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Mayor Barrett, community leaders respond to release of Sterling Brown arrest video

MILWAUKEE (CBS 58) -- Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett held a press conference Wednesday evening in response to the Milwaukee Police Department's release of the Sterling Brown arrest video.

During the press conference, Mayor Barrett said that Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales has disciplined the officers involved in the incident. He could not comment further, however, on what that discipline was or how many officers were disciplined.

"As a human being, I am offended by what I saw on the video," Mayor Barrett said. "As Mayor, I am committed to improving police-community relations. Mr. Brown deserves an apology and I'm very sorry the Milwaukee Police treated him in the fashion he was treated in."

The Mayor went on to say that this type of behavior has no place in the city of Milwaukee.

Mayor Barrett ended by asking community members to do better and use basic human respect. "As mayor of this city, I need this to be a city, we all need this to be a city, where our residents can work with and respect our police officers. We also need this to be a city where our police officers can work with and protect our residents. It has to be a two-way street."


The African American Round Table also held a press conference. Their message was clear, the officers involved in this incident need to be fired.

"This is not a case of bad apples, but an entire cart of bad apples that needs an entire overhaul and a culture shift," said Markasa Tucker, the African-American Roundtable Director.

The Roundtable took things further, making specific demands which included a Fire and Police Commission review, new community policing guidelines, and a harsh example to be made of the officers in the video. The group is calling for their firing.

"Black people in Milwaukee will continue to live in fear and these instances will continue to intensify the divide between MPD and community," said Tucker.

Democratic State Senator Lena Taylor also released a statement today saying in part, "It is inconceivable to me that MPD would allow the behavior and reputation of Sterling Brown to be maligned while withholding video of his interaction with officers for nearly 5 months."

State Senator Taylor also went on to call Morales' press conference a sham, questioning how not one of the officers had working audio on their body cam.

Democratic candidate for Congress Randy Bryce said:

"What happened to Sterling Brown is inexcusable. He had a parking violation. He should have simply gotten a parking ticket. Instead, a group of Milwaukee police officers slammed him to the ground, tased him, and used offensive and racist language. This is shameful and absolutely unacceptable. Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. Young Black men and women across America are being unlawfully stopped, arrested, beaten, and killed-- simply because of their race. It is time politicians stand up and do something before more men and women are traumatized by police brutality.

The president of the NAACP in Milwaukee says he doesn't see anything in a newly released police body-camera video that would warrant officers using a stun gun on Bucks guard Sterling Brown.

Fred Royal says he thinks the officer who interacted with Brown should have done a better job of explaining the reason why he was questioning him.

Royal says he finds it "disturbing that an officer would incite an argument over a parking citation."

The January incident started with an officer approaching Brown for double parking in a handicap spot at a Walgreens lot.

The group Black Leaders Organizing for Communities said the video "is yet another example of police using excessive force with Black people in situations that do not call for it."

Rep. David Crowley (D-Milwaukee) issued the following statement in response to the body cam footage released yesterday by the Milwaukee Police Department:

“While I am deeply disturbed and appalled with the blatant abuse of power by the Milwaukee Police Officers involved in the Sterling Brown incident, I cannot say that I am surprised. Across the nation, African Americans have been subject to unjust and unwarranted police brutality for decades. If this attack had not been to a NBA player and caught on camera, we probably would never have heard of the incident.

“What does surprise me is the response by Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales; who stated that the department will have greater transparency when it comes to situations like this. However, before his press conference he gave a written statement about the release of the body cam videos, read the statement verbatimly before the videos were released to the public, and did not take any questions. If this is what greater transparency looks like, I am afraid nothing is going to change.

“Bad cops make the job of good cops that much more difficult. We cannot allow or enable this kind of despicable behavior. In order to truly protect and serve our community as a whole, we need a police departments that see us not as threats or problems but as the human beings that we are.”

Eleven members of the City of Milwaukee Common Council released a statement after the Sterling Brown arrest video was released. They say the incident is another opportunity to make overdue changes. Four alderpeople did not sign the statement.

The recent release of bodycam footage from the Sterling Brown tasering and arrest is yet another example of the opportunity and need for a paradigm shift in how police engage with the community.

While the footage was disturbing and represented an excessive police response to an admittedly minor situation, this is just one incident that was captured on film.

This is an issue that is not unique to Milwaukee but a national crisis that must be addressed systemically.

The focus has to be placed on the culture and systematically enforced behavior that currently exists and must change. No human being should ever have to fear for their lives or safety while interacting with the public servants that are charged to protect and serve them. 

Ultimately, Milwaukee has all the ingredients to be a great city, but each time an incident like this occurs we are reminded of how much work we still have to do. 

We have introduced a file to discuss and evaluate the current police policy and training as it relates to de-escalation, along with implicit and cultural bias.  We are prepared to work with the Community, Fire & Police Commission and MPD toward desired change.

Alderman Bob Donovan released a statement Thursday saying:

I join my colleagues and most individuals who have viewed the bodycam video of the arrest of Sterling Brown in noting how disturbing it is. Any use of force incident caught on camera is disturbing to average people.

I wish the entire episode could have been avoided and I believe it could have been had cooler heads prevailed.

That said, I’m disappointed that Mr. Brown has apparently decided to file a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee over this matter. It is highly ironic that a multi-millionaire player on a team that has been given hundreds of millions in taxpayer dollars to build a Taj Mahal new arena is taking this action. And the team itself is also cooperating and supporting Mr. Brown in this endeavor – suing a city that is flat broke.

Like my colleagues I share concerns about the number of officers who responded to the scene back in January. To me it appears that every officer assigned to patrol my district was there, even though the first officer at the scene requested just one backup. I have serious concerns about officer supervision that night and why so many officers responded.

