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The Dripby Mark Reutter11:59 pmJul 19, 20110

Rise in police-involved lawsuits concerns Baltimore City Council

With the city poised to sign off tomorrow on a $100,000 payment to a 65-year-old man who says he was badly beaten by Baltimore police, the Baltimore City Council is calling for an informational hearing on the rising rate of police-involved lawsuits.

Council members say they discovered the trend during deliberations earlier this year on the already-approved 2012 budget, which includes an additional $1.9 million to settle police lawsuits.

“We want to ask the Commisioner to come over here to talk to us about it, to look and see if there is something that could be done, some training we could initiate, that could reduce these claims,” Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke said, at the Council’s regular Monday meeting.

Clarke, co-sponsor of a resolution introduced last night calling for hearings on the matter, said council members were concerned about police budget increases “that are not police-on-the-street, feet-on-the-street, but lawyers’ costs.”

On Wednesday, among the expenditures on the Board of Estimates’ agenda is a $100,000 payment to Lornell Felder, a 65-year-old Govans man who said he was severely beaten outside his house in 2009 by plainclothes police officers who suspected him of rolling a joint.

But hundreds of thousands more taxpayer dollars could potentially be spent soon to settle a high-profile lawsuit against Baltimore police, officials learned Monday. The family of Tyrone Brown, shot by Baltimore police officer Gahiji Tshamba last year outside a city nightclub, filed a multimillion dollar lawsuit in March against the officer, the state, the city, the mayor, the police department and its commissioner.

On Monday, a U.S. District Court judge ruled that city government and the police department could be included in the suit.

Brown’s sur­viv­ing fam­ily mem­bers “have asserted suf­fi­cient claims to estab­lish a ‘delib­er­ate indif­fer­ence’ on the part of BPD,” Judge Richard D. Bennett wrote, according to Baltimore City Paper.

The family’s civil rights lawsuit argues that city and police officials should not have allowed Tshamba to have a service revolver on the night of the shooting.

As Bennett characterizes it, the plaintiffs argue “that Offi­cer Tshamba unlaw­fully shot a per­son on two sep­a­rate occa­sions prior to shoot­ing Brown, and that on one of these occa­sions Offi­cer Tshamba was intox­i­cated,” yet “BPD con­tin­ued to pro­vide Offi­cer Tshamba with a ser­vice weapon, despite [his] appar­ent his­tory of misconduct.”

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