Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Police Reform Needed, Say Council Members

Brown incident proves problem, changes needed, Hamilton, Coggs say at press conference.

By - May 24th, 2018 02:43 pm
Ashanti Hamilton speaks at Sterling Brown incident press conference. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Ashanti Hamilton speaks at Sterling Brown incident press conference. Photo by Jeramey Jannene.

“We’re standing here together because we’re having a very important conversation about police-community relations and what it means to try to move forward after a very public and embarrassing incident,” said Common Council president Ashanti Hamilton. He was joined outside of the council chambers by a super-majority of his colleagues to discuss the Milwaukee Police Department’s use of force against Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown.

The issue is getting national headlines, since the MPD released the body camera video of the incident yesterday. Hamilton had led a press conference addressing the issue in a south side parking lot back on January 26th, not long after Brown’s encounter with the police.

Bemoaning what he calls “institutional racism” that he believes exists in every institution in Milwaukee, Hamilton announced that the council would begin introducing legislative and communication files designed to change the behavior of the Milwaukee Police Department. “There has to be a change in behavior,” said the council leader. He said the city needs to address the issue in order to move forward.

“We recognize the historical tensions that exist between minority communities and police departments. Milwaukee is no different from any urban center. But where we do want to be different is our commitment to make change.”

Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs noted the council had already instituted a key change. She credits the media attention to the Brown incident and the potential changes that may come from it as directly resulting from the council’s push for every police officer to wear body cameras. All patrol officers have been equipped with Taser body cameras since 2016.

“No excuses, no apologies, no more hashtags, no more multi-million dollar settlements and lawsuits, no more disturbing videos, no more residents of the city of Milwaukee feeling as if they were not treated as human beings by those who are charged with protecting and serving them. These are all things we are working diligently everyday to make happen,” said the sixth district alderwoman.

Hamilton said it was explained to him that part of the reason the video took almost four months to be released was the transition in the chief’s office from Edward A. Flynn to Alfonso Morales. “I’m calling on them to share this information. I don’t think that there’s anything to gain by not sharing,” said Hamilton. The council president said he has seen different angles of the incident from other body cameras, but that the one shared with the media is the best depiction of the incident.

Would the public have known about this incident if it wasn’t an NBA player? Hamilton doesn’t think so, but says that it illustrates the need to create a body camera review process for “average, everyday encounters.” He added: “there are hundreds of everyday encounters like that, I know because I’ve experienced it myself.”

When asked if the officers should be fired, Hamilton said they should never have been hired in the first place. The MPD has said that three of the officers involved were suspended.

The council has limited ability to directly mandate certain actions by the police department, but Hamiton anticipates working with the Fire and Police Commission and MPD to improve the department’s practices.

Ald. Tony Zielinski, the only other council member to speak, told the media he continues to push for state authorization for a two-thirds vote of the Common Council to fire the police and fire chief.

“We feel that if we’re going to get change in this community, the council who is in direct contact with the constituents in the community, needs to have a better say and contact with the police chief. Right now the police chief doesn’t have to pay any attention to us” said the south-side alderman. The council overrode a mayoral veto in November on the matter, instructing the city’s lobbying team to seek authorization for the firing authority.

Hamilton’s press conference and a council statement drew the support of every council member except Mark Borkowski and Robert Donovan.

For more on the fallout from the incident see my colleague Bruce Murphy‘s column from this morning.


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Categories: City Hall, Politics

24 thoughts on “City Hall: Police Reform Needed, Say Council Members”

  1. Jerad says:

    Ah yes, Donovan only cares about matters regarding the police department when it’s to berate city officials for perceived crime spikes, and call for more officers. Maybe when there’s 8 officers free to report to a parking violation, they have TOO much time on their hands.

  2. Kerry James says:

    Maybe if you would obey our laws, listen to police and we wouldn’t have these problems. If a cop tells you to back up, you back up. Take your hands out of your pockets when told to, when a cop asks your name, you tell it to him. Maybe if we had citizens who followed directions and obeyed law and order we wouldn’t have these problems. I highly doubt the cop thought, oh look a black guy, let’s taze him. The cop would have acted the same if a white guy was disobeying orders.

