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ACLU of Wisconsin goes to residents for information concerning Milwaukee police strip searches

2 Apr

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin has been trying to investigate the policies and practices of the Milwaukee Police Department regarding strip searches.  The ACLU’s investigation began after the MPD in March acknowledged that Milwaukee police officers may have been conducting unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches on the public streets.

On March 28, 2012 ACLU made a public records request to the MPD for copies of documents such as orders, memos and report that may help us to assess whether the department is following its own strip search and body cavity search procedures.  The department has not yet produced the documents requested or denied our request.

Because of the delay on the part of MPD and the public interest in this matter, the ACLU of Wisconsin has begun seeking alternative sources of information.

The ACLU is asking citizens for copies of any strip search authorization reports that MPD may have issued to them.  MPD procedures require MPD give the subject of a strip search a copy of a Strip Search Authorization Report.  The police ask the subject of the search to sign and affix a fingerprint to the report.

The ACLU is publicizing their request by means of social media and flyers distributed on the street, in public places, and through community organizations. While it is impossible to know how many Strip Search Authorization Reports the MPD issued by asking citizens, it should be possible to learn relevant information about MPD search practices.  The ACLU has promised to respect the privacy of those who submit copies of forms. The ACLU hopes that more information from the MPD will be forthcoming.  The ACLU will share the facts regarding any possible pattern or practice of improper strip searches with appropriate authorities and the public.

Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service

2 Apr

Milwaukee residents living in every neighborhood deserve high quality professional police service. No one, regardless of where they live, should have to put up with police misconduct. Recent allegations  that several officers in District Five carried out unauthorized strip searches and illegal body cavity searches need to be investigated carefully, fairly, and comprehensively. While it is important to determine whether or not individual officers violated department policies or state law or civil rights laws, it is equally important that the department evaluate its own policies, practices, and strategies to see if they may have undermined police service and civil liberties.

It is in the interest of residents and the department that the department responds to the alleged incidents of police misconduct with candor, transparency, and self-evaluation. Without violating the due process rights of the officers involved and regardless of the outcome of investigations into their conduct, the department can learn from this controversy and provide better service in the future.

The department must consider what impact its own policies, practices, and strategies may have on the delivery of police services.

For instance, incredible as it sounds, if the officers were truly ignorant of the policies or the differences between a pat down or frisk, a strip search, or a body cavity search, then the department has to explain how its training and supervision failed. Is their training forgotten or ignored when officers detain residents on our public streets?

The department must also evaluate its proactive policing strategy to see if it makes incidents of police misconduct more likely to occur. Under this strategy the Milwaukee Police Department made 240,000 traffic and subject stops in 2010. Traffic stop figures through October 2011 show the department will have made a similar number of stops in 2011, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

This extraordinary number of stops obviously increases the opportunity for interactions between officers and residents to go awry. What’s more as Milwaukee Police Chief Flynn told the newspaper, “Yes, of course we are going to stop lots of innocent people.”  The department should evaluate what message it is sending to officers when its proactive policing strategy disregards a person’s innocence. The message at best says civil liberties are expendable.

We pointed out in an op ed to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel last month that the department should also revisit its decision to create the Gang/Drug Unit when the Metropolitan Investigations Division, formed in August, 2010. It appears that the implicated officers including a sergeant belonged to District Five’s anti-gang unit. Many police managers across the country have moved away from special gang and drug units, especially after revelations of widespread abuse by such units of the Los Angeles Police Department. Perhaps, there is a legitimate use for such units, but it appears the type and level of supervision given to Milwaukee’s anti-gang unit was deficient.

Finally, because metropolitan Milwaukee is a hyper-segregated area along racial and income lines, one cannot address policing without addressing civil rights. In the light of the department’s inability to use traffic stop data to identify possible racially biased policing, it is imperative that the department clarify how it is identifying biased officers. We don’t know if these District Five officers are biased, but bias could be a contributing factor. The department needs to be more aggressive in identifying and remedying individual or systemic bias.

