The Baltimore Police Department is among the defendants in a class action that alleges the BPD has employed a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutionally searching, seizing and retaining the personal property of violent crime victims in the city.
The Baltimore Police Department is among the defendants in a proposed class action that alleges the BPD has employed a “pattern and practice” of unconstitutionally searching, seizing and retaining the personal property of violent crime victims in the city.
The 40-page lawsuit’s three plaintiffs are described as “victims of serious assaults” that occurred in or around Baltimore City, Maryland between April 2018 and April 2021. The lawsuit alleges that after the plaintiffs were assaulted, “they also became victims of the BPD” in that its officers “unlawfully seized and searched Plaintiffs’ property without a warranty or consent.”
Further, the complaint alleges the BPD has retained possession of the plaintiffs’ property and “either refused or ignored” requests to return such, causing “injury, inconvenience, and humiliation” to those who filed the lawsuit. As the case tells it, there exists a long history of unconstitutional misconduct with regard to the BPD and its officers’ alleged search, seizure and possession of assault victims’ property that can be combated only by the court.
“Significant violations have persisted across the administrations and tenures of multiple elected officials and appointed law enforcement officials, indicating a culture of noncompliance that can only be remedied by court intervention,” the lawsuit says. “Since at least the 1990s, when BPD leadership instituted what it called ‘zero tolerance’ policies, police officers with minimal training, oversight, and accountability structures conducted a large number of stops, searches, and arrests—many improper and illegal—accompanied by frequent uses of force, causing frayed relationships between Baltimore residents and the BPD.”
In recent years, the 2015 death of Freddie Gray while in BPD custody, a 2016 Department of Justice report that found “reasonable cause to believe” the Baltimore police engaged in unconstitutional conduct and a subsequent 2017 consent decree between the BPD and U.S. government to independently monitor the city’s police are emblematic of the department’s “long-standing history of aggressive, and abusive, unconstitutional policing tactics,” the lawsuit relays.
Named as defendants in the proposed class action are the city of Baltimore, the Baltimore Police Department, Mayor Brandon Scott, current BPD Commissioner Michael S. Harrison, former BPD Commissioners Gary Tuggle and Darryl D. De Sousa and several individual and supervisory detectives and officers.
The plaintiffs, three Black Baltimore County residents, are shooting victims who allege the BPD, upon arriving at the scene of their individual assaults, unconstitutionally seized without consent property that included cell phones, clothing, jewelry, car keys and money. The proposed class action alleges the plaintiffs’ and proposed class members’ property remains in the BPD’s possession despite the plaintiffs’ attempts at retrieval.
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