BALTIMORE (WJZ)– The Baltimore police union has been warning officers that lawsuit damages could start coming out of their own paychecks.
It’s a potential move that’s hitting the department hard, but the city solicitor claims there’s been no changes in the law.
The Fraternal Order of Police is worried about officers having to pay for lawsuits out of their own pocket. They say if this is the case and you’re an officer, why would you want to come work in Baltimore?
The FOP demands clarity for the officers in a department that’s already dealing with turmoil.
“The officers just want to know ‘hey does the city have my back?'” said Lt. Kenneth Butler, vice president of the Baltimore City Fraternal Order of Police. “This is a big concern, especially for being here 32 years, I never heard this before.”
The FOP blasted out a message to its officers Tuesday night claiming a policy change by the city could have them paying for their own lawsuits, such as a wrongful arrest case or malicious prosecution.
“If the city doesn’t pay and by law they don’t have to, the officer will then be on the hook for that amount of money,” said attorney Michael Davey of SBW Law.
“Every law department in the state follows the same rules,” said City Solicitor Andre Davis. “There is absolutely nothing new here.”
But the FOP claims, historically, the City has paid punitive damages in civil jury trials.
“While the law is the same, it’s now the interpretation and the practice of the city that has changed,” Davey said.
Davey says, currently, there’s a group of five officers dealing with punitive damages that the City never appealed. Six months after case was completed, officers still don’t know if they’re on the hook.
“I spoke to one of those officers and he was just informed that he cannot go to settlement on his new house this week because of this judgment that no one knows what the City is going to do with,” Davey said. “Officers need to know upfront where they stand and that’s our concern.”
While the city has said they’ll deal with it on a case-by-case basis, the FOP demands clarity.
Some officers are now questioning whether to stay for what could be a major blow for a department that’s still trying to recover from its past.
The group of of five Baltimore officers could have to personally pay $40,000 in damages, which is what sparked the warning.
The city solicitor says the vast majority of the cases get settled, so there’s never even a discussion about punitive damages.