Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Milwaukee Police Disciplined For Using Stun Gun On, Arresting NBA Player

Milwaukee police have released bodycam footage showing officers using a stun gun on Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown in a Walgreens parking lot in January.

The officers arrested Brown, who is black, after challenging him over a parking violation. Brown was not charged with a crime.

Shortly after the Jan. 26 arrest, a "law enforcement source" told radio station News/TAlk 1130 WISN that Brown had been "combative."

But in a statement on Wednesday, Milwaukee Police Chief Alfonso Morales said the department had "conducted an investigation into the incident which revealed members acted inappropriately and those members were recently disciplined."

"I am sorry this incident escalated to this level," Morales wrote.

Brown, a 6-foot-6 guard who graduated from Southern Methodist University last year, released a response to the video that was posted on local TV station WTMJ:

"The common denominator in all of these situations has been racism towards the minority community, the abuse of power, and the lack of accountability for officers involved. The lack of repercussions for the police officers involved in so many of these cases is offensive. This is a slap in the face to the victims' families and communities."

The Bucks released a statement calling for more accountability:

"Incidents like this remind us of the injustices that persist. As an organization, we will support Sterling and build on our work with local leaders and organizations to foster safe neighborhoods and better our community."

Maayan Silver of member station WUWM reports that Brown plans to file a lawsuit against the city.

High-profile incidents of police violence against unarmed black Americans repeatedly have prompted mourning, protests and attempts at reform. Meanwhile the underlying pattern continues: Black people, particularly young black men, are significantly more likely to be shot or by police than are white people, a difference that cannot be explained by crime rates or threat levels.

That's a national phenomenon. But as NPR's Code Switch team has reported, "there is no state where that disparity is larger than in Wisconsin."

The state "incarcerates a higher percentage of its black male population than any other in the country — and it's not even particularly close," NPR's Gene Demby writes.

Wisconsin — Milwaukee in particular — is one of the worst places in the country for African-Americans to live, as measured by a number of factors, including education gaps, incarceration and segregation.

Police in Milwaukee are being sued for what the ACLU calls a pattern of baseless, unconstitutional police stops targeting black and Latino men — more than 350,00o stops in total, the organization alleges.

And the police department previously has been challenged over its practice of keeping investigations of fatal police shootings within the officers' own departments, a practice that was changed several years ago.

In short, the police department in Milwaukee was already under community scrutiny for its treatment of black residents, long before officers approached Brown in that Walgreens parking lot.

Before the video was released on Wednesday, local officials were bracing for a backlash. On Monday, Mayor Tom Barrett told reporters he had seen the video and found it troubling.

"I have the same concerns that I have heard the chief mention about the actions of some of the people involved in that," he told reporters. "I'm going to let the release of that speak for itself, but yes, I definitely have concerns after watching that video."

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit

Camila Flamiano Domonoske covers cars, energy and the future of mobility for NPR's Business Desk.
Tanya Ballard Brown is an editor for NPR. She joined the organization in 2008.