In a statement following the release of video showing Milwaukee police officers using excessive force against him, Bucks rookie Sterling Brown vowed to tell his story in hopes of preventing future injustices. That process began Friday in an interview with Robin Roberts on “Good Morning America.”
“This happens from coast to coast,” Brown told Roberts. “It’s something that’s being shown more now that technology has advanced. It’s something that’s been happening for years, and people’s stories have not been told, people’s stories have not been heard, and I feel like me doing this helps a lot.
“I feel like it’s my responsibility, and it’s something that I hold dearly.”
Sterling Brown recounted the incident
If you haven’t seen the video already, it’s disturbing.
Brown was admittedly parked illegally across multiple handicapped spaces in an empty Walgreens parking lot around 2 a.m., when an officer identified by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel as Joseph Grams approached him this past January. Grams harassed Brown, accusing him of “getting up in” his face, which did not happen on camera. Grams called for backup, and when a half dozen more officers arrived on scene, Brown was eventually tackled and tased despite no visual signs of resistance.
Here’s what you don’t see, according to Brown: “My hands were behind my back, and they still tased me. After that, I was still on the ground for about 10 minutes, still wet, face to the ground, knee in my neck. Now, it’s: OK, how do I just get out of this? How do I get home? How do I see my family?”
Brown to ‘Good Morning America’: ‘I was defenseless’
“Everybody thought I was combative, thought I was being aggressive, but I get mad every time I watch it, because I was defenseless pretty much,” Brown recounted to a national television audience on Friday. “I couldn’t do nothing, and they still did what they did. The video shows justice of what really happened. It’s a body cam, it’s close, and you can hear my screaming or whatnot. It’s tough every time I watch it, but that’s why I’m here doing what I’m doing legally. That’s why I’m speaking to you, just to draw attention to it and try to be a voice and try to help as many people as I can in that situation.”
There are those who will excuse the officers’ actions, suggesting Brown could have avoided the situation had he not parked illegally, had he moved back more than three inches when Grams asked him to, had he removed his hands from his pockets when they demanded he do so, but that would ignore the reality that a composed black man was harassed and tased over a simple parking ticket.
As Brown explained, “Whether I parked illegally or not, it shouldn’t have led to what it led to. I could’ve just got a ticket, went home, paid however much money, and that should’ve been that.”
He added, “They wanted to control the situation. They wanted to show their force, their power.”
Brown was arrested for resisting an officer. The charges were eventually dropped.
Brown vows to ‘hold the officers accountable’
In the statement Brown issued through the Bucks on Wednesday, Brown said “the common denominator” in his incident and other minorities who have suffered a worse fate at the hands of police is “racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved. As such, he announced plans to sue the Milwaukee Police Department.
Asked why he was filing a lawsuit against the department, Brown told Roberts, “Really just to hold the officers accountable, hold future officers accountable and have the city make a commitment to people in the community, saying that they’re going to try to change some of the ideas and thoughts and policies and try to help as many people in the community not get involved in a situation like this.”
‘The lack of repercussions … is offensive’
In a press conference following the video’s release, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett said, “As a human being, I am offended by what I saw on the video,” and police chief Alfonso Morales apologized on behalf of the department in a statement, vowing disciplinary action against the officers involved.
However, the Milwaukee Police Association accepted zero responsibility, instead deflecting blame on Brown and city leadership for understaffing the department. The union went so far as to preemptively warn the community on Wednesday that “the death of subjects” may result from similar incidents.
The Milwaukee Police Association, union for rank-and-file officers, has released a statement on the Sterling Brown video/arrest: pic.twitter.com/Jb5fV7SzxX
— Ashley Luthern (@aluthern) May 24, 2018
A day later, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the police department suspended Grams for just two days in addition to issuing slightly longer suspensions for two more officers involved.
Considering Brown said in his original statement, “The lack of repercussions for the police officers involved in so many of these cases is offensive,” it’s easy to understand why he’s speaking out now.
“What we can do is just keep fighting,” he told Roberts, “keep bringing attention, keep putting pressure on police departments and officers and mayors and everybody to try to make change.”
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