I have a son, Isaiah. He is graduating from high school in June and by all accounts, it should be a happy occasion for our family. Yet, I know that it marks a turning point in how America sees my child. By virtue of nothing more than his skin color, he is a threat, a suspect, a target, a statistic waiting to happen. This reality was personified in the recently released video of Milwaukee Buck’s guard Sterling Brown and his interaction with members of the Milwaukee Police Department (MPD).
During what should have been a simple citation incident in January of 2018, the video depicts MPD Officers intentionally escalating a situation that led to Mr. Brown being surrounded by six to eight officers, taken to the ground, tased, and arrested. False police reports were written that said he was aggressive and physically combative. Frustratingly, that image was allowed to circulate in the public for nearly four months, while the MPD withheld body cam video that clearly contradicts the report written by the officers.
In the meantime, and at taxpayer expense, MPD made their own PR commercial to preempt the release of the Brown video. They have stood in front of an African-American congregation and asked them to stand by the police department through the challenges that lie ahead regarding Brown’s mistreatment.
The leadership of the MPD could have easily and quickly denounced the behavior and said, “this is not who we are”. Instead, former Chief of Police Ed Flynn, interim Chief Jim Harpole, and acting Chief Alfonso Morales chose not to swiftly to address the abuse of power that took place, but chose to protect the reputation of the police department. Even in finally holding a press conference, Morales’ tactics were pitiful. There were no questions answered, no video released before the conference, and no information about the discipline of the officers involved. All we got was an “I’m sorry.”
Was anybody sorry for Derek Williams, Terrill Thomas and countless others who have been treated improperly by law enforcement? In a statement, Brown said “Situations like mine and worse happen every day in the black community…. “I am speaking for Dontre Hamilton of Milwaukee, Laquan McDonald of Chicago, Stephon Clark of Sacramento, Eric Garner of New York, and the list goes on.”
These people aren’t able to speak anymore because of unjust actions by those who are supposed to “serve and protect” people.
We need police officers capable of doing their jobs in a fair and unbiased way that honors their shield and respects the community that they serve. We need elected and appointed officials, at every level of government, to use the full weight of their positions to create transparent, impartial, and accountable policing.
Meanwhile, my son has had his indoctrination into the policing of African-Americans. At 16, Isaiah was placed in the back of an MPD squad car, while running to deliver a holiday turkey to a neighbor. So, like many parents, as I celebrate his graduation, I worry about his future.