BY MEGAN GRAY
Thursday December 3, 2020
The city says there was no settlement in the case, which alleged that what happened to Mumina Ali fit a pattern of unconstitutional treatment of Somali refugees and Black residents.
A woman has dropped a federal lawsuit that alleged Portland police officers used excessive force in 2014.
Mumina Ali of Portland filed the complaint in U.S. District Court of Portland in July against the city, two police officers and the former police chief over an incident at Maine Medical Center six years ago.
Ali said she was looking for her teenage daughter at the hospital when police illegally arrested her, and she was then tied to a hospital bed and medicated without her consent. At one point during the arrest, she said, she fell to the ground and chipped a tooth, and then an officer choked her until she lost consciousness. The lawsuit described injuries to her neck and shoulder that still pain her years later.In addition to describing her own encounter, the complaint said that what happened to Ali fit a pattern of unconstitutional treatment of Somali refugees and Black residents by the city’s police department. Data released earlier this year by the department shows that Black people in Portland are more likely than white people to be arrested, cited and subjected to use of force by police. Chief Frank Clark has said he will ask outside experts to review that trend and provide feedback to the city.
An attorney for the city filed a response in September that denied Ali’s claims. The parties agreed to a schedule for discovery and motions to be filed in the case.
This week, less than two months later, they jointly filed a stipulation of dismissal with no explanation. The document said they agreed that the case would be dismissed with prejudice, which means Ali cannot bring her claims again. A city spokeswoman said there was no settlement in the case.
A lawyer for Ali declined to say more about why the case was dismissed.
“These are really difficult cases, and ultimately it was just determined that to dismiss this case at this time was the appropriate resolution for my client,” attorney Thomas Hallett said Wednesday. “It was in my client’s best interest.”
The lawsuit named officers Jeffrey Druan and Suna Shaw, as well as former police Chief Michael Sauschuck. He led the department until 2018 and is now Maine’s public safety commissioner. The lawsuit said Druan had used excessive force, and that Shaw had been involved in the incident.
Clark, who now heads the department, said the internal affairs division reviewed the incident in 2014 and found no wrongdoing by Druan. In light of this lawsuit, Clark said, he reviewed the allegations and evidence in that case again and agreed with the conclusion from six years ago. It is not clear what type of evidence was included in that investigation, and when asked to provide those materials to the Portland Press Herald, the chief deferred to a city attorney.
“The evidence simply did not support the allegations that the officer choked or otherwise used excessive force against anyone in this case,” Clark said in an interview Wednesday.
In 2017, Black people accounted for 23 percent of arrests and 26 percent of reported uses of force by Portland police, but made up only 7 percent of the population, the lawsuit alleges. The racial disparity has persisted for years and mirrors national trends.
“This is not new,” the lawsuit said.
Asked about those allegations, Clark said he is “in the preliminary stages” of the evaluation he promised earlier this summer.
“We’re trying to work out with a couple colleges or universities to have some independent subject matter experts take a look at our data,” Clark said.
Ali was a refugee from Somalia and has lived in the United States for 15 years. She became an American citizen in 2010. One of her daughters is Portland activist Hamdia Ahmed, who has led demonstrations against anti-immigrant policies, systemic racism and police brutality for years. She was not available Wednesday to talk about the outcome of her mother’s lawsuit.