Time and time again it’s been proven that police violence isn’t only blatantly fucked up, it’s incredibly expensive for taxpayers, as well. A Black woman in Virginia was awarded $300,000 by a jury after being injured by a police officer during a 2015 traffic stop.
According to the Associated Press, the then-54-year-old Monica Cromartie was stopped by former Petersburg Police Officer Brian Lee Billings on Feb. 12, 2015 for speeding. She initially left her car to protest the stop, but obeyed Billings’ command when he told her to get back in the car. When Billings approached the car, Cromartie told him to leave her alone while she was on her phone discussing the stop with a friend. She testified that within seconds Billings pulled her out of the car, slammed her on the ground and placed his full weight on her back with his knee. She suffered injuries to her forehead, lip, teeth, knees, and received a scar on her right eyebrow.
AP notes that a jury had previously awarded Cromartie $23,499 in damages in 2017 after finding that Billings “assaulted, falsely imprisoned and maliciously prosecuted her on a charge of obstruction of justice.”
However, the trial judge granted a defense motion that the jury would not be allowed to decide Cromartie’s claims that Billings violated her Fourth Amendment rights against excessive force and false arrest, and for an illegal search of her car and her purse, finding that the officer was entitled to immunity on those claims.
Cromartie appealed, and in 2020, the Supreme Court of Virginia reversed the trial judge’s ruling and found that the officer was liable on all of the claims in Cromartie’s lawsuit.
On Monday, a jury in Petersburg Circuit Court awarded Cromartie $300,000 in punitive and compensatory damages.
The majority of the encounter was captured on body camera footage and was shown to the jury during both trials. Billings, who retired shortly after the incident, testified that he didn’t face discipline for the incident, because of course he didn’t.
Tom Roberts, the attorney who represented Cromartie in both trials, said that she still suffers from lingering psychological and physical damage from the encounter, noting both her missing tooth and the scar above her eye.
He added that Cromartie testified she didn’t call the police during two separate incidents: one involving a potential domestic assault by her estranged husband, and the other involving her neighbor who confronted her with a baseball bat after a conflict with her grandchildren.
“She chose not to call the police because of her experience with Officer Billings that made her demonstrably fearful of interacting with the police in the very situation where police should have been called,” Roberts told AP.
Andrew Bodoh, another one of Cromartie’s attorneys, said that she was ultimately satisfied with the jury’s decision. “She was very glad that after carrying this matter for six years of her life that she finally got the verdict on the constitutional claims that she was looking for, something that demonstrates that the conduct of this officer was not acceptable for the city of Petersburg or for the state,” Bodoh told AP.