The Milwaukee Police department released the body camera footage of the January arrest of Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown and there’s no way to describe it other than shameful. The city’s mayor and some in the community warned that the video’s release could spark unrest because of the outrageous police conduct during what should have been, at most, a parking violation that needlessly escalated into the now-23-year-old shooting guard getting tased and then arrested around 2 a.m. in a Walgreens parking lot.
The circumstances recorded in the video are extraordinarily clear. Brown, who is black, comes out of the Walgreens to a white police officer standing by his car, which is parked near the entrance to the store across what appears to be two handicapped spaces. The officer asks for his driver’s license and then proceeds to escalate the situation, while Brown stands there with his hands in his pockets, increasingly looking and acting annoyed. The police officer almost immediately calls for back up and Brown asks why he can’t just write him a ticket. At one point Brown instructs the officer not to push him. When the other officers arrive, Brown stands by his car and speaks with the officers for several minutes, and two times appears to reach into his pocket to take out his keys to turn off the car alarm that was inadvertently set off, before an officer yells: “take your hands out of your pockets now!” Another officer steps in and appears to forcibly try to take Brown’s left hand out of his pocket, to which Brown says: “Hold on, I got stuff in my hand.”
And that was that. Brown was pushed to the ground, tased, handcuffed, and charged with resisting and obstructing an officer. A quick late-night stop-by the store turned into getting arrested and tased—all in eight minutes. Brown went on to suit up later that night.* The charges were later dropped.
After the release of the tape, Brown, who has said he will file a civil rights lawsuit over the arrest, released a lengthy statement about the incident:
My experience in January with the Milwaukee Police Department 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. 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.
Situations like mine and worse happen every day in the black community. Being a voice and a face for people who won’t be heard and don’t have the same platform as I have is a responsibility I take seriously. I am speaking for Dontre Hamilton of Milwaukee, Laquan McDonald of Chicago, Stephon Clark of Sacramento, Eric Garner of New York, and the list goes on. These people aren’t able to speak anymore because of unjust actions by those who are supposed to “serve and protect” the people.
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. 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.
Black men shouldn’t have to have their guard up and instantly be on the defensive when seeing a police officer, but it’s our reality and a real problem. There must be mutual respect and both sides have to figure out how to accomplish this.
There are no easy solutions to this problem, but there are strides that can be made to create change. I will do my part in helping to prevent similar incidents from happening to the minority community in the future.
This is bigger than me. My family, friends, legal team, Priority Sports, Milwaukee Bucks, the black community and the communities of all who stand against injustice plan to continue the fight. Peaceful support to ensure no further damage to our community is the only way to respond. I know many of you will share my anger and frustration, but for our community to progress and grow, we need to build on what we already have and not destroy it. I will take legal action against the Milwaukee Police Department to continue forcing change in our community.
The Bucks also released a statement:
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.
We are grateful for the service of many good police officers that courageously protect us, our fans and our city, but racial biases and abuses of power must not be ignored.
There needs to be more accountability.
The Milwaukee Police Department and local officials have acknowledged the challenges they are working to address, and we urge them to enact higher standards and more direct accountability. We all want to be able to trust each and every officer serving to protect us.
Incidents like this remind us of the injustices that persist. As an organization, we will support Sterling and build on our work with local leaders and organizations to foster safe neighborhoods and better our community.
On the very same day the Milwaukee Police Department footage was released of Brown’s unconscionable treatment, the NFL owners passed a rule that will fine franchises if players, almost exclusively black, kneel during the anthem to protest their treatment by police.
*Correction, May 24, 2018: This post originally misstated that Sterling Brown played in a playoff game after being arrested; he suited up and played 27 minutes in a regular season game against the Brooklyn Nets.