New statements from Milwaukee city attorneys about the violent arrest of an NBA player have called attention to the negative trend of blaming apparent victims of police brutality.
Sterling Brown, a player on the Milwaukee Bucks team, was harassed, assaulted and tasered over a nonviolent parking violation during the incident that was recorded by body camera video in January. The arrest sparked outrage, and Brown filed a lawsuit over it. In handling and responding to the matter, 11 cops were disciplined and Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett apologized to Brown.
However, Milwaukee lawyers disagreed with Barrett’s course of action and accused the athlete of being responsible for his own violent arrest in a formal response Friday, Think Progress reported.
“The plaintiff’s injuries, if any, were not caused by any policy, practice, or custom of the City of Milwaukee or any of its officers, agents, or employees acting in their individual or official capacities,” city attorneys said.
The attorneys’ filing and denying responsibility for what happened to Brown was unexpected by Barrett. Claims made in the document were not helpful, the mayor said.
“I think it’s counterproductive for anybody to turn up the heat with rhetoric like this,” Barrett said to the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel after the filing was made.
Lawyers who filed the response admitted they “[lacked] knowledge” or “sufficient information” to form an opinion about the incident. The formal response suggested that city lawyers would rather deny and ignore what was clearly shown as brutality in video released of Brown’s arrest. The response also shed light on Milwaukee’s history of offering settlements in police misconduct cases.
The city’s taxpayers gave $21.4 million in police settlements from 2015 to October 2017. More than $6 million has been allocated for other settlements issued since that time period, according to the Journal-Sentinel. Milwaukee has a well-documented history of police brutality rooted in racism.
Several other cities have also denied blame in police brutality cases, including the 2014 death of 12-year-old Tamir Rice in Cleveland. Brown’s lawsuit is still ongoing.