The Milwaukee Police Department has an opportunity to evaluate its policies, practices and strategies following the allegations regarding misconduct by officers from District Five. If it simply investigates the officers, it will be setting Milwaukee up for more frustration. Chief Flynn has the capacity to exercise leadership. He can demonstrate that the department will address possible systemic problems. If so, this controversy may be an opportunity to further improve police community relations.

If you have been the target of racial profiling in Milwaukee or in Wisconsin, tell the ACLU of Wisconsin your story.

Drug Testing Polices Should Have Fair Standards for Athletes and Everyone

28 Feb

The public may never know for sure what Ryan Braun, or his drug test handlers, did or did not do last October. But the Brewer’s MVP asserted his innocence at a press conference on Friday in which he described the upside-down nature of mandatory drug testing and doping accusations. Braun said the process felt like the accused were “100% guilty until proven innocent” and that his integrity and livelihood was at stake during the ordeal.

But it isn’t just major league athletes that experience the inherent indignity of mandatory drug testing. The livelihood of many Americans can balance on submitting to the discomfort of a drug test. But if drug testing is necessary, it must be fair. And the process and protections must be clear for everyone.

Fairness and standards for drug testing of professional athletes are spelled out in contracts that are negotiated between the players’ union and the sporting league. Braun said at the press conference that everyone has agreed to the system and it was the system that exonerated him. To describe an arbitrator granting his appeal as getting off on a technicality does a disservice to the due process that all workers who submit to drug testing deserve. Technicalities are the rules of due process that ensure integrity in the system.

Unfortunately very few American workers have protections against capricious drug testing. There are few state laws that protect workers’ privacy, despite the increase in mandatory testing that is unrelated to the job duties. Taking a drug test shouldn’t be as common as filling out a job application. Yet millions of Americans are forced to submit to drug tests without evidence that they are using drugs.

In a striking contrast to the stories of affluent, unionized athletes, the big trend last year was for state legislatures to introduce laws to require people to submit to drug testing before receiving public assistance support like unemployment benefits, welfare, TANF or Medicare. A similar proposal was a part of Wisconsin’s unemployment bill last year, but the measure was stripped out of the final version. The poor shouldn’t have to give up their privacy rights in order to make ends meet. They have no workers’ union to fight for their rights, but the American Civil Liberties Union did file a lawsuit in Florida to fight the most egregious example of this discriminatory practice.

Ordinary Americans, whether they are union members or not, should be treated with dignity in the workplace. Drug testing is an invasion of privacy and should not be overused. But when drug tests are necessary, at least there should be standards to protect Americans from unfairness, abuse or sloppy testing.

Read more from the national American Civil Liberties Union about drug testing reform. Or read more on the national trend of attempts to require drug testing for public assistance.

Public Safety Concerns Not a Barrier to GAB Disclosure of Recall Petitions: Troubling Databases Next

2 Feb

Today the American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin reiterated its position on the privacy rights of survivors of domestic violence in the release of petitions to recall Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Kleefisch. In a letter to the Government Accountability Board and to state Attorney General J. B. Van Hollen, the ACLU of Wisconsin asked for privacy rights of confidential electors be extended to any searchable database that may be available to the public.

The ACLU of Wisconsin wrote that state law protects the privacy rights of confidential electors in other public documents such as the election poll lists. Those same protections should be extended to other electoral public documents such as the recall petitions. Confidential electors should not have to surrender their free speech and assembly rights to participate in their democracy.  

While scanned PDF copies of recall petitions are easy to access but difficult to search, a database of petition signers makes identifying individual names and addresses very easy to find. In this case, survivors of domestic violence and targets of stalking have a clear public safety interest in having their information redacted from a searchable database. Similarly, it should be easy to redact the information of confidential electors from a database as opposed to hard copies of over a million petition signatures.

