With a startling lack of self-awareness, the Milwaukee Police Department has issued a two-day suspension for the officer whose actions first escalated the incident involving Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown outside a Walgreens this past January, according to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
The department also suspended a pair of supervisors who arrived on the scene for 10 and 15 days, and more officers received warnings, the report said. Milwaukee police did not name any of the officers in question, but the Journal Sentinel identified the officer first on scene as Joseph Grams.
Video released by the department on Wednesday showed Grams approaching Brown outside his vehicle, which was parked across multiple handicapped spaces in an empty drug-store parking lot at 2 a.m. on Jan. 26. The officer called for backup, harassed Brown and accused him of “getting up in” his face, which did not happen on camera. At least half a dozen more officers arrived on scene, where Brown was ultimately tackled and tased by multiple officers despite no visual signs of resistance.
Milwaukee Police Department’s apology falls short
Milwaukee police chief Alfonso Morales apologized on behalf of the department in a prepared statement for a press conference conducted prior to the video’s release. He did not take questions.
“During the encounter, Mr. Brown was decentralized, tased and arrested,” he said. “The department conducted an investigation into the incident which revealed members acted inappropriately, and those members were recently disciplined. Criminal charges against Mr. Brown were not pursued.”
We now know the brevity of that discipline. Police captain Steven Caballero told reporters that the department will release the officers’ identities “once all statutory requirements have been met.”
Milwaukee mayor ‘offended’ by police conduct
The department’s actions came under heavy fire even before the video’s release, when Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett braced the city for the disturbing behavior of several officers in the incident.
“As a human being, I am offended by what I saw on the video,” Barrett said from a press conference later on Wednesday. “As mayor, I am committed to improving police-community relations. Mr. Brown deserves an apology. I am very sorry the Milwaukee police treated him in the fashion he was treated.”
Bucks call police behavior ‘shameful’ and ‘inexcusable’
Likewise, the Bucks issued a statement expressing support for Brown and shame for the department:
“The abuse and intimidation that Sterling experienced at the hands of Milwaukee Police was shameful and inexcusable. Sterling has our full support as he shares his story and takes action to provide accountability.
Unfortunately, this isn’t an isolated case. It shouldn’t require an incident involving a professional athlete to draw attention to the fact that vulnerable people in our communities have experienced similar, and even worse, treatment.
Sterling Brown filing lawsuit against Milwaukee police
Brown told the Journal Sentinel earlier this week that he will file a civil-rights lawsuit against the Milwaukee police, and he issued a statement through the Bucks charging the department with “police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tased, and then unlawfully booked.” He likened the incident to others like it across the country “every day.”
“The common denominator in all of these situations has been racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved,” Brown said in a statement after the video’s release. “The lack of repercussions for the police officers involved in so many of these cases is offensive. This is a slap in the face to the victims’ families and communities.”
A day later, we learned of Grams’ two-day suspension, reinforcing Brown’s point about repercussions.
Police union accepts zero responsibility
Making matters worse, the Milwaukee Police Association not only excused the actions of all officers involved — instead placing blame on Brown and city leadership for understaffing the department — but preemptively warned the public that “the death of subjects” may result from similar scenarios.
The Milwaukee Police Association, union for rank-and-file officers, has released a statement on the Sterling Brown video/arrest: pic.twitter.com/Jb5fV7SzxX
— Ashley Luthern (@aluthern) May 24, 2018
Because a handful of police officers failed to issue a parking ticket and send Brown on his way.
Morales “vowed to rebuild trust between the Milwaukee Police Department and the community” during his statement on Wednesday, but his department’s slap on the wrist for the offending officer and the union’s refusal to acknowledge a problem only serve to enable this behavior to continue.
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