Milwaukee Cop Who First Confronted Bucks’ Brown Suspended Two Days

Sterling Brown being tased, handcuffed, and arrested by Milwaukee Police January 26, 2018.

The Milwaukee police officer who first confronted Milwaukee Bucks rookie Sterling Brown outside a Walgreens in January was suspended for two days, the Journal Sentinel has learned.

Two supervisors who later arrived, escalating the situation, were suspended for 10 and 15 days, sources said. Several other officers were reprimanded.

Police Chief Alfonso Morales has not named any of the officers disciplined, nor has he detailed which department rules they violated during their encounter with Brown.

The officer who questioned Brown about parking illegally across two handicap spaces at 2 a.m., Jan. 26 was Joseph Grams, the Journal Sentinel has confirmed.

Grams, who served as an Army ranger, joined the department in 2015 and received about $49,000 in pay last year.

Speaking to reporters Thursday, Morales again declined to give specifics about the discipline, citing legal concerns, but said retraining will be part of the department’s response.

“If you believe that I’m not taking this case seriously, you’re mistaken,” Morales said.

Morales, who has been the city’s top cop for four months, said he remained committed to community policing, but said change will take time.

“This is leadership and that’s what we’re focusing on in changing our department,” Morales said. “We have to be leaders out there. That’s one of the violations in the code of conduct.”

City leaders demand details
City leaders on Thursday called Morales to publicly share more information about the officers involved and their discipline.

Milwaukee Common Council President Ashanti Hamilton, flanked by fellow council members, called the incident involving Brown “embarrassing” during a City Hall news conference.

“We’re having a very important conversation about police community relations and what it means to try to move forward after a very public and embarrassing incident,” Hamilton said. “We wanted as a council to stand together because we wanted to put the weight of the council behind what it is we’re trying to say.”

Hamilton told reporters that all people “deserve to be treated with respect” when it comes to the safety and welfare of the people of Milwaukee, adding that police have an “awesome responsibility.”

Hamilton repeatedly called for more transparency around the incident, specifically calling for the names of officers being disciplined to be released — as well as the discipline they may be facing.

“We are asking what type of discipline is being issued, who are the officers, what is the process if they end up challenging the disciplinary action,” Hamilton told reporters. “Our commitment with the public, with the Police Department, with community members is to work on the change.”

Ald. Milele Coggs also called for change.

“I would implore residents and community members to work with us — because we hear the cries, we share the pain,” Coggs said. “And we recognize the need for change.”

Asked if he believed any of the officers in the video should be fired, Hamilton said, “I believe officers that treat people that way should have never been hired in the first place.”

In a statement issued Thursday, U.S. Rep Gwen Moore (D-Wisconsin) called the officers’ actions “an appalling blow to public trust.”

She said it was “long past time for MPD to make immediate reforms.”

Moore said she is pushing for federal legislation to mandate de-escalation training for police nationwide.

“The people who swear an oath to protect our communities must learn to put life first,” she said. “I challenge the MPD to set the national standard for integrity, accountability and community-oriented policing to heal the deep divides in our city.”

Police Department rules violated
The two sergeants suspended were Jeffrey S. Krueger and Sean A. Mahnke, sources told the Journal Sentinel. It was not clear Thursday which supervisor was suspended for 10 days and which was suspended for 15 days.

Morales has not said which rules the two violated.

But in a video promoting the Police Department released 24 hours before the body camera footage of Brown’s arrest, Morales repeatedly pledged to hold people accountable for “unneccesarily escalating a situation.”

That appears to be what happened in the Brown case.

After Grams called for assistance, half a dozen squad cars showed up at the Walgreens. Grams tells several officers that there was a mistake, that he only wanted one backup. But eight officers appears to stay at the scene anyway.

At that point, the tension increased, with police standing in a circle around Brown, who was not aggressive. The police used profane language before yelling at him to take his hands out of his pockets immediately.

Brown, who had taken his hands in and out of his pockets several times before that, replied: “Hold on. I’ve got stuff in my hands.”

Police swarmed him, shouting “Taser! Taser! Taser!” Brown yelled in pain as he was shocked.

Another potential issue in the Brown case has to do with the paperwork police must complete when they use force.

Per the department’s policies, any use of force report “shall be completed by a supervisory officer of a higher rank than the member that used force.”

If one of the sergeants used force against Brown and filled out the report himself rather than calling a lieutenant, that would be cause for discipline.

Failure to be civil and courteous
The Police Department rules also require officers to be “civil and courteous” to members of the public.

On the body camera video, Grams was sarcastic and condescending almost immediately.

He continued to be antagonistic after Brown had been tased — and after he realized Brown was a professional athlete.

“Sorry, I don’t follow the Bucks. I didn’t recognize you. I didn’t recognize your famous name,” the officer said sarcastically.

At one point, Brown told him, “Look me up.”

The officer shot back: “I don’t know how to do that. So why don’t you tell me? You been to Mars? You been to Venus? You been to the moon?”