US police chief apologises for arrest of NBA player Sterling Brown as tasing video released
The police chief in the Midwestern US city of Milwaukee apologised on Wednesday for the tasing and arrest of a black professional basketball player over a parking violation, as his department released video of the incident.
Chief Alfonso Morales said disciplinary action had been taken against the officers involved in the January arrest of Sterling Brown, who plays for the NBA’s Milwaukee Bucks.
It is the latest case to highlight the fraught relationship between black communities and law enforcement across the US.
In Milwaukee, there have been several recent protests over controversial police interactions with black people – including the deadly shooting of a 23-year-old in 2016.
The newly-released body cam footage of Brown’s arrest shows him initially detained by one officer for parking in a handicapped zone at around 2:00 am on January 26.
Brown, 23, engages in tense dialogue with the officer and gives him his identification. The officer tells him that he is waiting for additional backup.
"We’re figuring out what we’re gonna do. Whether we’re giving you a ticket, whatever," the unidentified officer says.
"You can’t do that by yourself?" Brown asks, questioning why he was being detained for such a long time over a parking violation.
Soon, at least six additional officers surround Brown and one of them yells: "Take your hands out of your pockets now!"
Brown responds: "No. I got stuff in my hands."
At that point, officers tackle the six-foot, six-inch man to the ground, tase and handcuff him.
The city’s Mayor Tom Barrett said the video raised "concerns."
"Members (of the police department) acted inappropriately, and those members were recently disciplined," Chief Morales said at a news conference.
"I am sorry this incident escalated to this level," he added, without detailing the disciplinary action taken or releasing the names of the officers involved.
Brown was issued a parking citation, but not charged with any criminal offence.
In a statement, he vowed to take legal action against Milwaukee police.
"What should have been a simple parking ticket turned into an attempt at police intimidation, followed by the unlawful use of physical force," Brown said.
He cited a number of recent high-profile cases of black men and boys killed during interactions with police, including Laquan McDonald in Chicago and Eric Garner in New York.
"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," Brown said.
The Bucks also released a statement, calling the incident "shameful and inexcusable."
"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," the team said.
Milwaukee has had several protests over police conduct, putting the city on edge ahead of the video’s release.
In August 2016, Milwaukee saw two days of arson and civil unrest after police shot and killed Sylville Smith, a black suspect, after a brief foot chase.
Cognizant of that history, police officials reached out to multiple community leaders and politicians prior to the video’s publication online, according to local media.
On social media, the reaction to the video was fierce, with Sterling Brown’s name quickly trending on Twitter and several teammates posting a photo on various platforms that said simply: "STANDWITHSTERLING."
"I think what we just saw happen to Sterling as NBA Family we should all support him," teammate Brandon Jennings tweeted.
"We the NBPA stand firmly, not only with Sterling Brown but with all our players in the quest to fight injustice. We will continue to support our members and serve as a platform to help them raise awareness and bring about positive change in their communities." #standwithsterling
— NBPA (@TheNBPA) May 24, 2018
Some commenters, meanwhile, took issue with the initial police officer’s interaction with Brown after he was handcuffed.
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The two argued, before the officer said, apparently with sarcasm: "Sorry, I don’t follow the Bucks, so I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t recognize your famous name."
"It ain’t famous. It’s legit," Brown responded.