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Police and city at odds over punitive damages

Posted at 11:27 PM, Feb 07, 2018
and last updated 2018-02-07 23:31:27-05

The Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police officers says the city doesn't have their back and the city says it’s not doing anything wrong.

RELATED: City Solicitor and Baltimore FOP at odds over lawsuit settlements

The issue is over something called punitive damages.

Police officers are often in a position where their actions are called in to question, it’s part of their job.

When that happens, people can open up civil suits against them to claim punitive damages.

Attorney Michael Daley who represents the FOP said in the past it wasn’t an issue because the city had just paid the damages.

“These officers do not know whether they will be supported and the city will have their back and pay these punitive damages,” said Daley. “Even if it's determined by the city and the attorneys working for the city representing the officers that the jury was just wrong, they got the facts wrong and it was a bad jury decision or that the award was just inappropriate in itself.”

Andre Davis, the Baltimore City Solicitor said the FOP claims are wrong and that no officer has ever had to pay for those damages.

“Not to my knowledge,” said Davis. “To my knowledge no Baltimore City Police Officer has ever paid punitive damages as the result of a jury.”

Daley said the FOP’s biggest issue is that the city will now look at each lawsuit on a case by case basis, and during that investigation and review the officer could be on the hook for the punitive damages.

Lt. Kenneth Butler, the Vice President of FOP, said the not knowing has some officers questioning if they should stay in Baltimore.

"An officer texted me, hey lieutenant should I really stay here,” said Butler.  “I said listen just hold on myself and the legal team we're going to address this. This is a big concern especially for me being here 32 years I've never heard this before."

Davis said the policy is nothing new and not out of the ordinary.

“Every law department in the state follows the same rules, there is absolutely nothing new here regarding punitive damages,” said Davis.

Between February and September of last year the city paid at least $1.3 million in lawsuits involving officers.

The fraternal order of police wants to see something in writing to let them know their guys are protected.