Wednesday morning, the Milwaukee Common Council voted 12-2 to authorize an offer of $400,000 to Milwaukee Bucks player Sterling Brown. The offer is intended to settle a lawsuit stemming from a 2018 incident in which Milwaukee Police tased and arrested the NBA player in a drugstore parking lot. Alders Bob Donovan and Mark Borkowski voted against the resolution. Alderwoman Milele Coggs abstained.
The Common Council has given Brown 14 days to either accept the offer or decline it.
Brown’s attorney, Mark Thomsen, said Wednesday that the offer was insufficient because it doesn’t include an admission of guilt.
“We have said from day one, unless there is an absolute admission that Mr. Brown’s civil rights were violated, there isn’t any point in talking about anything,” Thomsen said back in May. “Because this first of all was to establish that Milwaukee police officers cannot approach young African-American men in this city, push them, tell them they own it, they own this.”
In the early hours of January 26, 2018, Brown was exiting a Walgreens on the city’s south side. Officers initially approached Brown because his vehicle was parked across two handicapped parking spots. The situation quickly escalated, more officers arrived on the scene, and Brown was soon tackled to the ground and tased.
A few officers involved in the incident received brief suspensions. Another officer, Erik Andrade, eventually lost his job over social media posts related to Brown.
Brown filed a lawsuit against the City of Milwaukee and the Milwaukee Police Department the following June.
In a letter to the Common Council dated May 29, 2019, City Attorney Grant Langley and Deputy City Attorney Jan Smokowicz explained the proposed offer of $400,000 in order to “bring the matter to a close”:
Sterling Brown has filed a lawsuit seeking an unspecified amount of damages arising from the conduct by Milwaukee police officers during an incident that occurred on January 26, 2018 in a pharmacy parking lot in the city of Milwaukee. While the only relief available to Mr. Brown in such litigation is monetary damages, Mr. Brown and his counsel have expressed concern that the city and its police department engage in efforts to reform and improve relations between the department and local communities.
It is our understanding, however, that the city and its police department have undertaken significant efforts both at improving the department and improving relations with various communities within the city in the aftermath of this incident. These efforts include the following measures undertaken by the police department: 1) additional training relating to fair and impartial policing; 2) additional training in supervisory skills, and 3) police department supervisory review of officer body camera footage. In addition there have been efforts to reestablish the Police Athletic League. Aside from just the department itself, the city has joined with the Milwaukee Bucks and the Milwaukee Public Schools to create MENTOR Greater Milwaukee.
As noted above, the sole relief available in the lawsuit brought by Sterling Brown is the award of monetary damages and attorneys’ fees. Settlement efforts in the litigation to date have not proved successful. We therefore request that the Common Council authorize this office to submit an Offer of Judgment in the above-noted case pursuant to Rule 68 of the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure in the amount of $400,000 to pay for all damages, attorneys’ fees and costs in the case to bring the matter to a close. We submit that this would be the most expeditious means to avoid attorneys’ fees and costs spent unnecessarily in the litigation of the matter and have enclosed a proposed resolution to that effect.