Huffpost Crime

Milwaukee Police Accused Of Illegal Cavity Searches

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Seven Milwaukee police officers and one supervisor have had their guns and badges taken away amid allegations that they conducted illegal cavity searches.

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel obtained a police report that shows Officer Michael Vagnini was known for conducting these invasive searches without the authority to do so, according to one alleged victim's lawyer. Under state law, cavity searches must be performed by a doctor, physician assistant or registered nurse, not a police officer.

"According to the report, Officer Vagnini had a reputation for doing this," defense attorney Alex Cossi told the paper. "This was not a rogue happenstance. This was a tacit acceptance of strip searches without proper procedures or supervision."

The case against Cossi's client was dismissed because the evidence was found improperly. The investigations into the officers' behavior could still result in criminal charges, however, since improper searches can constitute sexual assault, the paper reported.

In March, one victim told WTMJ about his alleged assault.

"When they searched me they eased their hands right between my butt," he said. "I tried to reach back and soon as I tried to reach back to stop them they slammed me on the ground."

A spokesperson for the Milwaukee Police Department declined to comment on the allegations when contacted by The Huffington Post, noting that they are still under investigation.

Mike Crivello with the Milwaukee Police Association told Fox 6 Now that the public shouldn't condemn the city's entire police department.

"We don't want the community to rush to judgment on something that may not exist,” Crivello said.

A Journal Sentinel editorial urged Milwaukee Police Chief Edward Flynn to swiftly punish officers who conduct illegal searches.

"It's time to crack down on officers who cross the line and make sure they know that illegal searches will result in quick termination," the editorial board wrote.

Chris Ahmutym, executive director of the ACLU Wisconsin, told HuffPost it's possible these allegations could hurt the police department's credibility.

"Certainly, among some people in the community, this is undermining confidence in police and police-community relations," Ahmutym said.

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Filed by Simon McCormack