that Hardy had committed a crime or posed a threat, the jury found. “The jury believed Leo Hardy, and they sent a message that no police officer can stop a man and put their hands on him simply because he is black in Milwaukee,” said Russell Ainsworth, Hardy’s lead attorney. The verdict was the first in potentially dozens of civil rights trials alleging illegal strip and cavity searches by Milwaukee police. More than 60 people have sued in connection with such searches.