While hospitalized with a fractured ankle and broken jaw, John Bonkowski reached for his smartphone to find out about the man who beat him outside a parking garage, says the Baltimore Sun. He typed “Officer Michael McSpadden” into Google. The results stunned Bonkowski. He found references showing that the longtime Baltimore officer had been accused in three separate civil lawsuits: of kicking and stomping a woman, of breaking a man’s wrist and of beating a man unconscious with a police baton. Settlements in those lawsuits had cost city taxpayers more than $485,000. After two surgeries, Bonkowski also sued McSpadden. The city agreed to pay Bonkowski $75,000.
McSpadden is not the only officer who has faced multiple lawsuits, forcing the city to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars on judgments and settlements, The Sun found that police leaders, city attorneys and other top officials were not keeping track of officers who repeatedly faced lawsuits with allegations of brutality. City lawyers did not understand the extent of McSpadden’s string of lawsuits until the Sun started asking questions about the officer. The Baltimore Police Department, like others around the nation, has a policy designed to protect people under arrest. It says officers are to “ensure the safety of the arrestee” when taking people into custody. The Sun found that officers do not always follow policy in reporting the use of force, making it harder for agency leaders to detect problems.