The town of York will pay a local doctor $325,000 to settle a federal lawsuit alleging that police used excessive force and violated his civil rights when a York officer released a police dog on him during a contentious traffic stop three years ago.

Dr. Stephen Brennan sued the town of York and patrolman Jonathan Rogers after Brennan was seriously injured when Rogers’ police dog bit Brennan and Rogers struck him during a struggle.

This photo of injuries to Dr. Stephen Brennan’s face was provided by his lawyer after the traffic stop in 2019.

No one admitted fault as part of the settlement, and the money will be paid by the town’s insurer, the Maine Municipal Association risk pool.

Brennan practiced pediatrics in York for more than 30 years and is now retired. He declined a request for an interview through his attorney, Alexander Spadinger.

“The value of this settlement clearly shows the initial attempts by the York Police Department to paint Dr. Brennan as the aggressor were not accurate representations of what actually occurred,” said Spadinger. “Dr. Brennan was in the process of getting down on the ground to surrender when the K-9 was released.”

The agreement was the product of mediation, said Kasia Park, an attorney for the town. A trial in this case would have likely involved costly expert witness testimony about police use of force and of K-9s, she said.

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She disputed Spadinger’s characterization of the stop as routine, and the two sides still do not agree on what happened that night.

“A K-9 was not used because Dr. Brennan failed to dim his headlights, which seems to be what was represented,” Park said. “Dr. Brennan got out of his vehicle before the officer stopped the cruiser. The officer didn’t know the identity of the driver, whether or not he was armed. Dr. Brennan refused commands several times.”

The settlement also provides Brennan and his wife an opportunity to meet with Owen Davis, York’s acting chief of police, to offer their input on use-of-force policy and de-escalation tactics. Davis was not available Tuesday and no one from the police department returned a call seeking an interview.

The roadside confrontation began after midnight Sept. 20, 2019, when Brennan flashed his high beams at oncoming traffic to alert other drivers to police cars monitoring Route 1 nearby.

But the oncoming driver who saw the flash happened to be Rogers, who made a U-turn and pulled Brennan over about 12:15 a.m.

The situation escalated when Brennan got out of his car and approached Rogers’ vehicle as he came rolling to a stop behind Brennan’s vehicle. Edward Benjamin, an attorney for the town, said Brennan refused to comply with commands to stop advancing.

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Spadinger argued in the lawsuit that Brennan approached the officer to explain himself but Rogers’ police dog began barking, making it difficult for him to hear what Rogers was saying.

Rogers drew his gun and commanded Brennan to stop advancing. Brennan then began to return to his vehicle.

Rogers believed Brennan was not complying and did not know why Brennan was returning to his vehicle or what might be inside it, according to Benjamin. Rogers then released a police dog from his cruiser and the dog attacked Brennan.

The pediatrician suffered puncture wounds to his legs and arms, a chest-wall injury and trauma to one eye, according to Spadinger. Brennan was taken to York Hospital and was charged with refusing to submit to arrest, but the criminal count was later dropped, according to court records.

Police said Brennan was acting erratically and was combative with Rogers. Spadinger said Brennan intended to explain himself, not start a fight.

“Dr. Brennan practiced pediatric medicine in the Town of York for over three decades, and he was familiar with a number of the members of the York Police Department,” Spadinger said in response to written questions. “When he got out of the vehicle he intended to explain to the officer why he flashed his high beams and apologize. In the small Town of York, Maine, before September 2019, Dr. Brennan felt safe doing that. He never expected to immediately have a gun drawn on him or for the situation to escalate so quickly the way it did.”


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