Mike Riggs posted the following on Oct. 10, 2012 at Reason.com:
Pictured at right (see here) is Michael Vagnini, the Milwaukee Police Department officer facing charges for aggressively fingering suspects’ anuses. At gunpoint. Until they bled.
The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that Vagnini and three others are facing criminal charges stemming from a series of illegal rectal searches Vagnini vigorously conducted between February 2010 and February 2012. “Vagnini is alleged to have performed all of the searches,” the paper reports. “The three other officers are accused of witnessing Vagnini’s actions and not stopping them or reporting them to a supervisor.” A total of 32 of their police colleagues testified against the four men. How ethical of them to wait only two years to speak up!
Here’s a brief rundown of Vagnini’s exploits:
In one case, a man had gone to check on his aunt’s house in the 3500 block of N. 10th St. When he came outside, his vehicle was surrounded by squad cars. Vagnini put his bare hand down the man’s pants, touched his scrotum and inserted fingers into his anus, the complaint says. When the man pulled away, Vagnini put him in a choke hold that caused him to slobber onto Vagnini’s arm. Vagnini repeatedly told him to “stop resisting” as he pulled back so hard on his neck his feet almost left the ground, the man said. Two other officers held his arms and one put a gun to his head, the complaint says.
Vagnini claimed he found crack cocaine inside the man’s anus, but the man insisted it “was not on him prior to the search,” the complaint says.
In another search, Vagnini conducted a traffic stop near N. 12th and W. Locust streets, the complaint says. Vagnini handcuffed the driver and asked him for “the drugs.” The defendant denied having drugs but actually had hidden drugs inside his anal cavity, according to the complaint.
Vagnini put the suspect in a chokehold from behind, released him and then stuck his gloved hand inside the defendant’s underwear, “shoving his fingers deeply into the defendant’s butt crack and possibly into the defendant’s anus,” the complaint says.
The man was screaming, and as a result of Vagnini’s actions the man was bleeding from the anal area for several days, the complaint says.
Here is a fun fact: It is illegal in Wisconsin for a police officer to perform a cavity search, regardless of what probable cause he may have to believe that a suspect is hiding things in his cavities. Here is another fun fact: Three of the four officers charged in the investigation have official reprimands on their records for “for failure to be civil and courteous toward the public,” “unsafe vehicle operation” (twice), and “failing to honor a subpoena.” They were, in other words, problem cops who should have been fired or placed on desk duty ages ago.
Here is the most fun fact: The Milwaukee Police Department knew about the illegal searches for “a couple of years,” but waited to do anything about them “until authorities recognized a pattern.”
In accordance with Milwaukee’s Law Enforcement Officers’ Bill of Rights, all four officers are on paid leave pending the outcome of an internal hearing that will occur alongside the criminal trial.