May 04, 2021

Milwaukee Common Council Approves Historic Settlement in Civil Rights Lawsuit Filed by Former Bucks Guard Sterling Brown and GTW Partner Mark Thomsen

More than three years after being wrongfully tased and unlawfully arrested by Milwaukee police officers, former Milwaukee Bucks guard Sterling Brown’s settlement agreement implements anti-racist policing policy for the city’s police force.

The Milwaukee Common Council voted to authorize this historic $750,000 settlement in the civil rights lawsuit filed by Brown and Gingras, Thomsen & Wachs partner Mark Thomsen.

As part of the settlement, the city of Milwaukee promised to modify its police department standard operating procedures, including the following changes that have been taken or will be taken:

  • The city will prepare revised operating procedures embracing a policy of anti-racism and make sure they’re submitted to the Milwaukee Fire and Police Commission for final approval.
  • The city and the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD) commit to implementing a “discipline matrix” to “ensure meaningful, certain, and reasonable consequences for violations of MPD Standard Operating Procedures.”
  • The officer who initiated the incident with Brown has been removed from patrol duty.
  • The city will rescind its claim in court records that Brown’s injuries were caused by his own actions.
  • Milwaukee Police Department has used the body camera video of the incident to train its officers on ways to better communicate with the public in order to avoid unnecessarily escalating situations.
  • The police department will work with Brown on education and outreach projects to improve communication and understanding between the police and the community.

While the settlement did not admit a violation of Brown’s constitutional rights, it did issue a formal apology.

“The city of Milwaukee and MPD apologize for the encounter and actions between Mr. Brown and MPD officers on January 26, 2018,” a joint statement reads. “The city further recognizes that the incident escalated in an unnecessary manner and despite Mr. Brown’s calm behavior.”

“Sterling Brown’s goal of implementing anti-racist policing policies that protect all human beings confronted by MPD officers in the future has been accomplished,” said Mark Thomsen. “The creation of a discipline matrix for violations of the anti-racist policing policies is designed to discipline bad officer conduct and allow the city’s many good officers to do their job of protecting human rights.”

On January 26, 2018, police officers doing a business check at a Walgreens around 2 a.m. noticed a vehicle parked across two handicap spaces. While questioning Brown for the parking violation, the officers unlawfully tased and arrested him.

After an internal review, which included body camera footage, several officers were disciplined and required to undergo remedial training. However, Brown was not offered a formal apology from the Milwaukee Police Department.

In September of 2019, the city of Milwaukee proposed a $400,000 settlement that did not include anti-racist policing policy changes. Brown refused this “settlement” and vowed to continue fighting for justice for the community.

From the beginning, Sterling Brown hoped justice in this case would take on a larger meaning and give “a voice to the voiceless.” Following the incident, Brown and his brother, Shannon Brown, started the S.A.L.U.T.E. Foundation to mentor under-served youth on the basketball court and educate them about interactions with police.

The law firm of Gingras, Thomsen and Wachs has been honored to accompany and fight for Mr. Brown in his pursuit of racial justice and looks ahead to improvements that will be made in the city of Milwaukee’s police department.

The entire firm remains proud to be part of cases that cultivate conversations around civil rights issues and spark meaningful change in our communities, both in the state of Wisconsin and across the country.

Hear from GTW partner Mark Thomsen as he reacts to today’s historic $750,000 settlement approval.

Current News Coverage:

Nationally Recognized Personal Injury Lawyers