The city council refused to pay out $475,000 to settle two separate police brutality lawsuits on Tuesday night.
First of the lawsuit was filed by Tariq Alqanawi alleging police officers Mahmoud Rabboh, Michael Johnson, and Mohan Singh falsely arrested him in June 2011. He also alleged Rabboh engaged in a series of conduct in which Alqanawi was assaulted and stalked.
Alqanawi alleges he was falsely arrested twice. Once Rabboh allegedly arrested him and placed him in the back seat after spraying the seats with pepper spray. Alqanawi nearly lost consciousness while in the back of the police car.
Rabboh faced similar allegations when he was indicted by the U.S. Attorney’s Office in 2012. The next year the charges against him were dropped and he was cleared.
“I know these are scary times and scary numbers,” said council president William McKoy, when the $435,000 settlement resolution in Alqanawi’s case faltered on the city council floor. “This is a fair settlement.”
“Do we have the merits to go back to the court and say we can win the case? No,” added Luis Velez, 5th Ward councilman.
McKoy said the city is unlikely to prevail in court if the case goes to trial. “If we lose the case you’re talking about multiple that amount,” he told his colleagues.
The police department lacks accountability, said Michael Jackson, 1st Ward councilman. He opposed the settlement by stating it will send the message that police brutality is okay.
“As long as we allow this settlement process to continue the department will not be held accountable,” said Jackson.
Jackson said despite a series of cases where residents have alleged police misconduct little has been put in police to deal with the problem cops.
Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, the administration has to build police accountability. He said there’s no correlation between the settlement resolution and Jackson’s talk of accountability.
The council rejected the settlement in a 4-3-1 vote. Council members Alex Mendez, Maritza Davila, Andre Sayegh, and Jackson voted against settling the case while Shahin Khalique, McKoy, and Velez voted in favor.
Morris abstained from the vote. He was not present when the attorney representing the city discussed the case with council members in a closed-door meeting.
Khalique, McKoy, and Velez argued the settlement is likely to be cheaper than going to trial. The second police brutality lawsuit filed by Mohamed Abdelaziz, who alleged police used excessive force against him on January 6th, 2015, was expected to be settled for $40,000.
The council did not take a vote on Abdelaziz’s settlement resolution allowing it to die on the floor.