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Sun Investigates:

Some Baltimore police officers face repeated misconduct lawsuits

While hospitalized with a fractured ankle and broken jaw, John Bonkowski reached for his smartphone to find details about the man who beat him outside a parking garage near the Inner Harbor.

He typed "Officer Michael McSpadden" into Google.

The results stunned Bonkowski. He found references showing that the longtime Baltimore officer had been accused in three separate civil lawsuits: of kicking and stomping a woman, of breaking a man's wrist and of beating a man unconscious with a police baton. Settlements in those lawsuits had cost city taxpayers more than $485,000.

"It's really sickening to me," Bonkowski recalled recently, adding that he couldn't believe McSpadden was able to stay on the police force for so long.

After enduring two surgeries, Bonkowski also sued McSpadden. In a settlement, the city agreed in April to pay Bonkowski $75,000.

McSpadden is not the only Baltimore officer who has faced multiple lawsuits, forcing the city to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on court judgments and settlements, a six-month Baltimore Sun investigation has found.

The investigation — which has led to an inquiry 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 with allegations of brutality.

City lawyers did not understand the full extent of McSpadden's string of lawsuits until this July — after The Sun started asking questions about the officer. The Law Department was unaware that McSpadden was battling more than one lawsuit arising from incidents in 2012. And City Hall leaders learned about McSpadden's history just two days before the Board of Estimates agreed to settle another excessive-force lawsuit involving him. The total cost to taxpayers for the five lawsuits: more than $624,000.

The investigation, which focused on settlements and court judgments made since 2011, also found that multiple cases related to allegations of assault, false arrest and false imprisonment have not hindered some officers from becoming supervisors. In one case, for example, two officers were sued by a Baltimore man who won $175,000 in a jury trial, but they now have a higher rank — a problem that police blame in part on civil service rules.

The Baltimore Police Department, like others around the nation, has a policy designed to protect people under arrest. Part of its general orders state that officers are to "ensure the safety of the arrestee" when taking people into custody. But The Sun's investigation found that officers do not always follow policy in reporting the use of force, making it harder for agency leaders to detect problems.

On Friday, Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts said the Department of Justice would conduct a civil rights investigation into the allegations of brutality and misconduct. He and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake said they requested the probe after the issue was highlighted in The Sun, but added that the problems arose before they took charge.

City officials, who say some lawsuits against police are frivolous, add that they are improving the systems that track problem officers — especially those who are repeatedly the subject of lawsuits. And police leaders pledge that officers who have recently sustained complaints of egregious behavior will be bypassed whenever possible for promotions.

Still, some city practices, including the sparse information provided to the public about proposed settlements, have limited the public's knowledge about police misconduct. In such settlement agreements, the city and its police officers do not acknowledge any wrongdoing, and the residents who sued are prohibited from talking in public or to the news media about the allegations.

Officials such as Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Comptroller Joan Pratt have called for changes that would increase transparency and provide more information about misconduct to the public.

David A. Harris, a University of Pittsburgh Law School professor who is an expert on police misconduct, questions the leadership of the agency. He said he was surprised that Baltimore did not already have a comprehensive tracking system like those in departments in other major cities.

"There is no excuse for that in the modern world," Harris said. "That speaks to the level of supervision there."

One officer, many lawsuits

McSpadden joined the force in 1993. Within a couple of years, allegations of brutality arose.

In 1995, the young patrolman was accused of dragging, stomping and kicking a handcuffed woman on Rayleigh Avenue near Mount Carmel Cemetery. The court file in the state archives in Annapolis shows that the woman's lawsuit was settled but doesn't list a dollar amount. The city could not find financial records about the settlement.

In 1996, a manager at a heavy equipment company accused McSpadden of breaking his wrist after officers confronted him walking near the Broadway Market in Fells Point. He was not arrested. A Baltimore jury awarded the man $1 million, but a judge reduced the damages to $100,000. He appealed, and jurors in a second trial awarded him $335,000.

