Wisconsin ACLU Condemn Random K9 Searches Of Teens At Local High School

Wisconsin’s ACLU (American Civil Liberties Union) recently criticized Wauwatosa PD’s escalation of high school k9 searches. Their public statement blasted WPD’s old school “scared straight” message, and it’s ineffectiveness at solving real drug problems.

READ MORE FROM FIRST POST: Wauwatosa Police Department Escalates K9 Searches Of Property And Vehicles of High School Students

The searches are being conducted at Wauwatosa East High School beginning at the end of March. According to an email sent to students by the School Resource Officer, an “increase” in cannabis-related incidents on school grounds is responsible. Because of this seemingly trivial problem, however, WPD threatened to search all students even suspected by the dogs.

Click Image to read first post about K9 searches



In their statement, ACLU attached the same flier sent to Cop Block contributors by an anonymous student source. The flier was distributed to only students a day before the first searches, sources recalled. Afterward, parents were informed that a search was conducted. Sources speculated this was done to avoid backlash from parents which could stall the first sweep.

According to the source, every student’s backpack was sniffed by dogs in one large sweep. School officials allegedly announced over the inner-comm under the guise of a drill of some sort. Students were told to leave their backpacks in class and stand in the hall with staff and peers. According to the source, that’s when K9 units arrived and went room to room. A single student, the source claims, was hit up by the dogs out of a population of hundreds.

Cop Block’s source, however, insisted that they did not contact ACLU. Not only that, but they insisted that “only students” were sent the email both Cop Block, and ACLU published. ACLU associate director Molly Collins later explained to contributors that their source too was anonymous, and involved with the school. Thus, it would appear multiple factions of the community–upon learning of the searches–object.

Rather than intervene in the lives of children and students via counseling, parents or guidance, Wauwatosa Police have announced their intention to increase the number of police dog searches of lockers, classrooms and vehicles parked on school grounds and in the neighborhood”. — ACLU of Wisconsin public statement on Wauwatosa (Tosa) K9 searches.

“Nowhere does this troubling flyer”, ACLU’s statement reads, “mention working with young people to address their behaviors, but instead threatens their privacy in their phones, homes and other personal property.” ACLU noted how WPD’s teen tactics perpetuate the school-to-prison pipeline, and distract from real solutions.

Students are also given the opportunity to become informants for $50 an arrest. As ACLU points out, WPD made zero effort to reach out to those perhaps with drug issues in a helping manner. Instead, the message was sent that they are being hunted. No reference to other drugs, such as pills, heroin, cocaine, or others, is also made. Soley the cannabis plant, the targeting of which has been quite lucrative for WPD in the past.

Additionally, WPD put emphasis on the vulnerability of cell phones which are now ubiquitous throughout high schools. The flier explains Tosa PD’s ability to recover deleted content, and use it to implicate friend groups.

It’s also known that WPD, according to their 2012-2015 annual reports, collects and analyzes cell phone data. This is done by WPD’s SOG (Special Operations Group), though exactly how isn’t explained. Milwaukee PD, however, was caught in 2016 using cell site simulators–Stingray’s–to track residents using their cell phones, and sift their data. Despite this, open records requests issued to WPD–delayed 60 days–were returned with denials of ever using Stingray.

Wauwatosa is also a community struggling with an opioid crisis, like the rest of Milwaukee County. Tosa’s issue’s, however, are quite under-reported and obscured with stigma, ignorance, and blind eye’s.

Incidents like the shooting of 25 year old Jay Anderson by Tosa officer Joseph Mensah also wound resident’s trust. Many feel Anderson’s shooting was “swept under the rug”, and unjustly dismissed.

Within days of the first K9 searches at Tosa East High School, WPD removed the public’s ability to post reviews to it’s Facebook page. WPD also has not responded to repeated requests for comment by contributors regarding other matters. For them, the iron curtain, as a member of a local activist group Tosa Together once described, has slammed down like a guillotine.

Others highlight Mayor Kathy Elhy’s unwillingness to engage with the public whenever problems harmful to Tosa’s image arise. Journalistically, it’s reasonable to state Tosa appears mundane due to the effectiveness of officials at keeping information controlled, containing problematic stories, and extinguishing decent.

From time to time, however, residents stand up against whatever systems are in place keeping stories quiet. Jay Anderson’s killing sparked an entire summer of protests, records requests, debate and conversation. Now, despite Tosa PD’s attempt to contain word of K9 searches, multiple sections of the community are pushing back.

Isiah Holmes

Isiah Holmes is a writer and freelance journalist native to Milwaukee, Wisconsin. His writing can be found on Cop Block, The Pontiac Tribune, and The Fifth Column News. Video's produced by Isiah are published under the tag YungCartographer Productions.