‘Piece of cargo’: Baltimore woman awarded $95K for ‘rough ride’ by police

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Amid continued tension between police and the community, the city of Baltimore has agreed to pay a woman $95,000 who alleged she was given a “rough ride” in a police van three years ago, something police were criticized for in the death of Freddie Gray.

The “rough ride” case involved Christine Abbott, who was arrested at a private party on Falls Road, Baltimore in 2012 after police followed up on a noise complaint. When police arrived, they threatened to use a Taser gun on her boyfriend when he refused to put out his cigarette. Abbott intervened but was told to “calm down” by the cops, according to court documents obtained by Baltimore Brew.

Officer Lee Grishot then allegedly “grabbed Abbott and threw her to the ground,” causing her dress to “become ripped” and “exposing her breasts” as she was stood up by the officer, the Baltimore Brew reported. Her shoulder and breasts were cut and bleeding.

She said two officers put her, bleeding and in handcuffs, into a police transport van, which they then “maniacally drove” to the police station, tossing her around the interior of the van and causing her further injury. Abbott said it left her feeling like a “piece of cargo,” according to the Baltimore Sun.

In court documents, police officers denied giving Abbot a “rough ride,” but one officer admitted he did not strap or harness her into the back of the van, as required by police procedures.

Abbott was charged with “assault, resisting arrest, obstructing and hindering, and disorderly conduct,” and was detained for nearly a day before being released. She was hospitalized for her injuries and the charges against her were later dismissed.

“Because of conflicting factual and legal issues involved, and given the uncertainties and unpredictability of jury verdicts, the parties propose to settle the matter for a total sum of $95,000 in return for a dismissal of the litigation,” according to the Board of Estimates, as reported by BaltimoreBrew.

Another Baltimore police misconduct case involves a likely settlement for $125,000 to be awarded to Dameatrice Moore, a bystander who was shot in the stomach and arm during a scuffle between police and a suspect in January 2013. Moore was treated for his injuries at Johns Hopkins Hospital and was not charged in the incident.

The same board approved a $6.4 million settlement for the family of Freddie Gray to avoid protracted litigation, according to Mayor Rawlings-Blake.

The settlement of Abbott’s case comes as the city is preparing for the trial of six officers involved in the eerily similar arrest and transport of Freddie Gray, 25, who was also given a “rough ride” before arriving at the police precinct in a coma. He was taken to a trauma center and died a week later due to injuries to his spinal cord. An autopsy reported, obtained by the Sun, stated that Gray had suffered a “high-energy injury” to his neck and spine, mostly likely as the van suddenly decelerated.

The settlements also come as news reports over the summer suggested violent crime has been on the rise in Baltimore since Gray’s death, for which the six police officers involved were indicted, and the subsequent protests.

In May, a statement from Lieutenant Gene Ryan, president of the Baltimore Fraternal Order of Police, was posted on social media that said the police were “under siege,” according to CBS.

“The criminals are taking advantage of the situation in Baltimore since the unrest,” Ryan wrote. “(Police) are more afraid of going to jail for doing their jobs properly than they are of getting shot on duty.”

Baltimore Police Department whistleblower Michael Wood told RT that it was “a weird thing” for the president of the police union “to say cops were scared.” He also asserted that there was “no correlation” between their fear and the crime rate going up.

“It is pure conjecture,” Wood told RT.

The website FiveThirtyEight analyzed police data in June and found that, while homicides and non-fatal shootings have become more common, the overall crime rate, which includes robberies, rapes, and assaults, had generally stayed the same. The site also said that even if there was an uptick in recent crime in Baltimore, the rates were much lower than they have historically been in the city.

Wood said the larger question should be: What do Americans want police to be?

“We commonly refer to it as law enforcement, but is that what we really want?” said Wood. “If a lawmaker says we are going to lock up anybody with a spring-assisted knife, [Freddie Gray’s alleged weapon] with no reason, and we go out and do that, and we don’t evaluate the ethical and moral ramification of what we are doing, then what are police other than enforcers or occupiers?”

“I don’t think that is what we meant police to be. We want police to be community members, we want them to be peace officers, to be guardians.”