According to The Washington Post, police misconduct has cost taxpayers upwards of $3 billion over the past decade as units around the country settle countless cases with victims and their families. The Baltimore Police Department‘s Gun Trace Task Force has specifically cost the city $22.2 million since its creation in 2007 as it resolves lawsuits brought against them. Its latest payout, stemming from a deadly police chase, is the task force’s biggest settlement yet.
On April 28, 2010, Umar Burley was picking up his friend Brent Matthews in Baltimore’s Grove Park neighborhood. But when Matthews got in the car, their vehicle was boxed in and surrounded by plainclothes police officers with masks on and guns drawn. Burley believed they were being robbed, so he drove off, leading to a high-speed chase. Shortly thereafter, Burley crashed into another car at an intersection, killing 86-year-old Elbert Davis Sr. and seriously injuring his wife, Phosa Cain.
In 2018, their daughter Shirley Johnson filed a federal lawsuit after discovering the cause of the police pursuit that led to the fatal accident. The Gun Trace Task Force was formed to get illegal guns off the street, but since its inception, members have been convicted of robbing drug dealers, planting narcotics and firearms on innocent people, and assaulting civilians. Over $20 million has been awarded to settle nearly 40 cases involving the rogue law enforcement unit, and Johnson’s legal victory on Wednesday marks the city’s biggest payment to date.
The settlement is the culmination of Johnson’s yearslong battle for justice and search for the truth. Initial accounts of the crash covered up the egregious details of police misconduct that eventually came out years later. With every new detail revealed, she and her family had to relive difficult memories as they worked to uncover what actually happened and find a resolution to their pain.
“They were feeding us this lie for over seven years. That’s how long it took before we found out what really happened to our parents,” Johnson told The Associated Press. “It’s crazy to think that Baltimore City police officers, who are supposed to protect and serve, were out there committing all kinds of crimes… and they covered it up for so long.”