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Verdicts & Settlements

Corruption, Police Misconduct Will Cost Baltimore Taxpayers $8m

— November 18, 2020

The settlement follows the wrongful 2008 arrest of two men who were jumped by masked, plainclothes members of a defunct police task force.

Baltimore is set to pay $8 million to two men who were imprisoned after members a police task force planted drugs on them.

According to ABC News, the city’s spending board is scheduled to take up the settlement on Wednesday. The Board of Estimates has already approved several other relevant settlements in recent weeks, all of which relate to the Gun Trace Task Force.

FOX Baltimore notes that GTTF-related litigation has already cost the city hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“These lawsuits cost more than $250,000,” said David Williams of the Maryland Taxpayer Alliance. “It’s going to be a hit to Baltimore City and it didn’t have to happen. Taxpayers want to know what City Hall is going to do about this. What the current mayor, the next mayor [are going to do].

“This is a public safety problem,” Williams said, “but it’s also a taxpayer problem.”

The task force, says ABC, was once considered among Baltimore’s most effective police units, created for the sole, specific purpose of taking illegal firearms off the streets.

But Wednesday’s probable settlement is by far the largest that the Board of Estimates has considered.

Man holding a handgun. Image via (CCA-BY-0.0)

The proposal, so far, includes $6.3 million for Umar Burley and Brent Matthews. It will also forward $1.8 million to settle an unpaid lien for the estate of the late Elbert Davis.

Burley and Matthews, notes ABC, “encountered” Gun Trace Task Force members during an illegal traffic stop in 2010. While task force officers say they had caught the men in the middle of a drug deal, Burley and Matthews long maintained that two cars—full of masked, plainclothes officers—pulled up alongside them, jumping out with firearms in hand.

Fearing a robbery or worse, both men attempted to flee the scene in a vehicle, sparking a high-speed car chase.

Eventually, Burley crashed into another vehicle, killing Davis.

After they were taken into custody and then court, the two men were sentenced on an assortment of charges. Burley spent seven years behind bars, while Matthews was in prison for two and a half years.

Steve Silverman, an attorney for the two men, recalls how Gun Trace Task Force officers had planted drugs on the plaintiffs.

“Mr. Burley and Mr. Matthews were overtly and unfathomably framed by a conspiracy of at least four police officers,” Silverman said in a statement. “It should not take an army of lawyers litigating for years to right wrongs like this.”

Ultimately, corruption in the Gun Trace Task Force led to more than a dozen officers being criminally convicted. It also resulted in hundreds of criminal cases being vacated.


Baltimore to pay about $8M in police corruption settlement

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Family to sue BPD after Gun Trace Task Force-related incident leaves father dead in 2010

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