Nine plaintiffs join lawsuit against city police

Federal court case contends that people were illegally arrested before being released without charges

December 19, 2007|By Julie Bykowicz | Julie Bykowicz,Sun reporter

An architect and a teacher who say they were wrongfully arrested this summer in Canton are among nine new plaintiffs added yesterday to a 1 1/2 -year-old federal lawsuit against the Baltimore Police Department.

The American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland and the Baltimore branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People sued the police in July last year over what it called illegal arrest practices.

The new plaintiffs represent a variety of people - including a doctoral candidate visiting from Texas and an 18-year-old city resident - who have been placed under arrest, taken to the Central Booking and Intake Center but not charged with a crime.

High numbers

That kind of scenario gained attention in 2005, a year that saw the equivalent of nearly one in eight city residents - 76,500 - placed under arrest.

Of those, about one-third were released from jail without being charged, either because prosecutors thought there was no legal basis for a case or because the alleged infraction was so minor that prosecutors considered it "abated by arrest.

Since 2005, the percentage of those arrested and then released without charge has dropped, to about 25 percent last year and about 20 percent through October of this year.

David Rocah, ACLU Maryland staff attorney, said the fact that the numbers have gone down is "indisputably a good thing." But he said "in every other city, this happening to one-fifth of the people arrested would be a scandal. Only in Baltimore is it considered a `good thing.'"

And to the plaintiffs added to the class action lawsuit, the decline is of little comfort.

Case in point

Friends Armondo Horsey, a 37-year-old local architect, and Jonathan Lindsay, a teacher, were out on Canton Square just after the bars closed early July 22 when said they were troubled by the use of force during an arrest they saw.

Lindsay pulled out his cell phone to take pictures, and officers told him to stop.

Horsey told his friend not to confront the officers and to instead get their names and badge numbers.

Horsey said that's when he was arrested.

And when Lindsay protested, he was arrested, too.

Both were cuffed and taken to Central Booking, where they spent the rest of the night before being released without charge the next morning.

Now, when he sees police officers from the Southeastern District - which includes Canton - Horsey said he assumes the worst.

"I assume that's someone I cannot trust and cannot put any faith in," he said.

No court date has been scheduled for the class action lawsuit, which now includes 14 plaintiffs.

julie.bykowicz@baltsun.com

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