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City Solicitor and Baltimore FOP at odds over lawsuit settlements

Posted at 1:11 PM, Feb 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 17:29:46-05

An email from the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police to its members faced criticism from City Solicitor Andre Davis, who says the government cannot promise to pay punitive damages.

Punitive damages are costs a person sues for, like medical bills after an interaction with the police that required a hospital visit.

The email reads:

 "What this means is that police officers are now required to pay these punitive damage awards, which can amount to thousands of dollars, out of their own pockets. Since punitive damages cannot be discharged in bankruptcy, the successful citizen can file an attachment against your wages taking 25% of your net bi-weekly pay check until the amount of the punitive judgment is satisfied."

Davis said the policy is nothing new, "every law department in the state follows the same rules, there is absolutely nothing new here regarding punitive damages."

In his own statement, Davis said:

"A statement issued by the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police has incorrectly suggested that there has been a change of policy by the Baltimore City Law Department regarding the defense and indemnification of Baltimore City police officers against whom claims for money damages are asserted for actions taken in the performance of, and in the scope of, the officers’ employment. The statement was flatly wrong in several respects and deeply misleading in other respects."

When asked after the City's weekly Board of Estimates meeting if any Baltimore officer has paid out of their own pocket, he responded quickly, "Not to my knowledge, To my knowledge no Baltimore City Police Officer has ever paid punitive damages as the result of a jury."

Between February and September of 2017, the city paid at least $1.37 million to settle lawsuits involving police officers, according to Board of Estimates agendas.

The FOP will have a press conference Wednesday at 1:30 p.m. discussing this topic.