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Baltimore City to pay $60,000 settlement to woman who recorded arrest

Baltimore's spending panel is expected to approve $135,000 Wednesday to settle two police misconduct lawsuits, including one involving a woman who claims police deleted a video she recorded during a 2014 arrest.

Kianga Mwamba sued the Police Department for an alleged assault and illegal arrest after she used her cell phone to record the incident that the then-commissioner later denounced, saying the language used by one of the officers involved was "offensive and unacceptable." The city is poised to pay her $60,000.

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The settlement comes as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake announced Tuesday that Taser International was selected to provide body cameras to the city's nearly 3,000 officers beginning this year. Rawlings-Blake controls the five-member Board of Estimates that is expected to authorize the settlement.

The board also will vote whether to pay Leonard Key $75,000 in an alleged excessive force case. Key was treated for a fractured left ankle that requires physical therapy, ongoing medical treatment and surgery following an encounter with police.

The city has agreed to pay about $13 million since 2011 in settlements and court judgments for lawsuits alleging brutality and other police misconduct. Last week, the board approved a $145,000 settlement in a wrongful-death lawsuit.

In Mwamba's case, an officer used a stun gun "to subdue and arrest" her after she allegedly used her car to hit an officer while recording an arrest of a man on Harford Road in March 2014. The Law Department recommended the city settle the case due to conflicting accounts as to whether Mwamba struck the officer or if she was punched several times during the arrest.

Mwamba has said her recording appeared to be deleted from her phone before she was bailed out of jail a day later. A back-up copy was still stored on the cloud.

An attorney for Mwamba declined to comment Tuesday. Such settlements typically contain a clause that prevents people from talking publicly.

Prosecutors dropped all the charges against Mwamba in September 2014 and a spokeswoman for the state's attorney's office said no criminal charges were filed against the officers involved.

The settlement in a civil suit was reached in December as the parties prepared to go to trial, according to online court records.

Mwamba has said she was on the way home early one Sunday morning when she saw a group of police kicking a man during an arrest. She used the video recorder on her phone to tape a portion of the encounter.

Shouting and banging can be heard outside Mwamba's car during the recording as officers tell her to get out of the street and she attempts to pull over. Officers can be heard using a Taser and a man says, "You're a dumb bitch, do you know that?" before the video ends.

She claims she was hauled from her Toyota, tasered and charged with assaulting two police officers.

"I'm in shock for real, like are they really doing this to me?" Mwamba said in a 2014 interview, recalling the arrest.

Then-Commissioner Anthony W. Batts issued a statement in December 2014 after the video surfaced, condemning an officer's use of language. The agency said police had begun an "in-depth investigation." An agency spokesman did not immediately provide details Tuesday about the resolution of the investigation.

Policing handling of citizen records have been called into question before. The agency says it drafted new guidelines and implemented training after a Howard County man sued Baltimore police for allegedly deleting videos from his cellphone that he recorded of an officer arresting a woman at the 2010 Preakness. Under the guidelines, officers are taught that citizens have a right to record their actions, according to the agency.

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The police also have been recording certain events, such as a large protest in August 2014 following the shooting death of Michael Brown by police in Ferguson, Mo. The department said the recordings have been "a way to document all aspects of an event."

In Key's case, the Law Department recommended the city settle rather than face the "uncertainties and unpredictability of jury verdicts." No date or location for Key's arrest is described in the board summary.

Key allegedly appeared to be carrying drugs when an officer approached him, the summary says. He ran into the street and collided with a vehicle driven by an officer and continued to run. Police used a stun gun on Key and took him into custody. He was taken from the scene by ambulance to a nearby hospital for treatment.

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