On Thanksgiving eve in 1999, McSpadden and four other officers accused a 62-year-old man of kidnapping his grandson on East Baltimore Street across from Patterson Park. The man claimed that one officer clobbered him in the head with a steel hockey puck, and McSpadden and the others beat him unconscious with batons. The city settled the case for $152,500.

It is also unclear whether McSpadden was disciplined or received counseling for those incidents. State law shields the personnel files of government employees from the public, and police officials generally will not talk about individual officers.

The May 2012 incident that led to Bonkowski's injuries came after a concert by rapper Yo Gotti at Baltimore Soundstage. The Baltimore shipping clerk, who had been drinking, stopped his car at a gate inside the Water Street garage as he prepared to leave. But he didn't have money for the fee.

He hit the gas. The gate crumbled. While Bonkowski waited at a red light, two city officers who were moonlighting at the garage yanked him from the car.

"Next thing I know, I'm being pummeled, being beaten," Bonkowski recalled in a recent interview that mirrored statements in his lawsuit. "I just remember I'm face flat on the ground. I had my hands over my head. Next thing I know I just pretty much lose consciousness."

Bonkowski pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and served a year of probation. He said he sued McSpadden and Officer Harvey Martini in the hope they would be fired.

In court filings, the officers provided another version of events, saying Bonkowski crashed into another car and then hit McSpadden. To explain the injuries, they also said that Bonkowski had been assaulted by five unknown men at a club on East Baltimore Street. McSpadden, who is now 43, said Bonkowski hurt himself by engaging in "horseplay" outside the club.

Baltimore police would not allow its officers to be interviewed by The Sun about this case or others. Annual base salaries for the officers ranged from $62,000 and $89,000.

Bonkowski — whose medical expenses and lost wages totaled nearly $46,000, according to court records — admitted he triggered the incident by driving under the influence. But he's still angry about what followed.

"I ran through a parking pole," he said. "That doesn't justify a beat down."

Data not tracked

Since 2011, city police officers have faced 317 lawsuits for civil rights and constitutional violations such as false imprisonment, assault and false arrest. The Sun investigation showed that even though the city has paid out $5.7 million on settlements and court judgments over that period, it lacked a system to monitor lawsuits against officers. And in almost every case, the people who received settlements or won court judgments were cleared of any criminal charges.

Deputy Commissioner Jerry Rodriguez says the Police Department started tracking the lawsuits earlier this year, around the same time The Sun began its investigation. The data will be combined with a system that tracks matters such as injuries from arrests, citizen complaints, use-of-force reports and administrative investigations.

The agency did not enter old lawsuits into the system, however. So several previous incidents involving McSpadden would not show up on a report.

The city's Law Department also has lacked a system to identify police officers who show up in lawsuits time after time. The city hires law firms to handle those cases, and City Solicitor George Nilson says it is difficult to check the status of cases once they move outside the department.

Nilson said he knew the city had a problem in July. The plaintiffs in yet another lawsuit against McSpadden made allegations about a harrowing encounter in a city parking garage, one that occurred soon after the Bonkowski incident. They also sued the garage operator, accusing the company of negligence for allowing the officer to keep his secondary security job at the city-owned garage. Nilson then learned about the earlier lawsuits.

Nobody at City Hall knew McSpadden was the subject of two concurrent lawsuits resulting from the incidents in 2012. The reason, Nilson said, was that different outside firms handled the cases.

"We kind of learned by mistake," he said. "That was the first time I heard about the McSpadden issue. We didn't possess that info in one place." McSpadden declined requests to comment.

Details obscured

Other top officials — and the public — are often left in the dark about details of alleged brutality, due to the way proposed settlements are vetted before the city spending board.

