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BPD Commissioner issues apology to residents of Harlem Park over the 2017 lockdown following the death of Detective Sean Suiter

Posted at 6:06 PM, Jun 28, 2021
and last updated 2021-06-28 18:11:28-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore City Police Commissioner Michael Harrison has issued an apology on behalf of BPD and the City to the residents of Harlem Park over the 2017 lockdown of the neighborhood following the death of Detective Sean Suiter.

In November 2017, BPD imposed a lockdown of the neighborhood in which residents were routinely stopped by police, were required to identify themselves as their names were run through law enforcement databases all as they came and went from their homes.

In early June of 2021, The ACLU of Maryland and Baltimore City officials reached a settlement in the lawsuit that was filed on behalf of the residents.

The lawsuit alleged police violated citizens fourth amendment rights.

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

Commissioner Harrison said in part that he would like to express their sincere regret and apology for the disruptive events that "you and your family experienced as a result of the prolonged police perimeter in the Harlem Park neighborhood, from Wednesday, November 15, to Monday, November 20, 2017."

"Amid the investigation of the tragic death of Detective Sean Suiter, the BPD men and women tasked with maintaining the crime scene perimeter were not guided by adequate supervision to reinforce constitutional requirements for stops and searches," he continued. "The result was a protracted police presence that was not aligned with any national best practice for investigations nor any true community policing model…I am deeply saddened and troubled that these events have shaken your faith and trust in the police who are sworn to serve and protect the City’s residents, and that you feel a diminished sense of comfort and security, to which all Baltimore City residents are entitled."

The full apology can be read below:

According to the ACLU, the settlement requires BPD to adopt and enforce policies aimed at ensuring that nothing similar happens again:

  • Crime scene boundaries and durations must be “tied to the nature and facts of the crime being investigated, independent from the identity of the victim and the demographics of the neighborhood.”
  • Any searches of residences within a crime scene must be completed within four hours, unless additional time is justified and authorized in writing by supervisors.
  • Residents and their guests may not be prohibited from accessing their residences unless there is an emergency need to preserve evidence in the residence, or an immediate danger to the resident or guest, such as an active shooter situation.
  • Specific written justification is required for including within a crime scene boundary the entrance to any residence that is not itself the location of the crime.
  • BPD officers are prohibited from questioning or seeking identification from residents or guests seeking to come or go from their home within a crime scene boundary if they are being escorted to preserve the integrity of the crime scene.

The settlement pays damages of $24,000 to each plaintiff and gives them the ability to monitor and enforce BPD’s adherence to the above policies to make sure they are enforced. It also requires expunging any records that the department created during the lockdown that relate to the plaintiffs or others in their household.

“It felt good to stand up against something you knew was wrong and make a difference. I feel good about the settlement and glad the city decided to agree to our demands,” said Juaqueta Bullock, one of the plaintiffs. “The most important thing is that the incident won’t ever happen again. They will have to do things the right way and not harass people.”