New body camera footage shows Milwaukee Bucks' guard Sterling Brown being stepped on and mocked by Milwaukee police during a January arrest. It's led Milwaukee Common Council members to call for a possible police audit. This, as Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales admitted Wednesday, June 6 he hadn't even seen all of the video, and he didn't expect that it would all be seen by the public.
Chief Morales said he focused on the use of the Taser on Brown, but didn't see "half the videos" of how his officers acted before and after the arrest. Many in City Hall are questioning whether the officers' punishments meet their actions.
The day before Milwaukee police released video of the Brown arrest, a public relations video was released, in which Chief Morales walks through Milwaukee neighborhoods and says this:
"I will also defend out officers when they are right and will admit what members of organization are wrong, so if there is ever an incident where one of our members makes a mistake, unnecessarily escalate a situation, I'm going to be honest and transparent about it. In those instances where we have made mistakes and are wrong, I'm sorry."
Although the new video in the Brown case was not released by police, in a stunning admission Wednesday, Chief Morales said he hadn't seen much of the footage that shows Brown being stepped on and mocked.
"I wasn't expecting any of that to come out. I didn't see half the videos either. For that to have been given to you, or whoever it was given to, I don't know how that got there, but we're still working on our stuff internally," said Chief Morales.
Chief Morales said he didn't watch all of the video because he was focused on the use of the Taser. He said the investigation is ongoing.
"I've said 'give us time.' Nobody is happy with that, and I'm not defending those actions, and what I am trying to do is change the department and build community trust," said Morales.
After seeing the new video, 10 Milwaukee Common Council members are calling for more accountability, an explanation and more from police.
"I was disappointed -- and the question was, why didn't we see the entire video?" said Alderman Russell Stamper.
"We're just calling for more transparency. All of the videos, reports and anything having to do with the incident," said Alderwoman Milele Coggs.
The council members say the police did not share all of the Brown arrest video with them in a meeting nearly two months ago. Leaders saw the new videos the same time as the public -- this week.
"That was part of what ticked me off the most. We should have been given all of the information when we were in closed session," said Alderwoman Chantia Lewis.
Chief Morales said the raw footage was only given to Brown's attorney. He said the closed-session meeting with Common Council members was held to show what members had asked for.
"To show specifically the problem and arrest and the tasing of Sterling Brown. That's what we focused on," Morales said.
Common Council members now want an audit of all activity associated with the incident. They also want the results of be presented in an open session for the public to see and hear.
"To afford an opportunity for MPD to come before us and the community," Coggs said.
Brown was not charged in this incident. He was issued a parking violation. Brown is expected to file a civil lawsuit against the Milwaukee Police Department.
Below is the joint statement from Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, Alderwoman Milele A. Coggs, Alderman Michael Murphy, Alderman Russell W. Stamper, II, Alderman Khalif J. Rainey, Alderwoman Chantia Lewis, Alderman Nicholas Kovac, Alderman Jóse G. Pérez, Alderman Robert Bauman and Alderman Cavalier Johnson -- requesting the audit.
"The recent release of additional bodycam footage from the Sterling Brown incident provides more concerning details surrounding that night while prompting a call for a full audit of the incident. The footage provides yet another glimpse into the activities and comments of some of the police officers involved. It is concerning and unacceptable that these clips and others were not included as part of the initial bodycam footage shared with Common Council members over 2 months ago and the public most recently.
After meeting with the Fire & Police Commission today we have requested the following:
An audit of all activity associated with this incident
The results of the audit be communicated to both the FPC and the Common Council in open sessions for the public to see and hear.
Introduction of a file specific to the Sterling Brown incident to include all bodycam footage, communication and reports associated with the event.
Both the Council and the community were assured by MPD that a plan would be put forth to make improvements. We are anxiously awaiting the details of this plan and urge MPD to be transparent with the public in its approach. At the same time, it is our continued commitment that there be complete transparency around this issue along with swift and appropriate action to all those involved who violated MPD policies and procedures. We remain steadfast and are ready to work with the Community, Fire & Police Commission and MPD toward necessary change."
Meanwhile, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett has submitted a letter to the head of the Fire and Police Commission, requesting an FPC review "of existing policies and potential changes to the policy for the release of body camera footage by the Milwaukee Police Department."
Below is the letter from Barrett to La Keisha Butler:
I am requesting that you and the Fire and Police Commission staff conduct a review of existing policies and potential changes to the policy for the release of body camera footage by the Milwaukee Police Department.
I am very proud of the fact that Milwaukee continues to be a leader in the use of body worn cameras. In 2015, I provided funding for the pilot to test body worn cameras. Since 2016, every officer has been equipped with a body camera. I want our residents and officers to trust that when camera footage is released, it shows as complete and thorough an account as possible.
To support that goal, I request the Fire and Police Commission conduct an analysis of best practices as to the release of body worn camera video. That analysis should include reviews of peer cities' body worn camera and records policies, and industry and academic research. The Commission should work with the Police Department to develop a policy specific to the release of body worn camera video.
As with any new technology or new program, our city has learned more through experience about how to use this tool. Research and analysis of body cameras as a law enforcement and accountability tool continues to evolve. Now is an opportune time to further improve transparency and keep Milwaukee on the leading edge of responsive and responsible policing.
The Commission has a longstanding oversight role, including statutory powers to review and direct policy for the Police and Fire Departments. This review can provide a basis to improve the operations of the Police Department and continue to build trust between police and the community."
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