BALTIMORE (WJZ) -- Four residents in Baltimore's Harlem Park neighborhood reached a settlement in a lawsuit filed against the Baltimore City Police Department and former Police Commissioner Kevin Davis.
In the lawsuit, the residents stated that their state and federal constitutional rights were violated during a six-day, multi-block lockdown following the death of Detective Sean Suiter.
The agreement states that each plaintiff will receive $24,000 and will have the ability to monitor and enforce BPD's adherence to the new policies to make sure they are enforced. It will also require the BPD to expunge any records created during the lockdown that relate to the plaintiffs or others in their household.
The settlement requires BPD to adopt and enforce policies aimed at ensuring that nothing similar happens again which include:
- Crime scene boundaries and durations must be "tied to the nature and facts of the crime being investigated, independent from the identity of the victim and the demographics of the neighborhood."
- Any searches of residences within a crime scene must be completed within four hours unless additional time is justified and authorized in writing by supervisors.
- Residents and their guests may not be prohibited from accessing their residences unless there is an emergency need to preserve evidence in the residence, or an immediate danger to the resident or guest, such as an active shooter situation.
- Specific written justification is required for including within a crime scene boundary the entrance to any residence that is not itself the location of the crime.
- BPD officers are prohibited from questioning or seeking identification from residents or guests seeking to come or go from their homes within a crime scene boundary if they are being escorted to preserve the integrity of the crime scene.
Each plaintiff will also receive a formal, written apology from the Police Commissioner about the incident.
"It felt good to stand up against something you knew was wrong and make a difference. I feel good about the settlement and glad the city decided to agree to our demands," said Juaqueta Bullock, one of the plaintiffs. "The most important thing is that the incident won't ever happen again. They will have to do things the right way and not harass people."
In November 2017 after the death of Suiter, Baltimore Police ordered a lockdown of Harlem Park. Residents were routinely stopped by officers without any probable cause and they were required to show identification so their names could be ran through law enforcement databases. Officers were also posted at every alleyway and corner with checkpoints at each intersection.
"I'm proud that this wasn't overlooked and that the voices of the people were heard. I'm happy to teach my children that when there's injustice, we can speak up. I appreciate the apology from the city and hope that going forward they don't have to issue any more apologies for this type of incident," said Lauren Holmes, one of the plaintiffs. "People felt imprisoned in their homes, couldn't get to work and missed paychecks. Now, the city government is taking responsibility for the trauma they put us through."
The city and the Police Commissioner issued an apology:
"On behalf of the City of Baltimore and the Baltimore Police Department, I would like to express our sincere regret and apology for the disruptive events that you and your family experienced as a result of the prolonged police perimeter in the Harlem Park neighborhood, from Wednesday, November 15, to Monday, November 20, 2017. … Amid the investigation of the tragic death of Detective Sean Suiter, the BPD men and women tasked with maintaining the crime scene perimeter were not guided by adequate supervision to reinforce constitutional requirements for stops and searches. … The result was a protracted police presence that was not aligned with any national best practice for investigations nor any true community policing model. … I am deeply saddened and troubled that these events have shaken your faith and trust in the police who are sworn to serve and protect the City's residents, and that you feel a diminished sense of comfort and security, to which all Baltimore City residents are entitled."
While Police Commissioner Michael Harrison issued an apology, he was not the Commissioner at the time of this incident. Back in 2017, Kevin Davis was the City Police Commissioner. Davis is now the Police Chief of Fairfax County in Virginia.
WJZ reached out to Chief Davis and the Fairfax County Police Department's whose Spokesperson told WJZ Tuesday, "Chief Davis has not reviewed this settlement decision or been involved in any discussions related to Baltimore City's Police Department since his departure."
David Rocah, Senior Staff Attorney at the ACLU of Maryland, said: "What happened in Harlem Park needed to be challenged. It was a flagrant violation of the law, and it is not enough for the City to say 'whoops, our bad, we'll do better next time.'"
"This settlement represents an important vindication of rights not only for these particular plaintiffs, but for the entire Harlem Park community," said Crowell & Moring Partner Dan Wolff. "Crowell is honored that these brave individuals placed their trust in Crowell to bring this impactful lawsuit on their behalf along with our incredible and tireless co-counsel at the ACLU of Maryland."
"There is no justice without accountability," said Crowell & Moring Associate Helen Osun. "It is an honor to be a part of a team seeking justice for a group of individuals who demanded not only justice for themselves and their community, but accountability from the City."
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