Monday, August 9, 2021

My wife and I know about excessive force from cops, and so does NBA guard Sterling Brown, who has settled a lawsuit for $750,000 in Milwaukee



A professional basketball player for the Houston Rockets has settled a police-brutality lawsuit for $750,000. How did Sterling Brown, a 6-5 fourth-year guard from Southern Methodist University, run afoul of the Milwaukee PD while a member of the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks? It started with some careless parking on Brown's part and turned into a physical confrontation. From a report at CNN:

On January 26, 2018, Brown was tased by police and wrestled to the ground by several officers after an officer said he had parked across two handicapped spots at a drugstore. Brown was never charged with a crime.
Body-cam footage (see video above) reviewed by CNN showed a Milwaukee police officer stepping on Brown's ankle during his arrest, while others mocked Brown and any potential civil rights complaint he might make. 
The Milwaukee Bucks issued a statement last November supporting Brown's commitment to use the "horrifying abuse and injustice" as a catalyst to make change in the community. Brown now plays for the Houston Rockets.
The Milwaukee Police Department referred CNN to the joint statement between the city and Brown.

The issue of excessive force by law enforcement hits close to home here at Legal Schnauzer. As long-time readers likely know, deputies in Greene County broke my wife Carol's arm during an unlawful eviction in September 9, 2015. We filed a civil-rights/personal injury lawsuit in the Western District of Missouri on Sept. 4, 2020, meeting the state's five-year statute of limitations for such claims. Several factors have delayed the complaint, but we hope the drawn-out process starts gaining momentum shortly. One of the main delays came from the Greene County Sheriff's Office (GCSO) bringing false charges against Carol for "assault on a law enforcement officer," which she had to fight for the better part of three years. The GCSO's own documents show there was no probable cause to bring the charge, much less to take it to trial, but Sheriff Jim Arnott caused the bogus charge to be brought, likely because he was on the scene and knew one of his officers had injured Carol -- a classic "cover charge" in the vernacular of those who know the ugly secrets of American cops.

Being a world-class athlete might have helped Sterling Brown escape more serious injury. From CNN:

NBA player Sterling Brown's $750,000 settlement was approved Tuesday by the City of Milwaukee Common Council following a lawsuit stemming from a 2018 altercation where he was tased, tackled, and stepped on by city police officers.

The former Milwaukee Bucks player brought a civil rights lawsuit in federal court claiming Milwaukee police used excessive force in violation of the Fourth Amendment, according to a letter from Milwaukee's Office of the City Attorney to Milwaukee's Common Council.
The Common Council approved the resolution authorizing the settlement 14-0 on Tuesday, with one abstention, according to the council website.
The settlement did not admit that Brown's constitutional rights were violated but the city and police department issued an apology. 
"The City of Milwaukee and MPD apologize for the encounter and actions between Mr. Brown and MPD officers on January 26, 2018," Brown and the city said in a joint statement. "The City further recognizes that the incident escalated in an unnecessary manner despite Mr. Brown's calm behavior."
The statement said the officer who initiated the incident has been reassigned from patrol responsibilities. Additionally, body-camera footage of the encounter is being used to train officers. The department will also work with Brown on community "education and outreach projects." The city is to prepare a revised anti-racist policing policy within the MPD, according to the statement.

What issues were at the heart of Brown's lawsuit? CNN reports:

The lawsuit filed on behalf of Brown in 2018 states the altercation began as he left a drugstore on January 26 and found an officer -- identified in the lawsuit as Officer Joseph Grams -- outside his car, which was parked across two handicapped parking spots.
Grams allegedly asked Brown, who was 22 at the time, for his license before telling him to back up and shoving him. Brown responded by telling the officer not to touch him several times. 
Several officers responded after Grams called for backup, according to the lawsuit and body-cam video released in the case.
After three cars were seen arriving on scene, the officer walked up to them and said he only wanted one extra patrol. He also told one of his colleagues that Brown was getting in his face, the video showed. 
At least one car left and others stayed before multiple officers gathered around Brown to ask him questions. At one point, an officer yelled at Brown to take his hands out of his pockets, and Brown said he had "stuff" in his pocket.
Other officers grabbed the athlete and pulled him to the ground, before he was tased.
According to the lawsuit, in addition to discriminating against Brown because he's Black and violating his rights by treating a parking violation as a criminal offense, officers also failed to read Brown his Miranda rights.
Some officers turned off their body cams during parts of the confrontation, the suit said.
The lawsuit alleged, among other things, unlawful arrest, excessive use of force and violation of the 14th Amendment's Equal Protection Clause. It also accused the officers of collaborating to conceal their actions.
The Milwaukee Police Association initially defended the officers who arrested Brown in 2018, calling use of force "a necessary component of policing" and slamming city leaders for failing to defend the officers.
After the body-cam footage was released to the public, the union softened its tone and said it welcomed "appropriate review and oversight" of the matter.
After the incident, two sergeants were suspended without pay -- for 10 and 15 days, respectively -- for "failing to be a role model for professional police service."
One other officer was also suspended for two days for "failing to treat a member of the public with courtesy and professionalism." Eight others were scheduled to receive remedial training in professional communications, officials said in 2018.


