Milwaukee taxpayers may yet shoulder the cost of a legal settlement over their police department’s needlessly violent arrest of NBA rookie Sterling Brown. But they’ve already shelled out a little extra over the incident in the form of overtime pay for the officer who waited for a tow truck to come collect Brown’s car after he was tackled, tasered, and handcuffed in January.
The officer is heard celebrating the overtime pay in new body camera videos obtained by the local ABC affiliate over the weekend. “Can you let the lieut know that I need to go on the overtime board if I’m not already?” the unnamed officer says, giving his location and an identifying code. “Money-money,” he says, breaking into a sing-song voice. “Money money money, moooo-ney, money!”
The officer was left babysitting Brown’s car after a bizarre encounter that rapidly escalated. Police leaders in Milwaukee have publicly declared their officers “acted inappropriately” and were subject to unspecified disciplinary action. Chief Alfonso Morales apologized for the arrest, which began with a single officer confronting Brown for parking incorrectly outside a pharmacy and escalated after the officer decided Brown hadn’t complied quickly or enthusiastically enough with his order to step back.
Brown keeps his voice level but expresses frustration with the officer putting hands on him. Within a few minutes, half a dozen squadcars arrived and the original officer sheepishly explains to each driver that he’d only wanted one backup officer to come help him write Brown a ticket. The newly arrived officers surround Brown as he stands in the same spot near his car, occasionally using the key in his pocket to deactivate his car alarm when officers touch the vehicle and set it off. Suddenly one of the officers shouts at him to take his hands out of his pockets, and within seconds he is being pressed to the pavement by multiple officers and then shocked with a stun gun.
Afterward, video released by the city shows, officers eventually recognize Brown as a professional basketball player for the Milwaukee Bucks. The original officer explains to Brown, now in handcuffs, that he was “being an ass” earlier and brought the whole thing on himself. Though police sources claimed at the time that he’d been combative and aggressive with officers, the video shows Brown indignant but compliant — a situation that fits the widespread but informal non-crime that police jargon labels “contempt of cop.”
Whatever regret city leaders expressed months later, and however much chagrin is audible in the original officer’s voice as the situation he initiated speeds beyond his design, the new video captures how such episodes can almost literally bear a silver lining for police. A situation like this would have paid time-and-a-half to an officer who went past the eight-hour standard shift during the course of an incident like this, according to the city’s police contract.
Though rates vary from city to city, overtime is generally a huge driver of police officer compensation. Even before the OT money-money rains in, officer salaries are well above the median income for their cities — a reflection of the dangerous and crucial work they do, but also of the immense power that police unions wield.
In some cases, unions have made it explicit that they want their members to get paid more in exchange for agreeing to even basic oversight and accountability measures — a trade-off that might turn some liberal stomachs, but which also marks an opportunity to move past the absolutist resistance to use-of-force reforms that unions have expressed in the past.