ADVISORY: Statement of Solicitor Andre M. Davis Regarding Punitive Damages

City of Baltimore office of the mayor

Catherine E. Pugh

City of Baltimore

250 City Hall • Baltimore, Maryland 21202 • 410-396-3835 • Fax: 410-576-9425

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Wednesday, February 7th, 2018

Amanda Rodrigues Smith


Statement of Solicitor Andre M. Davis Regarding Punitive Damages


Baltimore, Md. -- “A statement issued by the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police has incorrectly suggested that there has been a change of policy by the Baltimore City Law Department regarding the defense and indemnification of Baltimore City police officers against whom claims for money damages are asserted for actions taken in the performance of, and in the scope of, the officers’ employment. The statement was flatly wrong in several respects and deeply misleading in other respects.


“My policy as City Solicitor is wholly consistent with the Local Government Tort Claims Act, and with the state appellate courts’ longstanding interpretation of that statute, which does not require local governments to pay punitive damages and prohibits local governments from entering into agreements to pay them in all cases. This has been the City Law Department’s policy for many decades and any assertion to the contrary is at best misinformed, and at worst, intentionally misleading. The statute reflects the ordinary common sense notion that if government employees are told that no matter how badly they misbehave, no matter how maliciously they inflict harm or injuries on their fellow citizens, their employer will pay for that harm, then we can expect an increase in such harm. Employees, including police officers who, no doubt have the most difficult job in government, are not privileged to inflict gratuitous injury on others without also incurring personal consequences.


“It is also not accurate to say that punitive damages are often awarded in cases lacking evidence of malice and which are brought against Baltimore City police officers. Recent cases in which punitive damages were awarded include a case that resulted in the jury determining reasonable evidence that a police sergeant spit on an arrestee. Still, such cases are rare. Moreover, it is policy of the Law Department that where counsel for an involved officer believes punitive damages were awarded inappropriately, either because the presiding judge should never have allowed the jury to consider punitive damages in the first place, or because the jury acted on the basis of insufficient evidence, I am committed to doing everything possible to have those awards overturned on appeal. Of course, no police officer ever has to pay the costs of his or her legal representation, regardless of the issues presented in the case.


“Finally, I have made clear that I will consider on a case-by-case basis any officer’s request for indemnification as to a particular award of punitive damages. Again, this is in keeping with longstanding Law Department policy.


“Instead of speaking out forcefully to encourage FOP members to police in a professional and constitutional manner, as the Commissioner-Designate has promised will be his guiding light, and as the federal court consent decree mandates the Police Department to achieve, the FOP leadership’s message seems to be an attempt to dissuade officers from continuing to do their challenging jobs in good faith reliance on the City’s contractual and state law obligation to protect them from baseless lawsuits. This is unfortunate and troubling. Nevertheless, the Law Department will always stand with our officers and give them the legal defense, counsel, and such additional training as may be needed so that they remain on the constitutional side of urban policing in the twenty-first century at all times.


“We invite the FOP to join in this endeavor for the benefit of all concerned.”


Please contact the City of Baltimore Law Department at 410-396-8393 with interview requests for Solicitor Andre M. Davis.




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