The ACLU of Wisconsin continues to urge the GAB to appropriately balance the competing public interests of electoral integrity and transparency and political speech and association by redacting the information of confidential electors from any electronic data file before it is disclosed as a public record. Further, the ACLU of Wisconsin urges the GAB to refuse any cross-checking of data with other government agencies.

We understand that the GAB has received a variety of questions and complaints from Wisconsinites on a variety of data privacy concerns. After the news media broke the news on Tuesday night that the PDF documents were available online, the GAB’s public voicemail boxes were full and people were unable to leave a message with their concerns. We hope that the GAB will provide a process to hear the privacy concerns of Wisconsinites before constructing a searchable database and at the minimum, shield the information of the confidential electors who already receive privacy protections under state law.

If there are confidential electors who are concerned about the disclosure of their information in the release of recall petition documents or electronic data files, they can share their stories with the ACLU of Wisconsin by filing a complaint with our office.

Media: Coverage of this topic before the PDF copies of the petitions were posted online included an article in the Wisconsin State Journal, an interview on the Wisconsin Radio Network and TMJ 620 AM in Milwaukee, and on NBC 15 in Madison and TMJ-4 and Fox News 6 in Milwaukee. An article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported on the Attorney General’s opinion about the public nature of the petitions. However journalists tweeted from the press conference that the AG clarified that redacting some information on the petitions based on public safety concerns was up to the GAB’s discretion. This opinion was echoed by the Wisconsin Freedom of Information Council. Reactions to the posting of PDF copies included a story on NBC 15 and NBC 26 in Green Bay.

We will share more media coverage of this issue soon.

Warrantless GPS Tracking is a Violation of Fourth Amendment Rights: SCOTUS Decision Cheered by Privacy Defenders

23 Jan

Today, the U.S. Supreme Court concluded that if police attach a Global Positioning System tracking device to a car, the Fourth Amendment requires that they get a warrant to do so. The decision, United States v. Jones, protects privacy rights against one intrusive way the police use GPS technology and answers a question the Wisconsin Supreme Court sidestepped in State v. Sveum in 2010. Read more about this privacy victory in the ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

“Police should have probable cause that a crime has been or is likely to be committed before using GPS tracking technology,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director Chris Ahmuty. “The ACLU of Wisconsin agrees that without a judge’s agreement, police use of warrantless GPS tracking would be a violation of our Fourth Amendment rights. The details of our private lives are revealed by our movements. Allowing police the power to obtain information on the location of anyone’s car and movements, for any reason or for no reason at all, without a valid warrant, is unconstitutional.”

In February 2010, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) with the Wisconsin Supreme Court in State of Wisconsin v. Sveum, urging the Court to hold that attaching a GPS device was a “search or seizure” requiring a warrant under the Wisconsin constitution as well as the Fourth Amendment. The brief warned that approving warrantless GPS could allow police to engage in fishing expeditions to obtain a detailed picture of someone’s personal associations by identifying the churches, bars, protests or doctor’s offices a person visited.

In its decision in July 2010, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sidestepped the question of whether there are any constitutional limits on police use of global positioning system devices to track people in their cars. Instead, the state’s high court decided that a court order obtained by the police satisfied the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment. Today’s unanimous decision by the U.S. Supreme Court emphatically answers the question the Wisconsin courts left open: the Fourth Amendment protects privacy against intrusive GPS tracking.

Help support the civil liberties news and opinion you get on Forward for Liberty. Join the ACLU of Wisconsin today or make a tax-deductible donation to the ACLU of Wisconsin Foundation. Your contribution keeps Forward for Liberty, action alerts via email and social media, and other nonpartisan watchdog efforts going.

Selling your DVDs and CDs in Madison? Police Want Your Photo and to Know What You’ve Been Watching

16 Sep

The Madison city council’s Public Safety Review Committee met on Wednesday to consider a change to the law governing the licenses of secondhand dealers. The ordinance change would create an electronic reporting system where secondhand dealers, such as used bookstores or pawn shops, would report daily to police what was sold and would include a digital picture of the person who brought in the items. The list includes things like jewelry and electronics but it also includes recorded materials such as CDs, DVDs and audiobooks.