A two-page memo, submitted to the Board of Estimates before a public meeting in July, illustrated the issue. According to a 299-word summary, Bolaji Obe of Baltimore and Akinola Adesanya of Towson said McSpadden handcuffed and assaulted them in the Water Street garage in June 2012. Obe said McSpadden, who was moonlighting in uniform, punched him in the face. The officer accused Obe of urinating in the garage and said he defended himself when Obe threatened to kill him, the memo said.

The memo also said: "Obe jumped out of his seat with clenched fists. In response, McSpadden contends that he then struck Obe on his left side of his face in order to defend himself."

McSpadden provided a more detailed account in charging documents: "Mr. Obe assumed an aggressive stance, clenched his fist and postured his body as if he was going to attack Det. McSpadden [who] was in fear for his safety and reacted without hesitation to prevent any bodily harm. Mr. Obe was quickly subdued by one strike of a closed fist to the left side of his face. Mr. Obe fell down and was handcuffed without further incident."

But the Board of Estimates memo — drawn from charging documents — did not include more serious allegations contained in the lawsuit brought by Obe and Adesanya.

According to that lawsuit, the officer held Obe and Adesanya at knifepoint. McSpadden also demanded that one of them remove a shirt to wipe up urine on the floor, and punched Obe in the face when his hands were handcuffed behind his back, the documents state. McSpadden wielded "a knife with a blade approximately 4 or 5 inches in length … all the while making stabbing motions toward them and also threatening to slash the tires" on their car, the lawsuit says.

A security camera video obtained from the Baltimore City Parking Authority also contradicts McSpadden's account of a confrontation.

On the video, Obe is brought into a garage office and sits on a stool. McSpadden handcuffs Obe's hands behind his back, leaves and re-enters the room. Moments later, he moves behind the still-seated Obe, to a spot out of the camera's range.

Seconds later, Obe falls off the stool and out the office door. He stays motionless on the floor of the garage. McSpadden then stands over Obe and wipes something off his face. He picks Obe up and leans him against a wall.

The lack of detail in Board of Estimates memos is common when settlements are brought before the panel, which includes the comptroller and city council president. Summaries provided to members and the public typically stick to charging documents. If city officials had looked into details of the lawsuit, they would have had a much clearer picture of the allegations of violence.

City Council President Young, who also called for a Department of Justice inquiry, questioned the transparency of Rawlings-Blake's administration.

"I have a real problem with that," Young, head of the spending board, said about not being told about earlier brutality allegations and prior payouts for officers. "They're not telling us the whole story."

He added: "The question I would have asked is, 'What are we doing to bring Detective McSpadden in to find out what is going on with him?'"

Another board member agreed. "The Board of Estimates should be made aware if it is a reoccurring officer," City Comptroller Joan Pratt said. "The Law Department should inform the board of this information."

Police officers often moonlight at bars, clubs and other businesses while in uniform. According to their union contract, the city agrees to defend an officer in "litigation arising out of acts within the scope of his or her employment," which includes second jobs.

Asked why the administration didn't tell board members about brutality allegations in McSpadden's fifth lawsuit, Rawlings-Blake told The Sun that "the complaint is public" record, noting that a reporter found it.

She then deferred to deputy city solicitor David Ralph, who said earlier lawsuits were not relevant. "We don't mention all the extreme allegations. We talk about the core facts of the complaint. There's another side to the [allegations]."

Nilson said he offered to brief Young about McSpadden a day before the board voted on the latest $62,000 settlement in July but the council president never responded.

Banned from moonlighting

Others knew about McSpadden — even though city leaders didn't.

Shirley Merritt, senior facility manager for Central Parking, told The Sun that the Baltimore City Parking Authority had banned McSpadden last year from working there while off duty. The garage operator, named as a defendant in the lawsuit brought by Obe and Adesanya, settled for an undisclosed amount.

During a deposition, one of Obe's attorneys, Richard Desser, quizzed her about the incident captured on a garage surveillance video. Merritt told Desser that officers simply filled out applications and were hired by the head of security — a retired police lieutenant. No background checks were done.

