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City decides on gag orders involving police brutality settlements

Cities across the country rely on their police departments to ensure the safety of their residents.  Sadly, occasionally people become victims of police brutality when officers cross the line between public servant and perpetrator. As in other civil cases, victims of these types of disturbing encounters may be required to keep silent about the terms of any settlements between a city and the victim. However, victims in Arizona -- and elsewhere -- should have a right to speak out about the harm that may have been inflicted by those who purportedly abused their authority.

One city was sued by a division of the American Civil Liberties Union for requiring that victims of police brutality refrain from discussing the terms of any settlement agreements. In most cases, a nondisclosure agreement stipulates that public comments concerning details of a particular case will result in a settlement being drastically reduced or negated entirely. The clause, a nondisparagement agreement, states that the victim is not permitted to make comments that would cast the city, police department or other employees in a bad light. 

The ACLU of Maryland filed a civil lawsuit on behalf of a woman whose settlement was reduced by half when she allegedly responded to a social media post concerning a lawsuit she filed over the actions of several officers. A lower court initially ruled against the woman. However, an appeals court overturned that decision, ruling that the actions of Baltimore City officials were unconstitutional.  

The mayor signed an executive order that will allow victims in some cases to speak openly about their experiences. However, the ACLU claims that the order does not go far enough in allowing the public access to information regarding alleged incidents of police brutality. Arizona victims are entitled to pursue every available avenue in seeking compensation for any damages they incur as a result of the harmful actions of those in positions of authority.

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