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Baltimore posting outcomes of police misconduct lawsuits

After a two-month delay, Mayor Stephanie-Rawlings Blake has honored a pledge to post online the outcomes of all civil lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct.

A link to a searchable database is now listed on the city Law Department's website. So far, residents can review outcomes from 11 lawsuits concluded since Nov. 21. The city paid a total of $147,000 in eight settlements, but did not acknowledge wrongdoing in those cases. Judges ruled in favor of officers in three other cases.

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Still, the database doesn't contain as much information as the mayor's staff promised in November. At that time, officials said the database would mirror records the administration sends to the Board of Estimates, which must approve payouts higher than $25,000. Those summaries typically contain two or three pages of information detailing an officer's version of the arrest.

That will change, said Kevin Harris, Rawlings-Blake's spokesman. He described the database as "a work in progress" and said officials are exploring ways to add more information.

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"As we move forward, it will become more robust," he said. "This is a step in the right direction. We've made a commitment to be as transparent as possible."

The move is part of a series of changes made in response to a six-month Baltimore Sun investigation of police misconduct. The investigation found the city has paid about $5.7 million since 2011 in lawsuits alleging police brutality and other misconduct — and sparked a U.S. Department of Justice review of the Police Department.

After the investigation was published, some members of the City Council said they weren't aware the problem was so widespread.

The investigation revealed that police leaders, city attorneys and other top officials were not keeping track of officers who repeatedly faced such allegations. The Sun's investigation also showed that city policies helped shield the scope and impact of alleged police brutality from the public. For example, settlement agreements include a clause that prohibits injured residents from making any public statement — or talking to the news media — about the incidents.

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The city is exploring whether to abolish the clause requiring residents to remain silent after accepting a settlement.

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