Illegal Arrests Lawsuit Against Baltimore Police Department

In June of 2006, the ACLU of Maryland filed a lawsuit alleging that the Baltimore City Police Department was improperly arresting thousands of individuals each year who were not and could not be prosecuted.  The lawsuit claimed that the Department had failed to adequately monitor and train officers to prevent improper arrests, and had in fact pressured commanders and officers to increase arrest numbers without regard to whether the arrests were proper.

 

Plaintiffs in the case are Maryland State Conference of NAACP Branches, the Baltimore City Branch of the NAACP, and multiple individuals who were improperly arrested by Baltimore City police officers and then released without any charges being pursued against them.

 

In December 2007, the plaintiffs amended the complaint, adding claims on behalf of one of the original plaintiffs who was wrongfully arrested for a second time, and adding additional plaintiffs, including a young man who was wrongfully arrested twice in the same summer, and four plaintiffs who were wrongfully arrested while engaged in protected First Amendment activity.

 

After the City lost motions to dismiss the case, and to split up the claims in the case, the parties engaged in extensive discovery.  Following leadership changes at BPD, the parties entered into settlement negotiations, which culminated in settlement agreement to end the lawsuit. 

 

The comprehensive settlement provides for significant reforms of the BPD's arrest and monitoring practices. As part of the settlement, the BPD committed to new policies and training to ensure officers knew the limits of their authority, and would address low level offenses with actions short of arrest whenever possible.  The agreement also required the BPD to implement a new system of comprehensive data collection and monitoring, which would be overseen by an independent auditor. The job of the auditor was to ensure not only that the data is being kept and appropriately used and analyzed, but also to review probable cause statements to verify that officers had sufficient cause for an arrest, and that supervisors are adequately monitoring officers' actions, and intervening as necessary.

 

Date filed: 2006-06-15County: Baltimore City

Status: Settlement reached; ongoing monitoring by independent auditor

Attorneys: ACLU of Maryland Legal Director Deborah A. Jeon and Staff Attorney David Rocah.

Pro Bono Law Firm: Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher LLP