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City, former officer settle for $60K over failure to shave for Obama visit

A former Baltimore police officer won a $60,000 settlement from the city on a claim that his civil rights were violated when he was handed a plastic Bic razor and forced to shave for a visit by then-President-elect Barack Obama.

Anthony Brown, a former Warrant Apprehension Task Force member and 17-year veteran of the Police Department, and the city agreed to settle the $17 million lawsuit rather than go to jury trial, according to a memo presented Wednesday to the city's spending panel.

The Board of Estimates approved the settlement without discussion.

"This case has been litigated extensively through discovery," the board memo stated. "Because discovery has revealed factual disputes, and in order to resolve this litigation economically and to avoid the expense and time of further protracted litigation and the uncertainty of an adverse jury verdict, the parties have agreed to settle the matter."

In the suit, Brown said he didn't arrive to work "clean-shaven" on Jan. 17, 2009, despite orders, because of a skin condition common in African-American men. Over protests that he suffered from pseudofolliculitis barbae, commonly referred to as "razor bumps" or "barber's itch," Brown claimed his supervisors forced him to shave in front of his colleagues during roll call before Obama's visit. He said they gave him a small bottle of shaving cream, but didn't let him go to the bathroom to use water or a mirror.

Brown said the suffered "tremendous humiliation, embarrassment and mental anguish" and shaving caused "tremendous physical pain, discomfort and disfigurement." According to the suit, Brown presented his superiors with a letter a few days before the incident from his dermatologist stating that it was the doctor's opinion that Brown should be exempted from any shaving requirement.

Brown, who is in his 50s, argued that in the seven months following the incident he was forced to retire after suffering retaliation by his Police Department superiors, who he claimed denied him overtime and certain assignments and gave him a poor evaluation.

A Police Department spokeswoman did not respond to a request for comment.

Efforts to reach Brown were unsuccessful. His attorneys did not return a call seeking comment.

The lawsuit was filed in U.S. District Court on Jan. 14, 2011.


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