City settles lawsuit over actions of police team in Southeast

November 26, 2009|By Julie Scharper | julie.scharper@baltsun.com

The city has agreed to pay $225,000 to settle a federal lawsuit brought by a group of residents who say members of a police unit illegally detained them, searched their homes without warrants and unlawfully seized their property.

The 17 plaintiffs alleged that officers assigned to a special enforcement team in the Southeast District from 2005 to 2006 stopped cars without probable cause, pointed guns without legal justification and systematically harassed people who complained about the unit.

The settlement, which was approved by the city's spending board Wednesday, ends the lawsuit but does not acknowledge guilt, said City Solicitor George Nilson. "The officers are in no way admitting any wrongdoing," said Nilson, who oversees the settlement committee.

Craig Kemp, one of the plaintiffs, contended that undercover officers wearing dark hooded sweat shirts raided his home without a warrant in November 2005, effectively held his mother and sister hostage and removed $28,000 in cash he had received from a workers' compensation settlement.

Another plaintiff, Deric Ford, alleged that members of the unit stopped his car without probable cause, searched his home without a warrant and, after he complained to the department, arrested him two weeks later, using an expletive to describe him as the person who "called Internal Affairs on us." The charges against Ford were later dismissed.

The special enforcement team has been disbanded, and two of the officers named in the suit are no longer with the department, said police spokeswoman Nicole Monroe. Four other officers who were mentioned in the suit remain with the city police, she said.

The members of the unit had been accused of falsifying or embellishing charging documents, and prosecutors dismissed more than 100 Circuit Court cases that were investigated by the unit's officers over a two-year span.

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