Investigation of Baltimore police officer continues

Longtime Baltimore Officer Michael McSpadden still under suspension with pay.

Baltimore police Officer Michael McSpadden is still being investigated by the city prosecutor's office — six months after The Baltimore Sun revealed a video that conflicted with his account of a 2012 arrest.

A spokeswoman for State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby confirmed the continuing investigation of McSpadden on Friday but declined to elaborate on why it has taken so long.

A police spokesman said McSpadden was still suspended with pay as of Friday. McSpadden, who earns about $69,000 a year, could not be reached for comment.

A six-month Sun investigation found that McSpadden, who joined the force in 1993, had been sued five times after being accused of beating residents during arrests. Taxpayers have paid more than $624,000 to settle those lawsuits.

In such settlements, neither the officer nor the city admits wrongdoing.

The McSpadden case highlights criticism levied by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and police Commissioner Anthony Batts against the Law Enforcement Officers' Bill of Rights, which provides procedural protections for officers accused of misconduct.

Both leaders have said the city has no choice but to suspend officers with pay unless they are criminally charged.

McSpadden's suspension is connected to a lawsuit settled last July for $62,000. He arrested Bolaji Obe at the Water Street parking garage.

McSpadden wrote in charging documents that he hit Obe, who had "assumed an aggressive stance, clenched his fist and postured his body like he was going to attack." The officer said Obe "fell to the ground and was handcuffed without further incident."

The security camera video, however, shows that the officer handcuffed Obe, who was sitting on a stool in the parking garage's office. McSpadden left and re-entered the office, moving to a spot outside the camera's view. Obe can then be seen falling off the stool to the ground outside the office.

With his arms still clearly handcuffed behind his back, Obe lay motionless as McSpadden wiped something off his face. The officer lifted Obe off the ground and leaned him against a wall.

Obe was later cleared of criminal charges.

Police leaders say they didn't know the video existed until The Sun presented it to them on Oct. 3. They suspended McSpadden that day.

An investigation by the prosecutor's office does not necessarily mean that criminal charges will follow.

City lawyers said they did not understand the extent of McSpadden's string of lawsuits until July — after The Sun started asking questions about the officer. The Law Department was unaware, for example, that McSpadden was battling two lawsuits at the same time, both arising from incidents in 2012.

The Sun investigation — which has led to a review of the Police Department by the U.S. Department of Justice — revealed that police leaders, city attorneys and other top officials were not keeping track of officers who repeatedly faced lawsuits involving allegations of brutality.

—Mark Puente

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