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New bill seeks to make gag orders for police misconduct illegal

Posted at 12:40 PM, Jul 18, 2019
and last updated 2019-07-18 13:08:24-04

BALTIMORE — Baltimore Council President Brandon Scott and Councilwoman Shannon Sneed plan to introduce a bill that makes the use of non-disclosure agreements, or "gag orders," illegal for settlement agreements in police misconduct and unlawful discrimination claims levied against the City of Baltimore.

The recent ruling in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit in the Overbey v. Mayor of Baltimore case found the Baltimore Police Department's practice requiring victims of police brutality and misconduct to sign non-disclosure agreements to be unconstitutional. Particularly of concern was that in many of the agreements, the party who settled with the city in disputes about police conduct could risk losing their settlement funds or having to pay back the city if they talked, but the city was free to comment on those cases if they so chose.

"I commend the Court of Appeals decision in the Overbey case. While the Baltimore Police Department is making steady progress at reforming itself into a force Baltimoreans can be proud of, the City and BPD take responsibility for past actions and allow for honest dialogue," said Council President Scott. "Victims of police brutality have a constitutionally protected right to speak about their experiences. We have an obligation to own our mistakes and be accountable to Baltimore's residents. Transparency at all levels is critical to that mission."

The legislation will be presented as the "Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation." It is proposed to prohibit the use of non-disclosure provisions in settlement agreements for police misconduct and unlawful discrimination claims filed against Baltimore City. It would also require the City's Law Department to publish information about claims filed.

To view a draft of the "Transparency and Oversight in Claims and Litigation" legislation, which will be introduced at a City Council meeting on July 22, click here.