Desser asked Merritt whether she would have liked to know about McSpadden's earlier lawsuits and city settlements.

"Yes, because I would not have hired that individual," she replied.

McSpadden was also questioned in a February 2014 deposition — but the court file contained only six of the more than 98 pages of the interview. Based on the six pages, it's unclear what explanations McSpadden provided.

Merritt described McSpadden as a "nice guy," and said he had worked at the garage for several years

But she said the company was concerned that Obe and Adesanya listed the firm as a defendant in their lawsuit. She added, "We were told [McSpadden] couldn't work here more than a year ago."

On Friday, police officials said that McSpadden had been suspended; they could not say when that action took effect.

Rodriguez said police officials did not become aware of the discrepancy between McSpadden's police report and the security camera video until after the settlement was made. He admitted that he did not know the security camera video existed, adding, "We're vigorously looking into it."

Fugitive cuffed

Daudi Collier's violent encounter with two other Baltimore officers came along Mount Street in West Baltimore six years ago, when he fled from Sgt. William Colburn and Detective Edgardo Hernandez.

Collier ran several blocks before climbing a concrete wall. Colburn ordered him down.

"I jumped down with my hands still up," Collier told jurors in 2012 as part of his lawsuit against the officers. Colburn "hit me in the face with his walkie-talkie and busted my nose. And that's when [Hernandez] came, jumped on my back and they were just stomping me and hitting me with the walkie-talkie and just doing everything."

Authorities refused to let him in the jail because blood was gushing from his nose. He went to Good Samaritan Hospital for treatment.

At the civil trial, both officers denied hitting Collier.

Hernandez testified that Collier "lunged at the door and pinned me between the car door and door jamb." Colburn said Collier resisted arrest and got into a brief struggle when being handcuffed.

But during the arrest, the officers and Collier didn't know that someone was watching from a porch 10 feet away.

Dolores Brockington, told jurors that Colburn threw Collier to the ground and handcuffed him behind his back.

"And when he was on the ground, [Colburn] hit him with a walkie-talkie," she said, adding, "He said, 'This is for making me run after you,' and then he hit him again."

She said she remained silent as Hernandez "stuck his thumb in [Collier's] eye."

The jury awarded Collier $175,000. Prosecutors dismissed criminal charges.

Colburn is now a lieutenant; Hernandez is a sergeant.

Lapses in policy

The Collier trial highlighted a weakness in accountability within the Police Department: Officers do not always file a report noting injuries to a suspect, as required by policy.

At one point in the trial Collier's lawyer asked Colburn why such a report hadn't been filed, leading to this exchange:

"Because I was not aware that that was a part of our general orders until about two years ago," the then 15-year officer said.

"And you were a sergeant at the time?"

"I was."

Recently, The Sun informed deputy commissioner Rodriguez and Rodney Hill, the head of the Internal Affairs Division, about that testimony. Rodriguez said he was surprised to learn that a longtime supervisor didn't know the policy for injured suspects.

Rodriguez, who leads the Professional Standards and Accountability Bureau, pointed to Hill and said, "Take the name down, and we'll do an investigation for neglect of duty since we just became aware of it."

But misconduct has not been eliminated within the agency. In recent weeks, a video surfaced of an officer beating a Baltimore man on North Avenue in June — an incident that triggered a lawsuit. Once the video was made public, city officials called the beating outrageous and suspended the officer.

Hill said the agency is changing for the better under Batts. Rooting out bad officers and bad practices takes time, Hill said, comparing the task to steering a battleship. "It's slow. You can't really notice it's turning."

Police leaders say they have little power to stop officers from rising in the ranks if they meet requirements on promotional tests, due to civil service laws.

"If there are no open complaints, we are very limited as far as what we can do ..." he said.

Rodriguez said he couldn't address the way the prior police administration scrutinized officers before promoting them.

