NBA player Sterling Brown’s $750,000 settlement was approved Tuesday by the City of Milwaukee Common Council following a lawsuit stemming from a 2018 altercation where he was tased, tackled, and stepped on by city police officers.
The former Milwaukee Bucks player brought a civil rights lawsuit in federal court claiming Milwaukee police used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, according to a letter from Milwaukee’s Office of the City Attorney to Milwaukee’s Common Council.
The Common Council approved the resolution authorizing the settlement 14-0 on Tuesday, with one abstention, according to the council website.
The settlement did not admit that Brown’s constitutional rights were violated but the city and police department issued an apology.
“The City of Milwaukee and MPD apologize for the encounter and actions between Mr. Brown and MPD officers on January 26, 2018,” Brown and the city said in a joint statement. “The City further recognizes that the incident escalated in an unnecessary manner and despite Mr. Brown’s calm behavior.”
The statement said the officer who initiated the incident has been reassigned from patrol responsibilities. Additionally, body camera footage of the encounter is being used to train officers.
The department will also work with Brown on community “education and outreach projects.” The city is to prepare a revised anti-racist policing policy within the MPD, according to the statement.
“Sterling Brown’s goal of implementing anti-racist policing policies that protect all human beings confronted by MPD officers in the future has been accomplished,” Brown’s attorney, Mark Thomsen, said in a statement.
“The creation of a discipline matrix for violations of the anti-racist policing policies is designed to discipline bad officer conduct and allow the city’s many good officers to do their job of protecting human rights.”
Thomsen, in an interview, called the settlement historic.
“This makes Milwaukee the first or one of the first cities in the country to adopt anti-racist policing policies, and a discipline matrix . . . where officers will get disciplined for violating citizens’ civil rights and human rights,” he said.
“It is a change in the standard operating procedures that when … properly implemented will have significant impact for people,” he added. “And it is a model that Mr. Brown can use to talk about these issues around the country.”
On January 26, 2018, Brown was tased by police and wrestled to the ground by several officers after an officer said he had parked across two handicapped spots at a drugstore. Brown was never charged with a crime.
Bodycam footage reviewed by CNN showed a Milwaukee police officer stepping on Brown’s ankle during his arrest, while others mocked Brown and any potential civil rights complaint he might make.
The Milwaukee Bucks issued a statement last November supporting Brown’s commitment to use the “horrifying abuse and injustice” as a catalyst to make change in the community. Brown now plays on the Houston Rockets.
The Milwaukee Police Department referred CNN to the joint statement between the city and Brown.
What happened during the altercation
The lawsuit filed on behalf of Brown in 2018 states the altercation began as he left a drugstore on January 26 and found an officer — identified in the lawsuit as Officer Joseph Grams — outside his car, which was parked across two handicapped parking spots.
Grams allegedly asked Brown, who was 22 at the time, for his license before telling him to back up and shoving him. Brown responded by telling the officer not to touch him several times.
Several officers responded after Grams called for backup, according to the lawsuit and bodycam video released in the case.
After three cars were seen arriving on scene, the officer walked up to them and said he only wanted one extra patrol. He also told one of his colleagues that Brown was getting in his face, the video showed.
At least one car left and others stayed before multiple officers gathered around Brown to ask him questions. At one point, an officer yelled at Brown to take his hands out of his pockets, and Brown said he had “stuff” in his pocket.
Other officers grabbed the athlete and pulled him to the ground, before he was tased.
According to the lawsuit, in addition to discriminating against Brown because he’s Black and violating his rights by treating a parking violation as a criminal offense, officers also failed to read Brown his Miranda rights.
Some officers turned off their bodycams during parts of the confrontation, the suit said.
The lawsuit alleged, among other things, unlawful arrest, excessive use of force and violation of the 14th Amendment’s Equal Protection Clause. It also accused the officers of collaborating to conceal their actions.
The Milwaukee Police Association initially defended the officers who arrested Brown in 2018, calling use of force “a necessary component of policing” and slamming city leaders for failing to defend the officers.
After the bodycam footage was released to the public, the union softened its tone and said it welcomed “appropriate review and oversight” of the matter.
After the incident, two sergeants were suspended without pay — for 10 and 15 days, respectively — for “failing to be a role model for professional police service.”
One other officer was also suspended for two days for “failing to treat a member of the public with courtesy and professionalism.” Eight others were scheduled to receive remedial training in professional communications, officials said in 2018.