  3. PMD says:

    What a farce and police apologist nonsense. White people in Milwaukee are not treated that way by the police. He gave his name and ID. He did nothing that warranted that response. Cops can be wrong. That’s why two police chiefs have stated their concerns about this. Straining to make excuses for the cops is total racist crap.

  4. Troll says:

    I wish the Milwaukee Common council would provide a new program manual to the police force on how to conduct incidents with people of color. All blame goes to MPD, but I do wonder about the countless number of people who helped Sterling Brown get to the NBA, Did he treat them with the same respect he gave that first officer.

  5. PMD says:

    Yes. People who knew Brown when he was at SMU say he was always respectful and nice. Not that that has any bearing on the cops assaulting him.

  6. 2fs says:

    Jawohl, Herr James!

  7. 2fs says:

    Even if Brown did disobey any laws, even if he was belligerent…what is the purpose of cops’ using berating and belittling language? People do not respond well to that—quite the opposite. Such language suggests the opposite of an attempt to de-escalate the situation.

    Perhaps when hiring cops, and when training them, we should make sure they don’t enjoy being a-holes.

  8. PMD says:

    Trump lovers wonder why people think they are racist. Look at how Troll needs proof that the black guy is a decent person.

  9. Rich says:

    we should make sure they don’t enjoy being a-holes.

    And we have to make sure that being a cop here for any length of time doesn’t make them become (and then enjoy) being a-holes.

    Sure, Brown didn’t physically react to the situation, but at no time did he show any respect or deference or come close to recognizing — let alone apologizing for — his incorrect behavior. You want to talk about a a-hole, talk about the one who thought he could park his car wherever he wanted whenever he wanted. That selfish behavior isn’t appreciated by anyone, cop or not, but the cop is the one we’ve selected — perhaps incorrectly — to try to do something about it.

    There is probably a problem in the training and the job experiences. A black cop was probably equally likely of reaching the same end, it’s the job and the people and situations they deal with, not the color of the skin.

    But at no time did they need eight officers on the scene. If anyone of higher rank showed up, they should’ve recognized that and made some changes.

  10. PMD says:

    As a relative of one of the cops on the scene Rich, you could not be more wrong. It has everything to do with the color of Brown’s skin. And come on the response was ridiculously excessive for a parking violation. I see people park like that in the North Shore all the time. Never see them get a ticket, much less assaulted. Two Sergeants (one of them my relative) were on the scene, so there were higher ranking officers on the scene. There are not two sides to this. Brown was not aggressive or angry or anything else the cops initially said he was. Whitesplaining is the worst.

  11. 2fs says:

    “at no time did [Brown] show any respect or deference” to the police.

    That’s because, in a free nation, that is NOT any kind of legal requirement. This is not a police state (yet). And “apologize”…for INCORRECT PARKING? Get real.

    The lot was, as you can say, abandoned…Brown probably just wanted to duck in and out of the store quickly. Yes, he was wrong – but find me a story where, say, some River Hills attorney doing the same thing (and it’s pretty easy to find some truly arrogant, illegal park jobs featuring luxury vehicles), and gets tased by cops, well then maybe I’ll believe you.

    But you’re trying to draw an equivalence between an everyday person, parking obnoxiously…and police, whose JOB IT IS to keep order. You don’t keep order by yelling at, belittling, and tasing someone for illegally parking.

    And the likelihood that a black cop might do the same thing is irrelevant: the issue is whether any cop would treat a white person, particularly an obviously well-off white person, that way. (You might look up what “racism” is to recognize that no one is immune from it, even if they’re a member of a race that’s discriminated against.)

  12. JPKMKE says:

    Hamilton’s comments are unfortunate and show a lack of leadership. It appears from the video that Brown was arrested due to his behavior and resistance rather than “institutional racism”. I would never park in a disabled spot without a permit because I’m not a jerk, let alone two spots at the same time. But if I did, I would comply with police instructions and not try to intimidate the officer with my “guard up” as Brown puts it. I would then take responsibility for being a jerk and that is why I would go home with a parking ticket rather than be arrested, tased, and processed for jail.

