03 March 2018

About F%$#ing Time

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis said Wednesday that city officials do not plan to cover any costs or damages arising out of civil lawsuits filed against convicted police officers who were members of the Gun Trace Task Force.

The corrupt officers, he said, are on their own.

Dozens of state and federal lawsuits are expected against the eight task force members who were convicted of various federal crimes, including racketeering and robbery. Six pleaded guilty, while two were convicted at trial this week.

In one of the first federal lawsuits, filed by Ivan Potts in 2016 against the city and three of the officers, city government lawyers are arguing that taxpayers should not be responsible for potential damages.

“Each and every one of the wrongs ... were committed outside of the scope of the officers’ employment as BPD law enforcement officers and in pursuit of said officers’ private and personal interests,” city government lawyers wrote in a filing last month.

Davis said Wednesday that this is a strategy the city plans to use going forward with other actions, though he said officials would consider each suit to see if there should be an exception. And in some cases, a judge could order the city to pay.


While the move could save the city millions of dollars, plaintiffs lawyers and the American Civil Liberties Union argued victims could be deprived of much-needed compensation.

“That is a travesty,” said David Rocah, senior staff attorney for the ACLU of Maryland. “The city bears significant responsibility for enabling these crimes by its failure to adequately supervise the officers. It can’t now simply wash its hands of the matter.”
Needless to say, the Baltimore police union is freaking out, placing them on the same side as the ACLU, which is a remarkably bizarre development.
As many as nine Baltimore police officers could have to pay tens of thousands of dollars in damages after juries found they acted with “actual malice” in the course of making arrests — a development that prompted a warning from the police union and, in turn, a fiery response from the city’s top lawyer.

The union asserted in a memo Tuesday that forcing officers to pay such damages themselves was a change in the city’s policy. But both City Solicitor Andre Davis and his predecessor said Wednesday the policy has not changed and officers have potentially been on the hook for decades in such cases.

Davis said what has changed is that he has been more transparent about the policy, noting it in materials submitted to the city’s spending board in December. Davis called the memo by a local Fraternal Order of Police leader an attempt to “stir something up.”
I've suggested before that personal liability for police officers, along with a requirement that they carry insurance, can serve as a deterrent to police misconduct, and this is a good first step.


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