Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Sterling Brown Payout Still Being Debated

Council committee meets for two hours, can't decide whether to accept the settlement.

By - Nov 17th, 2020 10:14 am
Body Worn Camera Video Release of Sterling Brown Arrest

Body Worn Camera Video Release of Sterling Brown Arrest

The Judiciary & Legislation Committee spent over two hours in closed session Monday afternoon discussing a proposed settlement with Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown and an unrelated workforce discrimination case.

But after emerging, and without debate, the committee approved the unrelated workforce settlement, didn’t act on the Brown item and adjourned.

“After some discussion of this in closed session with the City Attorney, there are still some items being worked on by the city attorney and [Milwaukee Police Department] through the mediation process,” said committee chair Alderman Ashanti Hamilton of Brown’s settlement.

The Brown settlement was forwarded to the council on November 4th by independently-elected City Attorney Tearman Spencer. It calls for the city to pay Brown $750,000, admit a constitutional violation of Brown’s rights and commit to update MPD standard operating procedures within 180 days.

Brown, an African American, was observed having parked across handicapped spaces outside of a Walgreens at S. 27th St. and W. National Ave. at 2 a.m. in January 2018. A responding officer called for backup within moments of arriving on the scene, which escalated to Brown being tased and thrown to the ground.

Brown, 25, was never charged and body camera footage shows officers being confrontational with Brown from the outset of the interaction.

Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales apologized for the department’s actions in May 2018 after the video of the incident was released. Morales took over the department in February 2018, but was demoted and retired in August. “The department conducted an investigation into the incident, which revealed members acted inappropriately and those members were recently disciplined,” said the then-chief. One of the issues cited in Morales’ demotion was his handling of Brown’s case.

Milwaukee police officer Erik Andrade was fired after he posted racially charged remarks on social media about Brown following the incident.

Brown’s attorney Mark Thomsen previously said that getting the city to admit it violated his client’s rights was an important part of any settlement. The city offered a $400,000 settlement in 2019, but it was viewed as unlikely to be accepted and publicly declared as part of a legal strategy to protect the city against claims for attorney’s fees should the case go to court.

Brown had sued the city in federal court over the matter.

The city would pay for the settlement with new borrowing. The measure would follow a $4 million settlement approved Tuesday for the family of Sylville Smith who was killed by an MPD officer near Sherman Park in 2016. That settlement is expected to cost the city $480,000 per year over 10 years.

The city has paid over $20 million in police misconduct lawsuits since 2015. That total grows by several million when borrowing costs are included.

Brown was a highly-visible participant in the team’s participation in racial justice protest marches this summer.

The committee unanimously adopted an unrelated $11,500 settlement for Michelle Kinnard, a former Milwaukee Health Department employee who brought a case to the state Equal Rights Division and federal Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

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Related Legislation: File 200980

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