The city of Baltimore shelled out more than $5 million in 4 years over lawsuits claiming police brutality

BaltimoreSait Serkan Gurbuz/ReutersPolicemen detain a protester near Mondawmin Mall after Freddie Grey’s funeral in Baltimore April 27, 2015.

The city of Baltimore paid out judgments or settlements in over 100 cases alleging police brutality since 2011, the Baltimore Sun reported in September after a lengthy investigationinto the city’s criminal justice system.

As Baltimore burned late into Monday night and Tuesday morning, there was speculation that years of frustration over dealing with rogue police officers had caused the city to erupt in violence.

As a Baltimore native wrote in the Washington Post today, “It was only a matter of time before Baltimore exploded.”

Since 2011, the city has been involved in 317 lawsuits stemming from complaints of assault, false arrest, and false imprisonment, the Sun found.

More than 100 of these lawsuits — filed by residents ranging from a 26-year-old pregnant accountant who said she witnessed a beating to an 87-year-old grandmother aiding her wounded grandson —
have resulted in judgments for the plaintiffs or settlements, according to the Sun.

The city has ended up paying $US5.7 million to alleged victims of police brutality between 2011 and September 2014.

As the Sun points out, this money — much of it taxpayers’ — could have paid for 43 renovated playgrounds, 72 resurfaced basketball courts, or 124 new police officers.

“It [Baltimore PD] has a national reputation of not being a professional and effective department,” Samuel Walker, emeritus professor of criminal justice at the University of Nebraska, told the Sun.

That is not entirely true. The department has been far from ineffective, overseeing the largest drop in crime between 1999-2009 than any other large police agency in the country, according to the Washington Post.

But the policing tactics allegedly used to cultivate this drop paint a far more controversial picture of Baltimore’s approach to fighting crime.

Baltimore riotsREUTERS/Shannon StapletonA Baltimore Metropolitan Police transport vehicle burns during clashes in Baltimore, Maryland April 27, 2015.

The city’s settlement agreement prohibits injured residents from speaking to the press about their experiences with police, but a few were willing to open up to the Sun about their case.

“I’m afraid of the police,” said Jerriel Lyles, who was paid $US200,000 by the city after filing a police brutality case. “I want to speak out, but it could be dangerous. Internal affairs is not like they say they are.”

Baltimore City Council president Bernard C. Young agrees that the brutality has fostered severe mistrust between the police and the community.

“Residents fear the police more than they fear the drug dealers on the corner,” Young told the Sun.

“These officers taint the whole department when they create these kinds of issues for the city,” he added. “I’m tired of the lawsuits that cost the city millions of dollars by some of these police officers.”

We have reached out to the Baltimore Police Department for comment and will update this post if we hear back.

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