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Crime & Justiceby Mark Reutter9:40 pmApr 17, 20120

More police settlements to cost Baltimore taxpayers $270,000

Cases before BOE tomorrow involve a strip search for drugs and a car crash that permanently injured a motorcyclist.

Above: Seal of Baltimore Police Department at its headquarters building.

The Board of Estimates is expected to approve tomorrow the settlement of two more lawsuits by citizens against Baltimore City Police.

Westley Williams and Shaney Pendleton will be paid $155,000 to settle their suit against three officers who they said illegally searched their car, strip-searched Williams for drugs and threw Pendleton on the ground.

In the second suit, a motorcyclist permanently injured when a police car failed to yield to oncoming traffic will be paid $115,000.

Between mid-2007 and mid-2010, the city has spent more than $10 million to settle police misconduct and related cases.

A summary of the two latest cases were released by the law department to The Brew at our request.

Looking for Illegal Drugs

The first incident took place on May 13, 2008 when Officers Fabien Laronde, Michael Lash and Carnest McDuffie observed Williams exiting a car with what appeared to be a plastic baggie.

When Williams saw the plainclothes officers approach his car, he got back into the vehicle and refused to show his hands to the officers.

The police then removed him from the car, drew their weapons and, according to Williams, strip-searched him on the street. (The city concedes that the officers “searched him for drugs or weapons including looking into his shorts.”)

The officers found a plastic baggie in the vehicle that contained a white powder that “later tested negative for CDS [controlled dangerous substance].”

During this period, Shaney Pendleton was reportedly screaming and laying on the car horn. When Officer Lash ordered her to stop, she jumped out of the car and ran down the street, pursued by Officer Lash, who “took her to the ground.”

The couple, whose two children were in the backseat of the car, said they were unaware that the men were undercover officers and said they were terrified. They were arrested on several charges, all later dropped by the state’s attorney’s office.

Because of “conflicting factual accounts and legal concerns including whether there was probable cause to search the vehicle or to effectuate an arrest,” the law department negotiated a settlement to end the couple’s lawsuit that claimed false imprisonment, assault and civil right violations, and asked for $9 million in compensatory damages.

Crash in Northeast Baltimore

In the second case, Officer Keith Tate “was following a possible CDS violator through an alley” in the late morning on August 31, 2011, when he made a turn onto Beaufort Avenue without stopping and struck a motorcycle driven by Corey Norris.

“The claimant suffered permanent injury as well as incurred medical expenses and lost wages,” the summary reported, which the $115,000 settlement will help cover.

The city has spent $10.4 million in the last three fiscal years to defend against police lawsuits brought by citizens, according to testimony at the City Council last fall.

Earlier this month, the city paid $95,000 to a 90-year-old retired school principal who was handcuffed by police in a 2009 incident.

City Solicitor George Nilson has said the costs would be substantially higher if the city opted to go to trial and depend on jury verdicts.

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