Circuit Court Holds Rogue Baltimore City Officers Acted Within “Scope of Employment”

Baltimore Sun article (2019-10-04) reported that the Circuit Court has held Baltimore City liable for a $32,000 judgment against three former Gun Trace Task Force (GTTF) police officers after they were found to have planted a gun on a person they arrested. The case highlighted the challenge of determining when a police officer is acting within the scope of their employment, thereby making the local government liable for their actions.

If upheld on appeal, the case will set a potentially costly precedent for the City as it now may have to indemnify the judgments of hundreds of people who were arrested by the GTTF officers. (The officers have also pled guilty to various federal charges.) The article indicated that Baltimore State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby is filing motions to vacate more than 790 criminal convictions based on the activity of the GTTF officers. The case would also serve as precedent for other local jurisdictions as well.

From the article:

Baltimore Circuit Judge Jeannie Hong determined that the city was liable for the costs because the officers were “acting within the scope of their employment” when they pulled Williams James over during a 2016 traffic stop — “acting, at least in part, by a motivation to fulfill the GTTF mission to find dangerous individuals with weapons.” …

The ruling — which City Solicitor Andre Davis said he will appeal — rejected the city’s argument that the rogue officers were so brazen in their crimes that their actions should be considered beyond the scope of their employment.

The article stated that Davis will join James’ attorney, Mandy Miliman, in jointly asking the Court of Appeals to take up the case. This action would bypass the Court of Special Appeals, the state’s intermediate appellate court.

“[Hong’s] decision is not a precedent for anything, and that’s the reason for our agreement to join in the appeals,” Davis said.