Federal court documents shed light on MPD strip search case scandal

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by John Cuoco

MILWAUKEE -- Exhibits from the federal lawsuit filed against the City of Milwaukee and the Police Department over illegal strip and body cavity searches give more details into the case.

Attorneys in the case deposed a number of people, including Police Chief Ed Flynn and former officer Michael Vagnini.

Vagnini was sentenced to prison time for his part in the scandal last year.

Several other officers resigned from the force for their role.

Attorney Flint Taylor said in a meeting back in May, Vagnini told him under oath, when it came to the police work he was doing in the streets that he didn't think what he was doing was wrong.

Vagnini, who says he had no formal law enforcement training despite being on the force, claims he was never told he did anything wrong and that he was given all kinds of "atta boys."

In a letter to a judge, Vagnini's fellow District 5 officer Paul Martinez wrote:

"It is frustrating to me that the acts Michael is accused of, if so wrong, were allowed to go on for so long with numerous pats on the back."

According to Chief Ed Flynn, District 5 supervisors had no idea illegal strip and body cavity searches were going on and vVgnini was understood to be a good cop.

He told Taylor in his deposition just last month:

"Something bad happened on their watch apparently. There is no indication anywhere that they had knowledge of it."

Although, another letter from another officer, Michael Driscoll, to a judge reads,

"I cannot overstate that at the time in question, many supervisors up the chain of command knew and accepted this style of work."

Flynn believes Vagnini and others in his unit went rogue and the illegal searches are not a more broad problem.

Once again, Driscoll's letter contradicts that saying,

"[Vagnini] did not go 'rogue' and implement policing tactics that were not supported by the department."

Later adding that the Milwaukee Police Department created Mike Vagnini, they trained him, supported him, and encouraged him.

On Tuesday, Milwaukee Police still said they do no comment on pending litigation.

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