Anonymous said...

These cities are going to go broke defending bad cops.

Steve said...

When are they going to compensate Carol and you Roger. It is way past time!
Have you found a lawyer yet?

legalschnauzer said...

Pretty sure municipalities and counties have insurance to cover most, or all, of this. That might be one reason it keeps happening.

legalschnauzer said...

If the payments came out of the cops' pockets, that might change the dynamic -- a whole lot.

Of course, the cops probably couldn't begin to pay the judgments, so you probably would wind up a rash of bankruptcies.

Anonymous said...

Don't the insurance rates go up if this keeps happening?

legalschnauzer said...

You would think, at some point, higher rates would be an incentive to stop this stuff.

legalschnauzer said...


Yes, it's way past time. The lawyer search continues. We've had several express serious interest in the case, only to drop it and quit responding to our queries. I get the feeling that someone (Alabama/Missouri State Bars) are going around behind us to undermine our efforts. Very concerned about it.

Anonymous said...

What was done to your wife's arm was wrong. I'm believe you are right about someone talking behind closed doors to keep any lawyers from taking your case. The crime of standing up for your right and not letting judges, other lawyer screw you over is what your guilty of. It's sad but very few lawyers have the backbone to stand up to the corruption that runs our court system. I would make a detail accounting of your whole history from day one of being screwed out of your job up to now and file a complaint by certified mail with the US Dept of Justice, civil rights division Washington DC. I'm not sure anything would come from it but at least there would be a official record. Maybe 100 years from now when someone is looking back on history they will at least know you stood up for what was right.

legalschnauzer said...

@11:46 --

Your suggestion re: the DOJ civil rights division is a good one. If a whisper campaign is going on behind the scenes to scuttle our efforts to obtain counsel, that is an extremely se4ious matter, and I haven't quite figured out what to do about it. For one, it almost certainly is a federal crime -- obstruction of justice, so the perpetrators could spend quite a bit of time behind bars. Two, the crime could serve as a predicate offense for a RICO lawsuit -- and that means we are talking about organized crime. RICO civil cases tend to be complicated, so you would need the assistance of an experienced lawyer. Carol's injuries are serious, it's clear the cops caused them, and our damages are severe. Any decent lawyer should be jumping at the chance to take this case. So, why has it been so difficult and drawn out?

legalschnauzer said...

Multiple lawyers have told me the Alabama State Bar is a sleazy operation, basically beholden to Jeff Sessions, Rob Riley, Luther Strange, Doug Jones, and Steve Windom. Probably not a Legal Schnauzer fan in that crowd. This could be a matter of self preservation for them. If we get a solid attorney, who conducts serious discovery, I wouldn't be surprised to find a trail that leads to the Alabama Bar being responsible for our unlawful eviction and Carol's injuries -- along with my incarceration in Alabama and the theft of our house in Birmingham. If we try to do the case ourselves, we likely get stonewalled on discovery, and our recovery is minimal. Our system treats pro se litigants very badly, and I've seen cheat jobs happen again and again.

Anonymous said...

Whenever we see videos of these events, I'm struck by how many times officers drop f-bombs and disrespectful language. That just makes things worse.

legalschnauzer said...

You make an excellent point. I don't think I hear any f-bombs in this video, but it was on ABC News, and the foul language might have been edited out. You do hear the first officer acting like a wise guy. He says to Brown, "you don't see the problem here?" All he had to say is, "Sir, you are illegally parked in a handicapped space, and I'm going to have to write you a ticket." Brown probably says, "OK, sorry," and that's end of event.

The officer also claims Brown is acting "bad-ass" when he isn't and says Brown got in his face when he didn't.

I think it's the former police chief on the tape who says, "We want to know how a parking ticket turned into a tasing."