In one of the more unusual police brutality lawsuits in recent years, 90-year-old Baltimore resident Venus Green was awarded a $95,000 settlement earlier this month after a 2009 incident in which she locked a police officer in the basement of her home.
According to WBAL TV, police came to Green's home after her grandson Tallie had been shot. Green told the TV station that Tallie had been shot at a convenience store, but officers insisted it happened in Green's home, and that Tallie had either been shot by Green or had shot himself. With that, one officer forced his way into her home, without a warrant, toward the basement where Tallie lived to look for blood or other evidence.
Green told WBAL the officer shoved her, pushed her over a chair, handcuffed her and insulted her. When the officer then went into her basement, she says she shut the door and locked him inside. She later brought a civil rights lawsuit, and in early April accepted the city's settlement offer. "[I'm a] law-abiding citizen," Green told WBAL. "I've never been arrested, I paid my taxes, owned my home, my husband died 34 years ago. [I] raised my son and I have been brutally abused. I feel like the police department needs to go back to school."
Green now seems destined to become part of Baltimore lore. In an April 10 Baltimore Sun op-ed, Stevenson University assistant professor Heather Harris deemed her a "fierce angel," a reference to the book by Sheri Parks. It's a phrase Parks uses "to describe an African-American woman who is almost impossibly strong and selfless."
WBAL reports that the city of Baltimore has paid out nearly $17 million over the last two years in police brutality settlements. Baltimore Brew reports the city has spent another $10.4 million defending lawsuits in court, and more are on the way. One couple who claims they were illegally searched and harassed by police looking for drugs has been approved for $155,000, and a motorcyclist struck by a Baltimore cop is due another $115,000.
The city has been subject to several suits from citizens who were arrested, harassed or threatened for recording on-duty police officers, despite the fact that the state's courts and attorney general have ruled that doing so isn't illegal. The Baltimore Police Department finally issued a directive to its officers not to arrest citizens for recording officers in public places, but according to some reports, police subsequently arrested camera and cell phone-toting citizens for loitering.
Baltimore City Council President Bernard Young seems less concerned about the possibility that police are violating the rights of Baltimore citizens than the fact that citizens who seek compensation are hurting the city's bottom line. Young voted against the settlement for Ms. Green, explaining that he was "tired of the police department bleeding money."
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