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Baltimore City BOE agrees to pay Harlem Park neighbors in $96,000 lawsuit against BPD

Neighbors sought compensation and policy changes
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Posted at 12:14 PM, Jun 30, 2021

BALTIMORE, Md. — Baltimore City's spending board agrees to pay $96,000 in lawsuit brought by four plaintiffs following the shooting death of Detective Sean Suiter in November 2017.

After the shooting, the Baltimore Police Department maintained several square blocks of the city's Harlem Park neighborhood as an active crime scene for six days.

The four Harlem Park plaintiffs said the police presence prevented residents' free access to their homes, and that they were stopped by BPD officers without cause.

The lawsuit claimed BPD violated the four plaintiffs Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights of the U.S. Constitution, as well as violated Article 26 of the Maryland Declaration of Rights.

The four Plaintiffs made four separate, but identical settlement agreements with the city, for $24,000 each.

During Wednesday's Board of Estimates meeting, Baltimore City Deputy Solicitor Darnell Ingram said "the law department, in conjunction with the Baltimore Police Department has reviewed the lawsuit, conducted preliminary investigations and consultations, both with the counsel and the plaintiffs and in the best interest of the city, the law department is requesting the board of estimates to settle this matter in [in the amount of] $96,000 for the four plaintiffs."

The Plaintiffs wanted more than just monetary compensation, they also sought to bring change to the Baltimore Police Department.

The settlement agreement requires the Baltimore Police Department to revise two of its operational policies.One revision relates to policy on field interviews, investigative stops, and weapons pat downs or searches, the other policy concerns investigative operations.

RELATED: Settlement reached in lawsuit accusing BPD of unlawful neighborhood lockdown following detective's death

Baltimore City Police chief legal counsel Lisa Walden said "we collaborated directly with the ACLU which represents the plaintiffs in this action, on a number of policy revisions to address the specific nature of the complaint. The concerns that the plaintiffs expressed about how they were treated during the course of the Harlem Park crime scene, and directly ensuring that those things don't happen again."

"This includes such things as putting time limits on how long a crime scene should be held in the first instance, and to the extent that there are operational needs to maintain that crime scene for a longer period of time, requiring supervisory approval over that decision," Walden said.

Another policy change focuses on the complaint that neighbors were kept from accessing their own homes for six days.

"Prioritizing, enabling folks to get to and from their homes, so if it's a large crime scene, trying to focus on those areas that enable folks to have access to their homes more quickly," Walden said.

Any policy changes are subject to the BPD's consent decree with the U.S. Department of Justice.

"There has to be typically more than one public comment period, in the course of revising the policy itself. Once the policy is finalized and approved by the Department of Justice, and [consent decree] monitoring team, then there has to be training developed to help explain to police officers how they're supposed to implement the policy," Walden said.

The plaintiff's agreement includes an order of dismissal concerning police records regarding interactions neighbors had with police officers during the Detective Suiter shooting incident in Harlem Park. The city also issued a letter of apology to the plaintiffs and the neighbors within the Harlem Park neighborhood.

Walden clarified during Wednesday's Board of Estimates meeting that those police records are not arrest records but a"sort of the documentation of the lowest level of police civilian engagement."

"Not an arrest, not a detailed investigatory record but just sort of a receipt to reflect the interaction to say that Officer X spoke to Citizen Y, at this date and time," Walden said.

The agreement regarding those police records only applies to the four plaintiffs and not residents in the community as a whole.

"This is not a class action. It's an individual action brought by these four plaintiffs, so we're providing relief to them," Walden said.

"This settlement agreement is an opportunity for the Baltimore City 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 City Police Department," Ingram said.