Since 2011, the city of Baltimore has paid more than $6 million in settlements for cases involving personal injury and police brutality.
The Baltimore Sun reports that the lawsuits against the city have continued to draw criticism of the Baltimore Police Department’s tactics, which many feel are out of control. The department is accused of condoning (if not promoting) excessive force and racial discrimination. Given the recent protests and riots that have happened in the past few weeks over the death of Freddie Gray, the amount the city government has been forced to pay is raising more eyebrows about police misconduct and department policy.
Last month alone cost Baltimore $255,000 in settlement payouts involving two lawsuits. One lawsuit was filed by the family of a man killed by police in 2012. The other came from a man who claimed to have accumulated $55,000 in medical and dental bills after getting punched in the face by an officer in 2011.
Since 2011, the city has shelled out $6.3 million on police misconduct lawsuits. Though Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake claims that lawsuits have gone down since she took office five years ago, the actual drop is mild. From 2011 through 2012, the city was sued 193 times for personal injury resulting from police conduct. From 2013 through late last year, the number went down to 156 — a 20% reduction from last cycle.
“The expectation of the mayor is that numbers continue to trend down,” said mayor spokesman Kevin Harris. “We’ve been working very hard at it. We still have work to do.”
A 20% reduction, however, is a moot point for many Baltimore denizens. A. Dwight Pettit, a veteran attorney (one of the over 150,000 practicing in the United States today) that specializes in police brutality cases, feels the drop is merely a dent in the city’s larger problems of discrimination and aggressive police tactics.
“I don’t think it has anything to do with a change in police policies,” he said. “We’re still seeing a lot of excessive force.”
In addition to court settlements, the city had to content with court judgments (i.e. when the suit went to trial and favored the plaintiff) as well as the at least $5.8 million in legal fees the city had to provide for the defendants since 2011.