MILWAUKEE — Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales apologized to Bucks guard Sterling Brown on Wednesday for officers’ actions during a January arrest that included use of a stun gun, and said some officers had been disciplined.
Morales’ apology came as the department was set to release body-camera footage of the arrest, which occurred around 2 a.m. on Jan. 26 in a Walgreens parking lot. Brown was arrested by officers who had been checking on a vehicle parked across two handicap spaces, but ultimately was not charged.
“The department conducted an investigation into the incident, which revealed members acted inappropriately and those members were recently disciplined,” Morales said at a brief news conference, with the video yet to be publicly released.
“I am sorry this incident escalated to this level,” he added.
He took no questions.
Brown issued a statement saying the experience “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,” he said. “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.”
Police have shown the body-camera footage to some local officials, including a closed session of a Common Council committee.
The Milwaukee Bucks signed the 6-foot-6 guard from Southern Methodist University last summer in a deal with the Philadelphia 76ers.
His arrest and the video of it represent another potential setback for a department that for years has tried to rebuild its image and relationship with Milwaukee’s African-American residents after several high-profile cases of police misconduct.
A day before releasing the body-camera footage, Morales posted a video on YouTube to reiterate his commitment to rebuild the public’s trust in the department.
“So if there’s ever an incident where one of our members makes a mistake, unnecessarily escalating a situation, I’m going to be honest and transparent about it,” he said. “In those incidents, where we have made mistakes and are wrong, I’m sorry.”
Morales was appointed chief in February, following the retirement of Edward Flynn, who held the position for 10 years.
Last year, Milwaukee paid $2.3 million to settle a lawsuit over the death of Dontre Hamilton, a mentally ill black man fatally shot by a police officer after the officer roused him from a park bench downtown. The officer said he shot Hamilton 14 times in self-defense because they got into a struggle when the officer frisked him for weapons.
In 2016, the city paid $5 million to settle a lawsuit by 74 black residents who said police illegally strip-searched them between 2008 and 2012. Currently, the city is considering settling a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union in Wisconsin, which is representing eight residents who say police targeted them for stops because they were African-American or Latino and because of the high-crime areas where they lived.
In early May, police and prosecutors began investigating four officers who were involved in the violent arrest of a black man in a majority African-American neighborhood. Video from a bystander showed a group of officers kicking and punching the man on the ground while he was restrained. Police presented their body-camera footage of the encounter, which showed the man aggressively charging at officers and trying to punch them.