Whenever a change to this law comes up, the ACLU of Wisconsin’s Madison Area Office pays attention. In 2007, a campus-area alder suggested that used book dealers report their book buy-backs to police after a rash of textbook thefts. Bookstores objected saying that the reporting would be burdensome and costly. Police said they needed more tools to fight crime. The idea of electronic reporting came back in 2009 when Madison police held a listening session with stakeholders and explained the need for modernization but also heard concerns about data security, cost and customer privacy.

This proposal is an example of how whenever the government has access to a list of what we read or what we watch or the websites we visit, the ACLU must respond. Remember how librarians fought back when the Patriot Act would have required them to offer our library records for inspection? They protected our right to read because it was a core privacy issue. Our choice to posses any expressive material, be it a book or a CD or a film on DVD, is something we may choose to keep private. Especially if that material is controversial.

Government inspection of lists of such materials, even after they have been sold to a secondhand dealer, can create a profile of an individual’s personal selection or possession of intellectual or entertainment choices. We have a First Amendment protected tradition in this country to allow people to pursue and exchange information anonymously, even if that information is controversial. The only exception to this is in the realm of child pornography, although in the surveillance culture of post-9/11 America, the government now labels some information sharing as suspicious activity. The infrastructure for intelligence gathering has grown exponentially in the past ten years and our government literally has more data than it knows what to do with despite the estimated 2,000 private companies it has hired to data mine all of the cell phone records, suspicious activity reports and other bits of surveillance it has gathered from innocent people in the homeland. Our government does not need another database to spy on our personal choices.

Also whenever the government imposes on the First Amendment or the privacy rights of individuals, it has the responsibility to prove a compelling justification for that imposition. Police say theft, particularly related to drug use, justifies the need for this database. But requiring secondhand dealers to maintain electronic records and digital photographs of media sales specific to sellers and turn those records over to police daily treats all customers as potential criminals without suspicion that any particular person has stolen the CDs, DVDs, audiobooks or other media. The best way to balance fighting crime and protecting privacy is through individualized investigations by police who obtain warrants to search dealers’ own records. Database hacking or fishing expeditions or through electronic lists of who sold what would become easier and no less unacceptable under this proposed ordinance change.

Madison residents should ask their Common Council Alder to support an amendment that exempts “audio tapes, compact discs, laser discs, records, videotapes, digital video discs, portable media players or other similar audio or audio-visual recording devices,” “computer games” and digital pictures of customers who sell them from the daily electronic reporting to local police. Such an amendment would allow secondhand dealers and the city to comply with state law without compromising innocent people’s rights to privacy and freedom to exchange expressive materials.

Read the proposed ordinance online.

Madison residents can find their city council representative’s contact information on the city’s website.

While thinking about controversial materials, remember that September 24 through October 1 is Banned Books Week. We take one week out of the year to acknowledge how the work to defend our right to privacy and our right to read happens 365 days a year. Join us in Madison for a Banned Books Week kick off happy hour at Mickey’s on Friday, September 23 from 5:30 – 7:30 p.m. We will co-host a reading of banned books at Woodland Pattern Book Center in Milwaukee on Wednesday, September 28 with a reception starting at 6:30 p.m. Both events are free, but donations are welcome.

Election Day – Photo ID NOT Required (yet…)

29 Mar

The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin would like to remind voters that they don’t have to show a photo ID to vote on Election Day, Tuesday April 5.

Though photo ID is not required to vote in Tuesday’s election, voters across the state may be confused about current voting laws due to a proposal before the legislature (SB 6) that if passed would require eligible voters to show one of a limited number of state-issued photo identification documents each time they vote.

