Jeramey Jannene
City Hall

Sterling Brown Settlement Approved

City will issue apology and adopt slew of police policy changes.

By - Apr 26th, 2021 07:15 pm
Sterling Brown and City Hall. Brown photo provided, City Hall photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Sterling Brown and City Hall. Brown photo provided, City Hall photo by Jeramey Jannene.

Milwaukee finally has a settlement agreement with former Milwaukee Bucks shooting guard Sterling Brown regarding a 2018 incident with the Milwaukee Police Department. And it’s a big one beyond the price tag.

The city will pay Brown $750,000 for attorney’s fees and damages, issue a public apology and commit to updating MPD standard operating procedures with a focus on anti-racism and de-escalation.

A copy of the settlement obtained by Urban Milwaukee (included below) shows that the City of Milwaukee and Milwaukee Police Department will issue a statement formally apologizing for the incident and admit the incident “escalated in an unnecessary manner and despite Mr. Brown’s calm behavior.”

Earlier language that admitted a constitutional rights violation was removed.

MPD must adopt a number of policy changes centered on how officers are trained and can be discharged.

As part of the deal, the city and MPD agree to reassign the officer that initiated the incident away from patrol duty, revise police standard operating procedures to be explicitly anti-racist, commit to regular anti-racist and anti-discriminatory training, use body camera footage from the incident to train officers on how to avoid unnecessary escalation and establish a discipline matrix for officer behavior.

In total, seven of the MPD standard operating procedures are required to be changed by the Fire & Police Commission. The multi-page documents govern officer behavior with regard to the use of force, arrest authority, training, body cameras, personnel investigations, field interviews and general police practices.

One of the changes will require reports to be filed anytime a firearm is drawn or displayed in an arrest or seizure.

The initial incident drew national attention and widespread condemnation.

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. A responding officer called for backup within moments of arriving on the scene, which escalated to Brown being tased and thrown to the ground. Another officer chanted “money, money” in reference to overtime.

Now a guard with the Houston Rockets, Brown sued the city in federal court over the matter.

The Judiciary & Legislation Committee unanimously approved a revised settlement agreement Monday evening.

“There have been extensive negotiations back and forth with various parties,” said deputy city attorney Robin A. Pederson after the committee spent an hour in closed session. He said there would be two exhibits attached to the settlement, one a joint statement from Brown and the city and another detailing standard operating procedures for the police department. “Given the totality of that package, we present it to you with a recommendation you accept it.”

Three officers were disciplined by then-chief Alfonso Morales over the incident. Multiple officers admitted violating Brown’s rights during depositions. Milwaukee police officer Erik Andrade was fired after he posted racially charged remarks on social media about Brown following the incident.

“Getting to this point was not an easy one and it clearly has not been an easy process for this council,” said committee chair Alderman Ashanti Hamilton. “I know this case is not just about Sterling Brown and the incident that night.”

Brown, both in a Players’ Tribune article and through attorney Mark Thomsen, has repeatedly said the concern wasn’t about money, but the practices of the department.

At one point, Dale Bormann, Jr., head of the Milwaukee Police Association, and Carmelo Patti, head of the Milwaukee Police Supervisors’ Association, said in a joint letter that City Attorney Tearman Spencer was in “dereliction of duty” because he didn’t keep their members apprised of the settlement talks.

The committee has met in closed session three times since the agreement was initially introduced in November 2020 to discuss it. A formal vote on the settlement was postponed multiple times at the request of the City Attorney’s office for further negotiation between the different parties.

“I am hoping we can embrace the symbolic nature of this case,” said Hamilton. No other committee members spoke on the issue.

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 member of the Bucks’ participation in racial justice protest marches last summer.

Earlier this month Brown suffered facial lacerations requiring “multiple heavy stitching jobs” when he got in the wrong van after leaving a night club in Miami.

The full council will vote on the settlement at its May 4th meeting.

UPDATE: An earlier version of this article said a constitutional violation of Brown’s rights would be admitted. That was included in the November version of the proposed settlement, but dropped from the final version.

Documents

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4 thoughts on “City Hall: Sterling Brown Settlement Approved”

  1. KrisG-K says:

    “Reassigning the officer that initiated the incident away from patrol duty” is way too lenient considering how he escalated the incident.

  2. Jake formerly of the LP says:

    Having overbearing, bad police officers has big time costs. Especially in Milwaukee, whose taxpayers have had to shell out tens of millions of dollars in settlements due to thuggish cop behavior over the years.

    Conservatives used to believe in cost.effective measures. But not when it comes to expensive, trust-destroying overpolicing and impunity that the bad guys in blue do.

  3. Paul Mozina says:

    Thank you for this report Jeramey, and for attaching all of the related documents.

  4. 45 years in the City says:

    Had I (as a white person) parked improperly for whatever reason (or no reason) at that Walgreens, here are three things that probably would have happened:
    1) Nothing
    2) The manager would have asked me to move
    3) The manager would have called Parking Enforcement

    One thing that likely would NOT have happened is dispatch of multiple police officers.

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