On the same day the National Football League decided to obfuscate the real reason its players were kneeling during the national anthem, Milwaukee police released bodycam footage that showed exactly why players have been kneeling during the national anthem. Police continue to abuse their power and use excessive force against black men for no reasons other than implicit bias and just because they can.
The victim in question this time is 23-year-old Sterling Brown, a 6-foot-6-inch native of the Chicago suburb of Maywood, Ill., who also happens to be a rookie shooting guard for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks. Around 2 a.m. on Jan. 26, Brown was arrested in the parking lot of a Walgreens on a possible misdemeanor charge of resisting or obstructing an officer.
Somehow, what started out as a simple parking violation escalated into Brown being surrounded by a group of cops, thrown to the ground, handcuffed and shocked with a Taser. Later that day, he appeared on television before a Bucks game with visible bruises and scratches on his face.
According to the Washington Post, police falsely claimed in their report on the incident that Brown refused to step back from the officer who found his vehicle parked across two handicapped-parking spots, and that he “became physically aggressive.” They lied and said he “physically resisted officers’ attempts to handcuff him,” so “he was taken to the ground in a controlled manner.” It was then, police said, that a stun gun was used “to get Brown in control with handcuffs.”
Of course, the police bodycam video contradicted all of that, and both the mayor of Milwaukee and the chief of police knew they had a problem on their hands. All week, both had been bracing for the release of the video, which Mayor Tom Barrett called “disconcerting” and “disturbing.”
After police conducted an internal review of the footage, they declined to refer Brown for prosecution, and in a statement Wednesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said that the officers involved had been disciplined for acting “inappropriately.”
The NBA published a statement from Brown on its website shortly after the release of the video. In it, Brown said:
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, [Calif.]. 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.
And in an example that the NFL and its coaches would do well to follow, the Bucks stood behind their player and condemned the police for their actions:
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.
Listen. The police (no matter their race) have implicit bias when it comes to black people. This is why a 24-year-old woman can end up pinned on the ground with her shirt ripped as a Washington, D.C., transit cop shocks her with a Taser for the crime of fare evasion.
The problem is real. It happens every day. Even when you are a rookie professional basketball player who just wandered into Walgreens in the middle of the night.