Former Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III, who preceded Batts, said through a spokesman that he put the community first and worked to eliminate misconduct, but he declined to be interviewed about the issues of discipline.

Inquiries by the Department of Justice's Civil Rights Division examine whether officers have a history of discrimination or using force beyond standard guidelines. They typically lead to consent decrees and years of court monitoring. Twenty federal probes have started in the past six years, in cities such as Cleveland and New Orleans.

Harris, the police misconduct expert, said younger officers learn bad practices when supervisors aren't held to high standards. "When that becomes the norm, the few bad apples affect the whole department."

Peter Moskos, a former Baltimore officer who is an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said many officers do not have a stake in the community because they live outside the city. In 2013, more than 70 percent of Baltimore's officers lived outside the city, records show.

He suggested one way to reduce misconduct lawsuits: Pay settlements and judgments out of the police budget, not the city's general fund.

"That will change the culture pretty quick," said Moskos.

Quick to settle

One former officer, David Reeping, said the city is too quick to settle lawsuits that allege brutality. The city has spent $71,500 to settle two excessive-force lawsuits involving Reeping, who spent eight months in federal prison in 2012 for accepting a bribe in a wide-ranging towing scandal.

Taxpayers could be on the hook for another $272,790 jury verdict being appealed.

Frank Snell II, a Randallstown dentist, and his friend, Brian Holmes, accused Reeping and two other officers of false arrest and assault in May 2009.

Their lawsuit says Reeping stopped Snell for no reason at the intersection of East Baltimore and Holliday streets in May 2009. Snell said Reeping and two other officers forced him to the ground and hit him in the head, ribs and crotch. As he lay on his stomach, Snell said, they stepped on his handcuffed wrists and forced the metal into his back. Holmes said the officers also pushed him to the ground and handcuffed him.

Neither man was charged with a crime. The city settled the case for $47,500.

A year after that incident, Sophia DeShields accused Reeping of pulling her from the back of a car and breaking her wrist under the Jones Falls Expressway. She went to jail for about 12 hours but did not face charges. Reeping says DeShields fell to the ground because she had high heels on, records show.

The city settled the case for $24,000 in February.

A month later, a jury awarded $272,790 to a Defense Department analyst who accused Reeping of false arrest and false imprisonment in 2010.

One fact in this case is different from most other lawsuits: Jamal Butler told jurors that Reeping did not physically assault him.

Butler testified that Reeping told him he was being arrested "for being a black smart ass" while standing in front of Crazy John's on East Baltimore Street in 2010.

Butler spent time in jail, but did not face charges. Still, he testified that the arrest, which has been expunged, will remain in his personnel file at the Pentagon and could hinder his ability to get jobs with higher security clearances.

Reeping's attorney appealed the verdict. Judge Wanda Keyes Heard could rule in the coming weeks.

Reeping, 44, believes his extortion conviction, which was noted at the trial, swayed jurors to award Butler money. "What other reason would it be?" Reeping said in an interview. "I didn't lay a hand on him. I was respectful to him. I didn't lock him up because he was black."

He criticized the city for settling the other cases, saying it "chooses to hand the money out for no reason."

Reeping said that during his four years on the force he was an aggressive officer with many arrests. He said it's no secret on the street that the city quickly pays money to settle allegations.

Nilson and Ralph said city lawyers know that many lawsuits are frivolous, but it can be cheaper to settle cases instead of fighting them in court.

"There are bad-doers out there who try to turn a lawful arrest into a windfall for them," Ralph said. "We are aware of that."

He pointed out that the city pays out less than 1 percent of what people seek in lawsuits. Damage awards against a municipality are generally capped at $200,000 under Maryland law.

Four lawsuits in 10 years

Calvin Moss came to Baltimore to fight crime in 2004.

He has been sued at least four times in his 10 years on the force. He targeted hot spots as a member of the former Violent Crimes Impact Section — a unit that was disbanded in 2012 after residents complained about its heavy-handed tactics.

