Baltimore taxpayers will be footing a $220,000 bill – to be approved tomorrow by Mayor Catherine Pugh and the Board of Estimates – to end a lawsuit by a woman who said that police officers smashed her cellphone and assaulted her in front of her 2-year-old daughter after one of them noticed her videotaping them.
The incident took place on the afternoon of March 8, 2012 when Makia Smith was driving in the 2800 block of Harford Road and saw Officers Nathan Church, William Pinkerton Jr., Nathan Ulmer and Kenneth Campbell subdue a boy alongside the road.
“What alarmed me the most is that one of the officers was kneeled down, with his knees pressed against the young man’s throat,” she told WBAL-TV at the time.
Smith stopped and began using her cellphone camera to film the incident. Noticing what Smith was doing, Officer Church approached her car.
Grabbed by the Hair
“He yanked my phone out of my hand and kicked it and stomped it,” she said. “I was trying to get my other foot in the car. He grabbed me by my hair and pulled me out of the car. He said to me, ‘So you want to film things, bitch? I should have knocked your teeth out.’”
The other three officers joined in the attack before arresting Smith, who spent 24 hours in Central Booking.
Charges that Smith had assaulted Church and obstructed traffic with her car were later dropped by the state’s attorney’s office. Smith received medical treatment for injuries to her face, neck and body.
She filed a lawsuit seeking $1 million in compensatory and punitive damages, which the city has now agreed to settle for $220,000 in return for the end of her lawsuit and her agreement not to speak about her case to the press or on social media.
Officers Church, Ulmer and Campbell remain on the police force, according to on-line employment records.
Prior Incident at Preakness
An important element of Smith’s case was Church’s seizing and smashing of the phone she was using to record the officers.
In 2014, former Police Commissioner Anthony W. Batts announced a new policy allowing citizens to record police conducting their business so long as the recordings didn’t interfere with police work.
The announcement came after the Board of Estimates agreed to a $250,000 settlement of a lawsuit brought by Christopher Sharp, a Howard County man who said BPD officers had seized his phone and deleted a video of them arresting a female friend during the 2010 Preakness.
In June 2012, the U.S. Department of Justice issued a legal statement affirming that citizens have a constitutional right to record police officers publicly performing their official duties.
In Sharp’s case, a federal judge ordered Baltimore Police to pay $1,000 for trying to intimidate Sharp by gathering information about his personal life.