“First we hope that confusion about the proposed law doesn’t keep eligible voters without a current ID from exercising their right to elect officials on Tuesday,” said ACLU of Wisconsin Associate Director Renee Shavers. “But further, people should know there is still time to voice their opposition to photo ID requirements for voting.” The Government Accountability Board issued a statement Monday that also reminded voters that ID was not required for the upcoming Election Day.

The Wisconsin Department of Transportation estimates that if the proposed law were passed, it could cost the state nearly $3 million dollars in training, equipment, materials and lost revenues from a requirement to provide free identification. The Government Accountability Board estimates that over $2.3 million dollars would be needed to update databases, forms, provide voter education, poll worker training and other costs associated with major changes in voting rights laws (find more on the bill’s fiscal estimate online).

Also, the Department of Transportation estimates that about 20% of Wisconsin’s eligible voters do not have a state-issued photo ID. Citizens who tend not to have current photo identification include a disproportionate number of people of color as well as the elderly, people with disabilities, those who rely on public transportation, and mobile populations such as college students. The ACLU of Wisconsin opposes SB 6 because it would restrict the free and fair voting rights of eligible voters while having a discriminatory effect on minorities. Read more about our opposition to voter ID on our blog.

“When our state has such a long history of free and open elections, we need to work to make sure every citizen has the right to vote, no matter what’s in their wallets,” said Shavers.

The ACLU of Wisconsin has information on the right to vote (including people who have had criminal convictions) at Please contact the Milwaukee or Madison office if you have complaints about voter access at your local polling place on Election Day.

Privacy Rights: Selling a Book to a Resale Shop in Greenfield? "Say Cheese!"

14 Sep

The City of Greenfield Common Council approved a ordinance in April that puts the civil liberties of sellers of books and CDs to resale shops in jeopardy. While it may be well-intentioned, Greenfield’s ordinance (PDF) threatens the privacy rights of anyone trying to sell a long list of used items, including books and CDs, at commercial, resale establishments.

Common Council resolution No. 2695 re-wrote the pawnbrokers’ ordinance. It requires all types of secondhand article dealers to electronically record information in a database about used items and the people who sold the items to the store. The stores would then have to report this information daily to the Greenfield Police. And most troubling from a civil liberties perspective, the merchants have to take photographs of the seller and provide them to police as well.

The ACLU of Wisconsin is concerned that the new ordinance treats all sellers as potential criminals even though there is no particular suspicion that they have done anything wrong and there apparently is little, if any, evidence that the items they are selling (like used books, exercise equipment or baby clothes) are items that are typically “fenced.” It is especially troubling that “expressive materials,” such as used books or films on DVD or video, when sold will result in a record of the sellers’ tastes and opinions.

The Greenfield Common Council is likely to take another look at this new ordinance as soon as the Tuesday, September 21, 2010 meeting at 7:00 p.m. Check the council’s online calendar for the meeting’s agenda and location. Alders have heard complaints from area businesses and need to hear from residents about why this ordinance is too broad to implement.

For residents of Greenfield, please contact Mayor Michael Neitzke and your Council member to encourage them to amend the ordinance so that it will not threaten civil liberties. The City Clerk’s Office can provide you with the name of your alderperson and their contact information. Contact the City’s Clerk’s Office at 414-329-5219. You can find a complete listing of alderpersons online.

Email us at liberty@aclu-wi.orgif you have contacted your alder and he or she is willing to fix this overboard and intrusive ordinance.

Police GPS Tracking Question Left Unanswered by WI Supreme Court; ACLU Seeks Legislative Response

20 Jul

On Tuesday July 20th, the Wisconsin Supreme Court sidestepped the question of whether there are any constitutional limits on police use of global positioning system devices to track people in their cars. Instead, the Court decided that a court order obtained by the police in the case of State v. Sveum satisfied the warrant requirement of the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution and the Wisconsin Constitution. We’ve blogged before on the privacy implications of this issue.

Although the Court did not decide whether a warrant is required, its ruling has the effect of overturning the Court of Appeals’ prior decision, which held that placement of and tracking with GPS devices was not “search or seizure,” and thus did not require a warrant from a judge or even that the placement and tracking be “reasonable.”

