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Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott apologizes for 2017 Harlem Park lockdown as city approves settlement with residents

Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott apologized Wednesday for a lengthy lockdown in Harlem Park in 2017 as city police investigated the death of Detective Sean Suiter, following the approval of a settlement with several residents of the West Baltimore neighborhood who sued the city.

“It should have never happened. On behalf of the city, I deeply apologize,” Scott said during a news conference.

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The Democratic mayor, who took office in December, pledged to prevent similar lockdowns from happening on his watch.

Earlier Wednesday, Baltimore’s Board of Estimates unanimously approved the settlement, brokered with the ACLU of Maryland. It includes a $96,000 payment divided among the four residents who sued in 2019. It also required a written apology from Police Commissioner Michael Harrison, the police department’s revision of policies on blocking off crime scenes and the expungement of any records involving the plaintiffs from the lockdown period.

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Suiter was fatally shot Nov. 15, 2017, in the 900 block of Bennett Place while he and a partner were investigating homicide cases. In a frantic search for a gunman, police cordoned off several blocks of Harlem Park for six days.

Officers stationed around the perimeter stopped residents, asked them for IDs and ran their names through law enforcement databases. Footage from the officers’ body-worn cameras showed them stopping everyone entering the neighborhood. Residents had to show identification even to reach their homes.

Darnell Ingram, deputy solicitor for the city, told the board the settlement is in the best interest of the city.

“This settlement agreement is an opportunity for the Baltimore Police Department, the city of Baltimore, as well as the mayor’s office under the leadership of Brandon Scott, to really address how we, the city, interact with community members to build trust with the Baltimore Police Department,” Ingram said.

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Lisa Walden, an attorney for the police department, said the policy changes outlined in the settlement won’t be effective until they are approved in accordance with the city’s federal consent decree.

The expungements will apply only to the plaintiffs and members of their households, Walden said, because the lawsuit was specific to the plaintiffs and not a class-action suit. She noted that none of the plaintiffs were arrested during the lockdown, and that the records to be expunged are forms that note officers had contact with them on a particular day.

Democratic City Council President Nick Mosby, chair of the spending board, questioned how the police commissioner’s apology will be disseminated to residents. Walden said Harrison’s letter has been distributed to the plaintiffs and will be part of the public docket in the case once it is finalized. Scott, who also sits on the board, noted during the meeting the letter has been published by various media outlets.

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