"If you want to affect the crime rate, you go where the criminals are, and we have plenty of criminal activity in Baltimore," Moss told Patch.com in 2010.

The website profiled Moss in 2010 when he participated in a mixed-martial-arts cage fight. He scored a second-round knockout against another officer.

Lillian Parker, a longtime city cafeteria worker at Leith Walk Elementary School, encountered Moss in May 2007 after decorating her church. She was distributing raffle tickets for a weekend prayer breakfast, according to a lawsuit she brought against Moss, Daniel Hersl and other unnamed officers.

She went to a friend's home near Harford Road and Darley Avenue. While waiting, Parker, then 50, decided to walk up the street for fast food, and her phone rang in front of 1609 Normal Ave. Parker was asked to wait there so her friend could pick up the tickets.

Unknown to Parker, a team of officers, including Moss and Hersl, was watching a residence at that address for drug activity. Hersl asked Parker why she was there.

She explained that she was waiting for a friend. Moss then ordered another officer to arrest Parker, the lawsuit says.

Parker was charged with six drug offenses and a gun charge, and spent two days in jail.

In charging documents, police stated that Parker talked to some men on the porch as they sold drugs and even directed others to the dealer. As the officers moved in, Parker yelled "police" to alert the dealers, Moss wrote in the documents. Police arrested six men and confiscated crack, marijuana, a revolver and $10,540, records show.

Prosecutors later dropped the charges against her and the six men.

She sued Moss and Hersl in 2010 for battery, false arrest and false imprisonment, and settled the case for $100,000 in June 2012. She declined requests to comment.

Moss, 46, was absolved in two other lawsuits. In one, a Baltimore woman accused Moss and his partners of strip-searching her in public and hitting her on Lombard Street in 2008; a civil jury ruled in favor of the officers in 2012. A Randallstown man accused Moss and his partner of beating him before and after being handcuffed; a jury cleared Moss, but a judge found the partner liable for $7,500.

He has also been sued over a January 2013 incident near Bel Air Road. According to court documents, Marque Marshall jumped from a car and fled from Moss. The officer shot Marshall's left hand when he tried jumping a fence. Marshall lost most of his small finger.

Marshall's lawsuit says another officer falsely told Moss that Marshall had a gun. He faced several charges, including assault, but prosecutors dismissed them, records show.

That civil suit is ongoing.

Pattern of misconduct

Hersl, who has been the focus of other complaints and lawsuits, made headlines in 2006.

During a trial for three East Baltimore men accused of being drug dealers, a judge ruled that defense attorneys could tell jurors about dozens of complaints filed against officers in the case: Hersl and Frank Nellis.

They had a total of 46 complaints. And though only one for each had been sustained, the sheer number of accusations merited judicial notice, the judge said.

"Misconduct, sometimes when it's frequent enough, it indicates a lack of desire to tell the truth," Baltimore Circuit Judge John Prevas said after reviewing Hersl's internal affairs file.

Prosecutors dropped the charges against the three men.

In August 2007, Hersl was involved in another incident that landed in court.

Taray Jefferson and three of her friends visited Joy Garden Carry Out Restaurant on Harford Road. Minutes later, another woman entered, followed by Hersl and a sergeant.

The officers pulled the woman outside, and as the sergeant searched the trash and floor inside, Hersl stood in the doorway, according to a lawsuit filed by Jefferson.

The sergeant told Jefferson, then 19 years old, and her friends to get up against the wall. Jefferson pressed for answers, but the sergeant told Hersl to handcuff her.

Hersl grabbed her right arm; the sergeant grabbed her left arm and pushed it up as high as it would go, the lawsuit says. She pleaded for them to stop and then heard a loud pop. She then hit the floor.

"I told [the sergeant] he was hurting me and [Hersl] had my other arm and he punched me in my arm," Jefferson said in a deposition.

