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Friday, February 23, 2024

Bill to allow more strip searches set for committee vote

A bill that would allow strip searches for some minor offenses received support Monday from local law enforcement ahead of a Senate committee vote later this week.

The measure, co-authored by state Sen. Sheila Harsdorf, R-River Falls, and state Rep. Joel Kleefisch, R-Oconomowoc, would alter a law passed last year that restricts when law enforcement can conduct strip searches.

Currently, police officers have to wait until a suspect has been detained for over 12 hours before conducting a strip search.

Dane County Sheriff Dave Mahoney told Wisconsin Public Radio he currently has to place inmates in solitary confinement until his officers can conduct a search.

“I think that is one, inhumane and two, the improper use of that housing facility," Mahoney said.

But other lawmakers argue the bill will increase racial profiling and would be abused by law enforcement.

“As the mother of a black child who is about to get his driver’s license, I already fear how he may be treated for driving while black,” state Sen. Lena Taylor, D-Milwaukee, wrote in the Milwaukee Courier. “But if this bill becomes law, I will also have to fear that a simple traffic stop could result in a degrading strip search like that which many of my constituents have already been subjected to.”

Taylor noted in the editorial that the Milwaukee Police Department is currently fighting over 30 cases of illegal strip searches and said the bill would increase that number.

The Senate Judiciary Committee is scheduled to take up the bill in an executive session Wednesday.

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