  13. PMD says:

    The willfull blindness is just appalling. The lengths you people go to to defend the police is incomprehensible and pathetic. It’s a parking violation! You write a ticket and leave. Are you blind and dumb? Brown did not resist! He is standing there surrounded by half of MPD. What do black people have to do to please you folks? He was more calm and patient than I would have been. This is why Milwaukee and this country have such a race problem.

  14. TransitRider says:

    Over the years, I’ve seen many instances where people parking diagonally across 2 parking spaces so that somebody parking next to them can’t “ding” their car when opening car doors.

    I’ve never parked across 2 spaces like this (and never parked in a handicapped space) and don’t condone it, but it should get nothing more than a ticket—no handcuffs, no arrest, no tasing, no demand for a driver’s license (it’s not a moving violation).

    An editorial in today’s Washington Post says that Sterling Brown’s experience shows why NFL players have reason to kneel.

  15. MONICA says:

    this has BEEN happening here!! it HIGH TIME we band together and say NO F’ING MORE~~~!!! my God- WHAT IS IT GONNA TAKE FOR PEOPLE TO OPEN THEIR EYES AND SEE THE MPD IS RACIST- AND BEING TRAINED- TRAINED TO ACT THIS WAY. oh , I know- it will happen when it happens to your kid, brother, sister, uncle? Dig down deep- and you will realize this is WRONG.

  16. frank schneiger says:

    Milwaukee has always been a city with a lot of positive attributes, such as its neighborhoods, parks, cultural values, historically honest government and high quality companies that make it their home. The seemingly eternal stain on its reputation is the curse of its legacy of racial bigotry, a stain which has made it one of the least desirable places in the country for Black people to live.

    There are lots of places with bad racial histories, but what sets Milwaukee apart is the extraordinary level of denial on the part of a significant group of white people (here represented by JPKMKE, Rich, Troll and Kerry James, along with the crew that regularly weighs in on race in the JSOnline comments section). As they all said when I was growing up, “the colored are treated good here.” Not true then, not true now.

    In this group’s eyes, white people must always be innocent, and, whatever happened, it is the fault of the Black person or the “black community” Or, another favorite in situations like this, what about all of the Black on Black violence, as if one cancels out the other. In this case, when you watch the video, Sterling Brown’s sin was not parking in a handicapped space, it was being Black and “uppity” with a white cop (Kerry James,

    Here is a question: are there insoluble problems? If there are, this is probably one of them because this significant group of white people, the group that has always been pivotal in Milwaukee and now dominates Wisconsin’s politics, insists on their own innocence. So it is never possible to address the real and complex problems related to race. If “we” are totally innocent, “they” are really screwed up to have put themselves in this situation. It’s all their fault. There’s nothing to talk about. Truth and reconciliation always starts with truth.

    The possible hopelessness of the situation is illustrated by the contortions of those trying to defend these cops. For example, in the history of Walgreens on 26th and National, how many times has a handicapped person used the designated parking spaces at 2 am on the cold winter night? Here is a wild guess: never. Almost anyone running into the store at that hour would have parked there. But, by God, JPKMKE would never do such an unlawful thing. As with many things related to race in Milwaukee, the correct response here would be: Give me a break.

    And, as the dialogue of the deaf continues, the big short-term loser will be the new Police Chief who has had this insoluble problem dumped in his lap. Sterling Brown will go back to playing ball. The Chief will now be whipsawed by the cops and their union, the angry “community” and Bob Donovan and his white constituents and fans.

  17. JPKMKE says:

    Frank S- You’re talking about racial history. I’m not. I’m commenting on an individual who argued with a cop and then fought with cops before he was ultimately arrested. I see how you’ve twisted my comments and accused me of being a racist. You know nothing about my views on race and I certainly would not trust your predjudicial views on the subject. It seems to me that you have a hammer and everything looks like a nail to you. Perhaps you’re not capable of evaluating the subject in more depth. Furthermore I’ve never commented on race relations on JSOnline or any other source.

