The Institute for Law Enforcement Administration gave its 2019 Ethical Courage Award to 18-year-old Brandt Jean Tuesday for publicly forgiving and hugging former Dallas police officer Amber Guyger who killed his older brother, Botham Jean, inside his own apartment in 2018.
“I am honored to accept it on behalf of my brother, Botham Shem Jean, who was an example of ethical leadership," Brandt Jean told an institute gathering in Plano, Texas, according to NBC News.
In October, a Dallas County jury convicted Guyger, 31, of fatally shooting Botham Jean, 26, in his apartment in 2018. She said that she mistook his apartment for her own and thought Jean was a burglar. During the trial, the jury heard testimony from neighbors about how often they got lost and wound up "on the wrong floor of the South Side Flats where Guyger and Jean lived," The Dallas Morning News reported.
Guyger was the first Dallas officer convicted of murder since the 1970s, The Dallas Morning News said.
At Guyger’s sentencing hearing, Brandt Jean told Guyger that she should give her life to God and ask Him for forgiveness as he forgave her as well.
“I am speaking for myself,” said Brandt to Guyger, “but I love you, just like anyone else. And I'm not going to say I hope you rot and die, just like my brother did.
“I personally want the best for you,” he added before asking Judge Tammy Kemp to give the ex-officer a hug. Kemp allowed the two to embrace in a decision that still sparks debate today.
“I never intended for the statement I made to the person that murdered my brother to receive such international recognition," Brandt said Tuesday. "To be honest, I struggled with it for a long time as I struggled with accepting this award from this agency."
The Institute for Law Enforcement Administration works to improve the quality of justice by developing law enforcement leaders and practitioners through premier professional education and technical support.
Gregory Smith, director of the institute, noted in a statement that Brandt represents the “best in us."
“Each year, we present the Ethical Courage Award to recognize an individual or organization for outstanding ethics and integrity,” Smith said. “Brandt Jean represents the best in us. Despite an unimaginable loss, he saw the humanity in the person responsible for his brother’s death. He saw her pain and regret, and had the ability to show empathy, caring and forgiveness.”
Smith continued, “I can’t think of an act that was more courageous. That one act did much to help the Dallas community heal.”
In accepting the award, Brandt also explained that he needed to forgive Guyger for his benefit as well as hers.
“I am grateful for this award for the same reason I was grateful for the opportunity to embrace her after she was convicted of murder in her trial," he said, according to NBC. "After being found guilty by a jury of her peers, sentenced under the law, Ms. Guyger needed to be forgiven, and I needed to be free from the burden of unforgiveness."
Brandt added that he believes his brother’s death could have been avoided with better training.
“I am well aware that this agency is responsible for the training of officers in leadership positions around the country. I’ve come to believe that it was a lack of training and poor utilization of proper techniques at the opportune time that caused Amber Guyger to murder my brother. That is the reason that I stand before you today,” he said.
He further urged officers present at the ceremony to be more careful in how they use force against black males.
“I want you all to know that I am not a threat — that young black males are not inherently dangerous or criminal. I implore you to champion the causes and procedures that amplify the value of all lives," he said.