Man Sues City For Police Brutality

2 Officers Accused In $8 Million Claim

April 14, 1991|By Alan J. Craver | Alan J. Craver,Staff writer

A former Harford resident has sued the city of Havre de Grace for $8million, claiming that two police officers used excessive force while arresting him in October 1988.

Perry L. Smith, who now lives in Glen Arm, Baltimore County, said in the suit, filed April 2 in Harford Circuit Court, that the officers struck him after they placed him in handcuffs. The officers at the time were arresting Smith for driving while intoxicated.

"The defendants acted with malice, with evil motive and with the intent to injure and oppress the plaintiff," Smith says in the suit. Smith is represented by Bel Air attorney, Stuart L. Alison.

The city's lawyer, Frederic J. Hatem, and Mayor Gunther Hirsch, who was notin office at the time of the incident, declined to comment on the case.

Smith, a former resident of Havre de Grace, names patrol men Charles Briggs and Alfred Cloud and their supervisor, Cpl. Michael White, as defendants. The Havre de Grace mayor and council also are named as defendants.

White, the mayor and the City Council are named because they "failed to properly supervise and exercise authority and control" over Briggs and Cloud, the suit contends.

Smith is seeking $1.2 million from the mayor and council, $2.85 million from Briggsand Cloud, and $4 million from White.

Smith charges all the defendants with battery, negligence, gross negligence and malicious prosecution.

The suit says: "After (Smith) had been arrested and placed in handcuffs, defendants White, Briggs and Cloud abandoned their roles as police officers and did set upon and did beat and batter (Smith)."

Smith contends that the Oct. 10, 1988, assault resulted in injuries that will continue to require medical treatment. He said the injuries make him unable to work.

The police report written after thearrest shows that Smith was stopped by Cloud and Briggs for driving while intoxicated. The officers said in the report that Smith became hostile when asked to perform field sobriety tests.

Smith was handcuffed and put in a police car, but he got out of the car and fled while the officers were questioning two men who were passengers in the truck with Smith, the report says. Smith was charged with resisting arrest and escape.

The escape charges were dismissed by Harford District Judge John S. Landbeck after a preliminary hearing in November1988, according to court records.

Smith claims in the suit that officers Briggs and Cloud filed the resisting arrest and escape charges to justify beating him. He also claims that the charges were filed without probable cause.

Smith, however, was sentenced to two yearsin prison by Landbeck on the drunken driving charge, with one year suspended, records show.

White and Cloud are still employed at the Havre de Grace Police Department. Briggs is now a deputy at the Caroline County Sheriff's Department.

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