As I’ve said before I am pleased those officers were patrolling the area because it has had serious crime problems for years, including drugs and prostitution, overdoses, armed robberies, car thefts and more. I’ve been asking MPD for increased presence at that location because Walgreens has been hit by numerous armed robberies over the years.

The way Mr. Brown’s vehicle was parked could easily have been perceived by cops as a getaway car.

I further join my colleagues and wholeheartedly agree we need to be transparent. And in the interest of transparency I have a few questions:

1. With so many officers on scene, why did it become necessary to tase Mr. Brown?

2. We hear that officers were suspended in connection with this incident, and I’d like to know what violations of law or procedure the officers violated?

3. When an officer issues a lawful order (in this case ‘take your hands out of your pockets’) what recourse does an officer have when the subject doesn’t comply?

I’m not a police officer so I’m honestly asking that question as a civilian.

4. This may be a touchy subject but – once again in the interest of transparency – what role, if any, did this mystery woman who was in the passenger seat of Mr. Brown’s vehicle play in this whole episode?

What steps, if any, has MPD taken to downplay her role or even remove her presence from videos?

In addition, what role, if any, did the woman’s presence at the scene play in prolonging this incident? After all, most people are viewing this incident as a parking violation – but was it considered more than that?

5. With eight or 10 officers present at the scene there MUST be additional bodycam video available. If there is more video available what does it show and why hasn’t it been shown to the public?

6. What steps, if any, were taken to delay the release of this video until after the Bucks’ appearance in the NBA playoffs?

7. Again – in the interest of transparency and full disclosure – what negotiations, if any, may have gone on between the Bucks and MPD regarding this entire matter?

As I’ve said, there are still many questions that need answers and I am hoping we can get some of those answers sooner rather than later.

Alderman Tony Zielinski said:

The Sterling Brown incident has proven that it is vital for law enforcement to be equipped with body cameras. As an early champion of this technology for the sake of both officers and the public, predictions cited by me years ago have come to bear.
In August 20, 2014, I issued a call for the Mayor to fund this technology in the 2015 executive budget, statements of which were published in the Journal Sentinel. http://archive.jsonline.com/blogs/news/272060531.html
“These cameras offer the public a clear record of what transpired, and for officers who followed the law and followed procedure – but who are wrongfully accused – the footage can provide irrefutable vindication.”
My words ring true nearly four years later as circumstances surrounding the Sterling Brown incident are called into question. Regardless of your opinion on that event, I am hoping we can all agree on this: body cameras are an effective tool in police transparency and accountability.

The Sterling Brown incident has proven that it is vital for law enforcement to be equipped with body cameras. As an early champion of this technology for the sake of both officers and the public, predictions cited by me years ago have come to bear. 

In August 20, 2014, I issued a call for the Mayor to fund this technology in the 2015 executive budget, statements of which were published in the Journal Sentinel. http://archive.jsonline.com/blogs/news/272060531.html 

“These cameras offer the public a clear record of what transpired, and for officers who followed the law and followed procedure – but who are wrongfully accused – the footage can provide irrefutable vindication.”

My words ring true nearly four years later as circumstances surrounding the Sterling Brown incident are called into question.  Regardless of your opinion on that event, I am hoping we can all agree on this: body cameras are an effective tool in police transparency and accountability. 

County Supervisor Marcelia Nicholson also released a statement:

 "The criminalization of Black bodies has to stop, and the police must be held accountable for their abusive treatment towards Sterling Brown, who was attempting to comply with police instructions. In this instance, a parking issue that could have been taken care of with a simple ticket or request to move the vehicle escalated because of an officer's lack of respect for a Black man. A slap on the wrist is an insult to the people of Milwaukee – the officers involved should be relieved of duty. Police officers who have shown an inability to remain calm and respectful when confronting someone over a parking violation should not be entrusted with the power and authority that comes with being a Milwaukee police officer."    

Congresswoman Gwen Moore said:

“The video released last night is yet another appalling blow to the public trust and integrity by those who are meant to protect and serve our communities. It is clear that Mr. Brown was not antagonistic or threatening and that the officer’s escalation of the situation placed both himself and Mr. Brown in danger. Enough is enough of this culture that tolerates violence by rogue officers and that continues to erode public confidence in our nation’s justice system.

“On the heels of the $1.9 Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) “stop and frisk” settlement, the shooting of Dontre Hamilton, and this most recent incident, it is long past time for MPD to make immediate reforms. On a federal level, we must redouble our efforts to pass legislation that will work to put an end to our nation’s long history of police brutality against Black and brown Americans. In Congress, I am fighting for mandated de-escalation training in police academies across the country. The people who swear an oath to protect our communities must learn to put life first. I challenge the MPD to set the national standard for integrity, accountability, and community-oriented policing to heal the deep divides in our city.”

Representative David Bowen (D-Milwaukee) said:

"On the same day NFL owners barred players from protesting police violence, police violence against a black NBA player provided all the more reason to demand change.

"While it may have taken police violence against a high profile victim to once again raise public awareness, these unnecessarily escalated situations have become commonplace and officers continue to face little or no consequences.

"This footage is disturbing on many levels. The 'I own this' and 'I get to do what I want' claims of the officer expose an above the law element in the police department that shows exactly why community-police relations are still struggling and it must be eradicated.

"It was reported today that the officer who initially confronted Sterling Brown was suspended for two days. That is not sufficient corrective action to make long term changes to ensure the public is safe and that especially people of color can be treated with dignity and respect.

"If officers who lack integrity continue being allowed to fail the people they are sworn to serve and protect, it is time for coordinated state and local legislative action to enforce best practices to end police violence."


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