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Baltimore to partially cover punitive damages in police misconduct case

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre Davis. (The Daily Record / Maximilian Franz)

Baltimore City Solicitor Andre M. Davis announced Friday the city will pay the majority of a $40,000 punitive damage award on behalf of a group of police officers but stressed that the decision is “entirely unrelated to the spurious assertions” by the police union that his office was abandoning a longstanding practice of paying such awards.

After reviewing trial documents and officer statements as well as conversations with attorneys involved in both sides of the case, Davis said he would make an exception to the policy against paying punitive damage awards and either wholly or partially indemnify the officers, paying a total of $32,500 of the award.

The plaintiffs, Leo Joseph Green and James Green, have agreed to accept the amount without interest as payment in full on the judgment. The officers will not be personally liable for any part of the verdict.

In a statement issued Friday, Davis said it has been the policy of the Baltimore City Law Department to consider on a case-by-case basis whether to indemnify officers facing punitive damage awards and such a review occurred in this case.

The Fraternal Order of Police’s Baltimore lodge warned its members Tuesday the city had changed its policy and would not pay punitive damages awarded by juries in police misconduct cases. But Davis on Wednesday denied any policy change.

In December, Davis said the city was not liable for punitive damages under Maryland law and told the Baltimore City Board of Estimates his office was not authorizing payment such damages in the Green case.

At the time, Davis said he had found no evidence other than anecdotes that the city had paid punitive damages in the past.

Davis stressed Friday his policy on indemnifying police officers for punitive damage awards is consistent with state law and longstanding city policy.

“The city’s policy today is the same as it has always been and is substantially the same as that in our neighboring counties,” Davis said in a statement. “What has changed, if anything, is the transparency with which I have implemented the policy.”

Davis also said members of the community need to know the city “will not write blank checks to cover police damages, regardless of what a jury finds an officer has done.”

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