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2 sergeants, officer suspended for role in Sterling Brown arrest; chief won’t elaborate on punishments

MILWAUKEE — State Rep. Leon Young, who is retiring to return to a position in the Milwaukee Police Department, said Thursday, May 24 MPD brass told state lawmakers in a meeting that two sergeants and an officer were suspended in connection with the arrest of Milwaukee Bucks' guard Sterling Brown. Young said no one was fired -- and MPD brass would not go into details.

Chief Morales on Thursday headed into a closed-door meeting at City Hall with state lawmakers from Milwaukee. He said "not right now" as FOX6's Theo Keith asked "why won't you answer the most basic questions about this incident?"

Lawmakers said they told Morales to finally take questions about the Sterling Brown arrest, and later, he briefly did. He said he's legally barred from naming the officers involved, what discipline they received and what rules they broke. They could appeal their suspensions.

"I'm going to be transparent, and I'm trying to be transparent, but I also have to do things within the legal boundaries that I have," said Morales.

"It escalated completely out of control," said Jarrett English, ACLU Wisconsin.

Jarrett English is the police accountability organizer with the ACLU of Wisconsin.

"There's literally dozens, if not hundreds of these types of incidents that go on in Milwaukee every week,"s aid English.

Morales said the officers will "absolutely" be retrained -- but two Democrats said that's not enough, especially for the first officer who confronted brown outside a Walgreens at 27th and National in January.

Senator Chris Larson

"If that's representative of the force, then we need to do a cleaning house of all bad cops, but it's clear that guy's not a good cop. He should go," said Senator Chris Larson (D-Milwaukee).

When asked why the body camera video was not made public for four months, the city's new Fire and Police Commission's Executive Director La Keisha Butler said it couldn't have been done any sooner.

La Keisha Butler

"We could not release it sooner by statute, even under the open records law. It could not be released pending an investigation, and there was one pending up until a few days ago," said Butler.

Some lawmakers said people less famous than an NBA player should get this level of attention too.

"I want it for the person, who when they're standing there and they look like Uncle Boo Boo. I want you to do it for Boo Boo," said Senator Lena Taylor (D-Milwaukee).

Senator Lena Taylor

Morales on Wednesday apologized to Brown and said officers were disciplined for acting "inappropriately" after the Bucks' guard was zapped with a stun gun during his arrest for a parking violation.

Brown said in a statement Wednesday that the incident was "an attempt at police intimidation" and that it "shouldn't happen to anybody." Community groups in Milwaukee have criticized police for how they handled Brown.

"Something that was as minor as a parking violation, turned into all of this," said Jonathan LaVoy, Kim and LaVoy.

Brown says he will be taking legal action. Brookfield Attorney Jonathan LaVoy does not represent the NBA guard, but says there is a case to be had.

"Mr. Brown certainly has a civil rights claim against the police department," said LaVoy.

Police Chief Alfonso Morales' apology at a news conference Wednesday came as police released body camera footage that showed how a simple interaction over an illegally parked car quickly escalated. The video, which was released because an internal investigation had concluded, represents another setback for a department that for years has tried to rebuild its image and relationship with the community after several high-profile cases of police misconduct.

Sterling Brown body camera video

It began around 2 a.m. on Jan. 26 in a Walgreens parking lot. As Brown walks out of the store, an officer standing by Brown's car asks him for his driver's license. When Brown gets close to his car's passenger door, the officer touches Brown and he tells the officer not to touch him.

"Back up! Back up!" the officer yells. "For what? I ain't did nothing," Brown responds. Brown eventually shows the officer his driver's license.

The conversation between the officer and Brown is testy as they wait for additional squad cars to show up. Brown says he has no problem with the officer's questions and the officer responds that he touched him "because you got up in my face."

"I got up on your face? Really?" Brown responds in disbelief.

It takes a turn for the worse when Brown, surrounded by four officers near his car, is asked to take his hands out of his pockets. Almost immediately a scuffle ensues, with the officers swarming over Brown and one yelling "Taser! Taser! Taser!"

Brown is heard groaning in pain on the ground, although he's barely visible from the camera's viewpoint.

Brown was not charged with anything.

"Our department conducted an investigation into the incident, which revealed members acted inappropriately and those members were recently disciplined," Morales said at the brief news conference.

MPD Chief Alfonso Morales

"I am sorry this incident escalated to this level," he added.

He left without taking questions. He did not identify the officers or say how they were disciplined.

Brown, in his statement released Wednesday, said the experience "was wrong and shouldn't happen to anybody."

"What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force, including being handcuffed and tased, and then unlawfully booked," he said. "This experience with the Milwaukee Police Department has forced me to stand up and tell my story so that I can help prevent these injustices from happening in the future."

Sterling Brown body camera video

The Milwaukee Bucks signed the 6-foot-6 guard from Southern Methodist University in Texas last summer in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.

Later in the video, after officers used the stun gun, Brown can be heard having a conversation with someone away from the view of the camera.

"They tased me for no reason," an agitated Brown says.

Sterling Brown

"I asked you to step back and you didn't do it," the officer who had the initial interaction with Brown responds. Later, that same officer mocks Brown while talking to another officer about what happened, saying he thought Brown "was being an (expletive)" and "trying to hide something."

"And now he's like, 'I'm a Bucks player, blah, blah, blah.' So what," the officer says.

City officials' concern over the content of the video was apparent earlier this week when Mayor Tom Barrett said he found it concerning.

Fred Royal, the president of the NAACP in Milwaukee, said Wednesday that he "didn't see anything that would warrant" a stun gun being used on Brown.

"I find it disturbing that an officer would incite an argument over a parking citation," Royal said.

A day before releasing the body-camera footage, Morales posted a video on YouTube to reiterate his commitment to rebuilding the public's trust in the department.

"If there's ever an incident where one of our members makes a mistake, unnecessarily escalating a situation, I'm going to be honest and transparent about it," he said. "In those incidents, where we have made mistakes and are wrong, I'm sorry."

Morales was appointed chief in February, following the retirement of Edward Flynn, who held the position for 10 years.

Dontre Hamilton and Christopher Manney

Last year, Milwaukee paid $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill man fatally shot by a police officer after the officer roused him from a park bench downtown. The officer said he shot Hamilton 14 times in self-defense because they got into a struggle when the officer frisked him for weapons.

In 2016, the city paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit by 74 residents who are African-American, who said police illegally strip-searched them between 2008 and 2012. The city is considering settling a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin, which is representing eight residents who say police targeted them for stops because they were African-American or Latino and because of the high-crime areas where they lived.

Demetrious Lowe

In early May, police and prosecutors began investigating four officers who were involved in the violent arrest of a man near 51st and Capitol. Video from a bystander showed a group of officers kicking and punching the man on the ground while he was restrained. Police presented their body-camera footage of the encounter, which showed the man aggressively charging at officers and trying to punch them.