Among the cases dropped in the first wave were charges brought against two white officers who were accused of forcing a black sergeant to view racist Web sites. A city councilman and the Baltimore chapter of the NAACP had publicly urged police officials not to bungle the case, but the department now says it was among those in which charging documents were manipulated. One of the white officers has since been promoted.
Guglielmi said the 38 cases that have been tossed out were among 64 pending cases. Robert F. Cherry, president of the city police's Fraternal Order of Police union, has called for all cases to be thrown out and said that the union will likely file legal motions to challenge those that remain.
The issue of equal treatment in the Baltimore Police Department has prompted numerous lawsuits and several attempts at reform, including a 1998 finding by the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission that the department had violated civil rights laws by more harshly punishing black officers and retaliating against those who complained.
In 2000, several black officers were given their jobs back in an effort to rectify inequities in punishment, though the department said those officers deserved to lose their jobs and the issue was with white officers who hadn't been held to the same standard.
Hopson, the lead plaintiff in the federal lawsuit, was charged internally with perjury and fired in 1996, but a city Circuit Court judge reversed the termination. Hopson works at the juvenile booking center and is barred from making arrests and testifying in court. He could not be reached for comment Monday.
For years, he has spoken out about his concerns that black officers were treated differently than white officers.
The number of African-American officers has grown over the years, along with a push to hire more Hispanic officers. The number of sworn black officers is 44 percent, up from 43 percent in 2004 and 38 percent in 1999. Overall, minorities make up half of the department's sworn officers, according to police statistics.
At the top level, minorities and women make up roughly half of command staff positions. Maj. Melvin Russell, who is now commander of the city's Eastern District, was among the plaintiffs in the lawsuit.
"We're excited" about the settlement, said Marvin L. "Doc" Cheatham, president of the local NAACP. "It's clear, and has been clear for a significant period of time, that there were definitely problems within the department. We're just saddened that the city took this much time fighting."