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Baltimore Settles Suit Over Unwarranted Arrests

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By Rebecca Blatt

Baltimore has agreed to an $870,000 settlement with the NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union over arrests people claimed were made without probable cause.

The case focused on what ACLU of Maryland lawyer David Rocah calls "high-discretion, nonviolent offenses" such as disorderly conduct or failure to obey an officer.

These include cases where police can use their discretion to determine whether to arrest someone, and the plaintiffs claimed police were abusing that authority.

The settlement includes new directives defining officers' authority and calls for new training. It also mandates better data collection about arrests and requires an outside auditor to monitor it. Rocah says it's now up to the police to implement the changes.

"What matters is not the words in the settlement and what people say, but what people do and how the police department polices its own," he says.

City Solicitor George Nilson said Baltimore argued that the arrest practices were abandoned years ago. But, the city could not have the suit dismissed and agreed to the compromise.

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