She sustained a broken arm. Days later, Hersl charged her with resisting arrest, failure to obey and disorderly conduct. The charges were eventually dropped.

Jefferson sued Hersl and his sergeant in 2008, and settled for $50,000 in the following year.

In September 2010, Hersl said he spotted a suspected drug transaction on North Wolfe Street. As officers pursued Charles Faulkner, he fled.

During the chase, another officer said Faulkner tossed aside five plastic bags with a white powder substance. Hersl found Faulkner hiding on a porch, and when he ran again, Hersl tackled him.

In a civil lawsuit, Faulkner said Hersl beat him in the face with his fists and a police radio. The blows made him pass out, the lawsuit says. The officers then took him to the hospital, where he was treated for a broken jaw and fractured nose.

He was later charged with possession with the intent to distribute. Faulkner, who had been convicted of a handgun offense in 2010, received probation before judgment for the drug charges.

He sued Hersl in August 2013. The city settled the case last week for $49,000.

Police contract protections

The secrecy surrounding internal discipline of police officers is not unique to Baltimore.

Samuel Walker, professor emeritus of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska Omaha, said the public should have access to those disciplinary records, just as sanctions against doctors, pharmacists and lawyers are publicized.

"Police officers are public employees," he said. "We ought to know what happens in these cases."

Why hasn't that happened?

'It's the political power of the cops," Walker said. "They have managed to get these exceptions. It's a national problem."

The Fraternal Order of Police contract guarantees that the city will defend officers against litigation, along with paying settlements and court judgments, even if an incident arises from moonlighting. In exchange, the city is entitled to all court records such as depositions when it pays a settlement or court judgment. But, according to the contract, if an officer is acquitted, the city can't request files held by the attorneys, including depositions and photos.

(Taxpayers will not pay damages if a judge or jury finds that an officer acted with malice — but that has never happened, according to Nilson.)

Nilson said it's not realistic to expect officers to pay the damages when they risk their lives.

Moreover, he questioned the level of policing that would come if officers lost their homes or wages from lawsuits. But he acknowledged that he doesn't like the contract guarantee about defending all officers who are accused of misconduct.

"We've learned to live with it," he said. "It's the right thing to do."

Young, the council president, would like the city to eliminate that clause in the next contract.

"I respect and appreciate the police officers, but we cannot protect bad officers who are costing the city millions of dollars," he said.

Fraternal Order of Police President Robert Cherry said the city could refuse to pay in cases where misconduct claims are sustained. He warned that officers might become fearful of doing their work if the city does not back them.

"That is a ludicrous statement to make," he said about Young.

The Sun requested records on misconduct lawsuits in April and began asking questions about McSpadden's cases in June.

In light of his multiple lawsuits, Nilson revamped the process to settle misconduct cases, adding multiple layers of oversight this month. The change came a month after The Sun asked about McSpadden, but Nilson said that investigation didn't trigger reforms.

First, staffers will start entering lawsuit information into a database, and outside law firms are required to notify the city about officers' previous lawsuits. Officers must disclose the cases on signed affidavits for the lawyers.

Second, if officers face multiple lawsuits within six months, the same outside firm must handle the cases.

Under the current proposal, the city pays a flat fee to two firms — Schlachman Belsky & Weiner earned about $506,000 in the last fiscal year, and Whiteford Taylor & Preston received $481,000. The firms can charge additional fees in complex cases.

Thurman W. Zollicoffer Jr., a former city solicitor and a partner at Whiteford Taylor & Preston, handles some of the trial work in these cases. Herb Weiner, who represents the police union in contract negotiations and discipline matters, manages Schlachman, Belsky & Weiner.

Another set of changes will give the Law Department's settlement committee — eight senior lawyers — more information on the lawsuits. Memos to the committee will now include prior lawsuits and say whether the officers would make good or bad witnesses under oath — taking into account such issues as whether an officer has a criminal record.