“The Court’s decision leaves open the core question of whether there are any constitutional limits to prevent the police from misusing such powerful technology to invade the privacy of innocent people,” said Catherine Crump, a lawyer with the American Civil Liberties Union, who submitted a friend-of-the-court brief along with the ACLU of Wisconsin (PDF) and the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“The Court’s decision underlines the need for the legislature to put common-sense limits on use of GPS technology to prevent police officers with personal grudges or elected sheriffs with political axes to grind from placing GPS units on enemies’ vehicles to see what meetings they attend, what night spots they frequent and what churches they do – or do not – attend,” said Chris Ahmuty, Executive Director of the ACLU of Wisconsin. “Except in rare emergencies, law enforcement should have to show a judge they have a reasonable law-enforcement basis for tracking someone before they start.”

Lawyers on the friend-of-the-court brief include Amelia Bizzaro of Henak Law Office in Milwaukee, Crump of the national ACLU, Jennifer Granick of the EFF, and Larry Dupuis of the ACLU of Wisconsin. G. Michael Halfenger of Foley & Lardner argued the case before the Supreme Court on behalf of the amici. Madison Attorney Dean Strang, of Hurley, Burish & Stanton, represented Sveum.

The issue has had news coverage by the Associated Press and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and on WCCO, a CBS affiliate that serves the Twin Cities and western Wisconsin, WAOW-TV in Wausau, the Wisconsin Radio News and Wisconsin Public Radio.

Sunday: Pub Politico with Dr. Zimmer in Madison, Take Action on Obama’s Privacy Advisory Board

19 Mar

Did you hear on NPR this week about how NO ONE is on Obama’s Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board? The Privacy and Civil Liberties Oversight Board was a recommendation of the 9/11 Commission and was originally established by the Bush administration. Congress made the board more independent in 2007 but it hasn’t had any appointments since.

The President needs an independent body to give input on the civil liberties and privacy implications of laws from the Patriot Act renewal to full body scanners at airports. The ACLU signed on to a coalition letter demanding that this Board get appointments as soon as possible.

This is just one example of how the American Civil Liberties Union is watching out for privacy rights – and you can take action on this issue in Madison this weekend…

On Sunday, the ACLU of Wisconsin will welcome University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee professor and Internet privacy expert Dr. Michael Zimmer at the next monthly installment of Pub Politico. Dr. Zimmer will discuss “Failures in Self-Regulation in Online Privacy” and other trends in social networking, Internet search engines and data privacy.

Participants will be invited to send their own letters to the President on the PCLOB issue.

“One of the most common questions we get at the local ACLU office is about people’s right to privacy in the electronic age,” said community advocate Stacy Harbaugh. “The ACLU of Wisconsin is working to defend the rights of individuals in an ever-changing digital landscape. Just because information is easy to share and technology changes, your right to privacy does not.”

Pub Politico is a monthly political salon-style discussion group that invites experts to share information on current legislative and social justice issues. The event will be upstairs at the Brocach Irish Pub, 7 W. Main St. in Madison at 2:00 p.m. Pub Politico is free and open to the public.

Dr. Michael Zimmer is an assistant professor in the School of Information Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee and an associate at the Center for Information Policy Research. With a background in new media and Internet studies, the philosophy of technology, and information policy, Zimmer studies the ethical dimensions of new media and information technologies, with particular interest in privacy, social media, information ethics, access to knowledge, and value-conscious design. More information about Dr. Zimmer’s research can be found on his blog,

GPS Tracking: Turning Science Fiction Into Reality

16 Feb

As a fan of the The Wire, I can find lots of plot twists and exciting scenes that illustrate the basic constitutional balance between the rights of individuals and the power of law enforcement. The Wire portrays police who follow the rules and those who don’t as they wiretap, search, photograph and otherwise conduct their investigations into complex criminal cases.

