Lawyer: Sterling Brown lawsuit pushes for a culture change at the MPD

Posted: 9:46 PM, Jun 19, 2018
Updated: 2018-06-20 02:46:16Z

Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee and the police department.

The 40-page document already has some leaders questioning what changes if any the department has made, not just since Brown's tasing but in the years past.

Attorney Jonathan Safran has spent years fighting misconduct in the Milwaukee Police Department including filing lawsuits on behalf of Dontre Hamilton and Derek Williams. Hamilton was unarmed when he was shot and killed in Red Arrow Park. Williams died begging for help in the back seat of a squad car telling police he could not breathe.

But for all that fighting Safran said problems with training and culture have not been defeated.

"Certainly there has been issue as far as proper training of officers and more so, how officers have or have not been disciplined over the years. And whether that lack of discipline has lead to officers can continue to do things that may be wrong," said Safran.

It's a culture at the center of a 40-page lawsuit filed on behalf of Sterling Brown. First, after a parking infraction ended with Brown tased and arrested. And for months after, in posts made on social media by an officer involved in Brown's arrest. Brown's lawyer Mark Thomsen calls those posts "racist."

TODAY'S TMJ4 showed the posts to Angela Lang who runs Black Leaders Organizing for the Community. One post by Officer Erik Andrade came just four hours after Brown's tasing and arrest.

"It's kind of hard to believe that. If so, if that training did happen, clearing it wasn't effective enough," said Lang.

Court documents say he wrote: "Nice meeting Sterling Brown of the Milwaukee Bucks at work this morning!" 

Just three weeks ago, Andrade commented on a player's mistake in the NBA finals. Posting, "I hope JR Smith double parks in Walgreens handicap parkin spots when he's in Milwaukee."

Brown's attorney says this is evidence of a culture in the police department driven by race.

"This federal lawsuit reflects the fact that for too long in this city African-American men have been arrested, abused and, as in the case of Dontre Hamilton, killed as a result of bad police work," said Thomsen. 

Lang agrees, and in order for real change she says the police department needs to admit there is a problem.

"I think the bigger issue is an us versus them mentality," said Lang. "The people that they are supposed to serve and protect they don't see us as people. They see us automatically as criminals."