  18. frank schneiger says:

    JPKMKE: Let me take your comments in order: (1) Yes, I was talking about history, the history of how we got here. (2) Sterling Brown did not argue with, resist or fight with the cops. Look at the video. (3) I never said you were a racist. The word does not appear anywhere in my comment. (4) I never said that you commented on race relations in the JS Online, just that your remarks are in the same category of many of those comments. (5), You and others conveniently ignore the fact that the whole matter, i.e., ticketing/arresting someone for parking in a handicapped space at 2 am on a cold winter night is a bad joke. Tell me, how many handicapped people do you think would need that space at 2 am in January? Please spare me, “the law is the law.” (6) if you believe that your comment was not about race, I would suggest that you are living in denial. (7) If you think I “twisted” your comments, go back and read what you wrote.

  19. PMD says:

    He did not fight with the cops! Did you even watch the video? They grab him, take him to the ground, and tase him. They assault him. You are in dire need of evaluating this is more depth. You don’t even have basic facts right.

  20. 2fs says:

    JPKMKE: “I’m not commenting on an individual who argued with a cop and then fought with cops…”: Since Brown did not in any way “fight” with cops, you’re right: you’re not commenting on him. You’re commenting on a myth.

  21. JPKMKE says:

    Frank S. – Now you’re dissecting comments and denying what you said. You said “In this group’s eyes, white people must always be innocent, and, whatever happened, it is the fault of the black person”. That describes a racist point of view and is of course not what I said and not my point of view. The video starts with the cop saying “how you doing do you have a drivers license” and then Brown gets in his face and argues with him ignoring his instructions. If you don’t acknowledge this you are ignoring the facts to make a point. To be fair the video doesn’t show the tasing or the reason why he was tased. But to assume he was tased because he was black based on this video would be an extreme leap. I reiterate my point that I would have acted differently.

    It is notable in all of this how efficiently you condemned those who disagree with you instead of focusing on a discussion of the incident. I would suggest trying a different approach if you want your point of view to be heard. I agree the problems you highlight are complex but I do not agree that they are unsolvable. And while racial injustice does exist in police interactions with communities, I am not ready to say that this is just another example of it until we know more.

  22. PMD says:

    Again, a close relative is one of the officers. Race has everything to do with this. I know that for a fact. It isn’t complicated. This doesn’t happen to white people in Milwaukee. Read every single news report on this incident. The cops immediately escalate the incident for no good reason says every single one. The hardly liberal Rebecca Kleefisch said as much. Cop defenders are twisting themselves in knots here while claiming others aren’t being fair. It’s absurd.

  23. frank schneiger says:

    JPKMKE: It takes a big person to admit they were wrong. But, after reading your last comment, I am willing to say, I take it all back. You are right, and I am wrong. Based on your comments, it is clear that you are a good, unbiased person, free of prejudices. One who, unlike me, objectively looks at all of the facts and then makes a reasoned judgment, as opposed to rushing to judgment, as I did. And I was horribly wrong in condemning those, like you, who are, in fact, the objective and unprejudiced ones.

    As you said, there may be some scattered racial injustice – like President Trump said, “on all sides,” but none of it was evident in this case in which a small army of cops confronted the parking space criminal, and tased him for what are likely to be valid reasons. In the final analysis, we may find that Sterling Brown got off easy for parking in that handicapped spot – oops, sorry, two handicapped spots, and that any white person would have probably faced the same fate for this crime.

    So, you are right and innocent, and I am guilty of many sins. As you suggest, I will try a different approach and search my soul to gain your approval and to better understand why white people are still the #1/best race because they view these situations with a clear and objective eye. I will no longer, as you say, make “extreme leaps,” when judging situations like this and will make the logical assumption that, in almost all cases, the white guy is right and the black guy is wrong. Again thanks for straightening me out and getting me out of the habit of dissecting comments and searching for facts.

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