In one episode, Detective Leander Snydor has followed a drug dealer to a house which might link him to other criminal relationships. Snydor skillfully walks past the dealer’s car, fixes a GPS tracking system to the underside of the vehicle, and walks away with a whistle.

That might seem like smart cop work when aimed at an enormous, fictional drug ring in the mean streets of Baltimore. But GPS is no longer HBO fiction. In Madison, Wisconsin, where law enforcement agents used GPS to track someone suspected of violating a restraining order without first getting a warrant, it’s very, very real. Unfortunately, according to the Wisconsin Court of Appeals, we should let go of the expectation that police need permission to track our movements.

The Wisconsin Court of Appeals held in State of Wisconsin v. Sveum that the use of a GPS device was not a “search or seizure” and didn’t fall under the Fourth Amendment. The consequence of this reasoning is that the police are free to track individuals’ vehicular movements wherever they go and without any approval by a court. This is true even though tracking someone’s movements can give a detailed picture of someone’s personal associations—they can be tracked to churches, bars, protests or their doctor’s office.

While a GPS tracking device isn’t as invasive as a strip search, we expect the Fourth Amendment to protect us from police spying by making it a requirement that law enforcement agents demonstrate to a court that they have a strong reason to believe that such tracking will turn up evidence of a crime.

On Friday, the ACLU and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a friend-of-the-court brief (PDF) with the Wisconsin Supreme Court to urge justices to reverse the lower court’s decision. While we can all agree that the police should help enforce a restraining order, allowing them the power to obtain information on the location of anyone’s car and movements, for any reason or for no reason at all, without a valid warrant, is unconstitutional.

GPS tracking shouldn’t be used by police or other government agencies without a judge’s agreement that the tracking is based on a good reason to believe it will turn up evidence of a crime. Without court oversight or just cause for the use of this technology, our private lives as revealed by our movements can surely turn our country into a Big Brother reality.

In the brief (PDF), the ACLU and EFF argue that, whether or not the U.S. Constitution applies, the Wisconsin Supreme Court should conclude that Article I, Section 11 of the Wisconsin Constitution protects this state’s citizens from such intrusive police surveillance.

This blog is cross-posted with the national ACLU’s Blog of Rights.

Big Brother Honadel’s Call to Fingerprint Poor Children Gives Businessmen a Bad Name

15 Feb

Today State Representative Mark Honadel (R-South Milwaukee) sent out a media release announcing his plan to introduce legislation to require fingerprinting of poor children in the Wisconsin Shares day care program every day at check-in and check-out. The American Civil Liberties Union of Wisconsin opposes treating our children – including poor children — like parts at an auto supply store or boxes of cereal at a grocery store. ACLU of Wisconsin Executive Director, Chris Ahmuty said today that, “the children in the Wisconsin Shares program, many infants under age one, are not inventory.”

Ahmuty went on to ask what Rep. Honadel would have poor parents say to their youngsters when they discover that more well-to-do children are not fingerprinted.

Rep. Honadel has criticized the Wisconsin Department of Children and Families for not adopting an automated attendance system at day care centers more quickly. He told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, “As a businessman I could make this happen in a couple of months.”

“Technology can be an important tool for government, just like it can for businessmen such as Rep. Honadel,” Ahmuty said, “But just because a technology exists does not mean that we should ignore our values. Unlike businessmen, like Rep. Honadel, government must operate within the limits proscribed by our Constitution and the Bill of Rights, which protect Wisconsin residents from government abuse and safeguard their privacy. Fortunately, the Department of Children and Families, thus far, is being more deliberative and compassionate than Rep. Honadel.”

This issue got some news coverage on Green Bay radio station WTAQ’s website, as well as Milwaukee radio station WTMJ’s website.

The ACLU of Wisconsin will continue to monitor changes to the Wisconsin Shares program to ensure that state actions protect the rights of poor children and families. Read more about the work the ACLU is doing nationally on technology and liberty.