Westbrook has settled a lawsuit filed by a Lewiston man who said police officers pulled him over and then arrested him because he is Black.

City Manager Jerre Bryant did not comment on the settlement or answer a question Thursday about whether any officers were disciplined as a result of the incident. Asked about training or policy changes, he cited a program related to implicit bias.

“The Westbrook Police Department continues to identify training and educational opportunities to best serve the evolving social, economic, cultural, ethnic and racial diversity of our community,” Bryant wrote in a brief email. “One recent example of this ongoing initiative is a department-wide introspective program on implicit bias.”

Vincent Oden received a payment of $40,000 as part of the settlement agreement. That payment included $10,000 directly from the city to meet an insurance deductible, and the rest was paid by the insurance carrier. Attorney Adam Lee, who represented Oden, said last week that the agreement precluded him and his client from discussing the case.

Oden sued in U.S. District Court in Portland last year for violations of his constitutional rights, false imprisonment, malicious prosecution and other claims. The complaint described his encounter with Westbrook police during a traffic stop in January 2018. It said he was driving home from work when firefighters waved him past a truck attending to a snapped telephone pole on Main Street, but a police officer stopped his car even though white drivers had also passed through the area without being pulled over.

Oden told the officer that he had not consumed any intoxicants and he was safe to drive home. He also indicated that he had his prescription medication in the car for a recent tooth extraction and an Achilles tendon injury. Still, the officer performed sobriety tests, which the complaint said Oden passed.

The officer described Oden to other members of the department as “a Black male out of Lewiston,” the complaint said. After consulting with a sergeant, the officer handcuffed and arrested Oden, who said he did not receive the required Miranda warnings. The complaint said a breath test at the Cumberland County Jail showed no drugs or alcohol in his system.

“The conclusion of the drug recognition evaluation indicated that he was in fact not under the influence,” the complaint said.

Court documents show Oden was still charged with possession of a scheduled drug for the prescription, which was not identified. No documents filed in the lawsuit specify whether that charge was a misdemeanor or a felony. Oden was also subject to bail conditions that prohibited him from being in a place that served alcohol, which stopped his plans to open a barbecue restaurant with a liquor license and his side job as a disc jockey. The charge and the bail conditions were later dropped.

The complaint said Oden, who is a military veteran, was subsequently diagnosed with severe depressive disorder and was undergoing treatment at Togus in Augusta.

Westbrook officials and police officers named in the complaint denied or did not respond to most of the allegations. Their written answer did not offer any further explanation as to why Oden was stopped or arrested. The court record shows the parties engaged in multiple video settlement conferences earlier this year. The case will be dismissed now that a settlement has been reached.

The Westbrook City Council voted Feb. 1 to authorize the $10,000 payment as part of the settlement. The written agreement holds Oden “in strict and complete confidence” about the case.

Data shows Black people in Westbrook were disproportionately subject to use of force by a police officer last year, a trend that mirrors national and regional statistics. Former Police Chief Janine Roberts presented that finding and others to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee in December.

The analysis covered use-of-force incidents in 2019. Out of more than 30,000 calls for service that year, the number that involved force was 132 – less than 1 percent. Twenty-two percent of those force incidents involved Black people, even though they make up 5 percent of the city’s population, according to census data. Roberts’ presentation also indicated that a larger proportion of cases involving Black residents compared to white residents were initiated by the officer.

The disparity was worse for juveniles. Twenty-one – nearly 16 percent – of all use-of-force incidents involved people under 18 years old. More than half were youth of color. Eight, or 38 percent, were Black. Three were identified as other races. Nine, of 42 percent, were white.

That presentation did not include broader data about racial disparities in arrests and summonses, which Portland and South Portland have released.

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