Going forward, Nilson vowed to provide more detailed information to all members of the Board of Estimates. City lawyers will also make one of three recommendations on each case. They can suggest officers either get more training or receive counseling from the Legal Department. A third option includes no action.

If the city recommends the last option, and more misconduct occurs, Nilson said the settlement committee would bear some responsibility. "We're on the hook," he said.

mpuente@baltsun.com

OFFICERS WHO WERE SUED 

Some Baltimore police officers have been sued several times in civil cases and the city has paid court judgments or settlements. Here is a summary of the cases, based on court records. In settlements, the officers and city do not acknowledge any wrongdoing.

Detective Michael McSpadden, 43, joined force 1993

2012: Bolaji Obe and Akinola Adesanya accused McSpadden of beating them in a Water Street parking garage. The city settled the lawsuit in July 2014 for $62,000.

2012: After driving under the influence and crashing through a parking garage gate, John Bonkowski accused McSpadden and another officer of breaking his wrist and ankle. The city settled the lawsuit in April 2014 for $75,000.

1999: Lacey Burnette accused McSpadden and other officers of beating him unconscious during a domestic incident. The city settled the case for $152,500.

1996: Robert O'Neil Jr. accused McSpadden of breaking his wrist in Fells Point. A jury awarded the man $1 million, but a judge reduced it to $100,000. The man appealed; a second jury awarded him $335,000.

1995: Mary Forrest accused him of dragging and stomping her while handcuffed during a domestic incident. Court records show the case shows settled, but no payout is listed. The city could not find financial records about the settlement.

Detective Daniel Hersl; 44, joined force in 1999

2010: Charles Faulkner said Hersl broke his jaw and nose with his fists and a police radio after the man fled. He later received probation before judgment for drug charges. The man sued Hersl; the city settled the lawsuit last month for $49,000.

2008: Taray Jefferson accused Hersl and another officer of breaking her arm when they searched for a drug suspect in a carryout store. The city settled the case in 2009 for $50,000.

2007: Lillian Parker was selling church raffle tickets when Hersl and Detective Calvin Moss accused her of selling drugs. She spent two days in jail, but prosecutors dropped the charges against her. She sued in 2010; the city settled the case in 2012 for $100,000.

Detective Calvin Moss, 46, joined force in 2004

2013: Marque Marshall jumped from a car and fled from Moss. The officer shot Marshall's left hand when he tried jumping a fence. Marshall lost most of his small finger. Marshall's lawsuit says another officer falsely told Moss that Marshall had a gun. Marshall faced several charges, including assault, but prosecutors dismissed them, records show. The civil suit is ongoing.

2010: Darrel McGraw accused Moss and his partner of beating him before and after being handcuffed. A jury in the civil case cleared Moss, but a judge found the partner liable for $7,500.

2008: Adair Wiley accused Moss and his partners of strip-searching her in public and hitting her on Lombard Street. A jury in the civil case ruled in favor of the officers in 2012.

2007: Lillian Parker was selling church raffle tickets when Moss and Hersl accused her of selling drugs. She spent two days in jail, but prosecutors dropped the charges against her. She sued in 2010; the city settled the case in 2012 for $100,000.

Patrolman David Reeping, 44, on force 2007-2011

2010: Jamal Butler accused Reeping of false arrest and false imprisonment, testifying that the officer said he was being arrested "for being a black smart ass" while standing on an East Baltimore Street. A jury awarded Butler $272,790 this year; the verdict is under appeal.

2010: Sophia DeShields accused Reeping of pulling her from the back of a car and breaking her wrist under the Jones Falls Expressway. The city settled the case in February 2014 for $24,000.

2009: Frank Snell II, a Randallstown dentist, and his friend, Brian Holmes, accused Reeping and two other officers of beating them while handcuffed on East Baltimore Street. The city settled the lawsuit in 2011 for $47,500.

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