Disabled Iowa Woman Reaches Settlement with Police

A woman who sued two Dubuque police officers for using excessive force has reached a settlement, attorneys said.

Carrie Bills, who has cerebral palsy, claimed the officers caused her “excruciating pain” when they arrested her Feb. 11, 2003, for disorderly conduct.

Details of the settlement have not been released. Attorneys for both sides reached the agreement this week, less than a day after a federal jury ordered the officers to pay Bills $68,000. Jeff Tronvold, Bills’ attorney, said he agreed to the settlement because an appeals court probably would not have upheld much of the punitive damages.

Dubuque attorney Les Reddick, who represented the city of Dubuque, said the settlement “is substantially less than the judgment and recognizes that the punitive damages shouldn’t have been awarded.”

About a dozen witnesses testified during the trial, which began Monday in the U.S. District Court in Cedar Rapids. The jury deliberated more than seven hours before reaching its verdict Wednesday night.

Police charged Bills, 30, with disorderly conduct and interference with official acts after she allegedly refused to leave an apartment and kicked officers while being taken into custody. She later pleaded guilty to an amended charge of trespassing and received a deferred judgment, while the interference charge was dismissed.

Bills filed the lawsuit last year, claiming officers Stan Ryan and Mike Schmit lifted her left arm behind her back, and then pressed her against a table and forcibly placed handcuffs on her.

“As they went down the stairs, Carrie’s left wrist slid out of the handcuff since her wrist is underdeveloped, given her cerebral palsy,” the lawsuit states. The officers allegedly then accused her of trying to escape and exerted more force.

Tronvold said the jury’s decision “sends a strong message that police have to be very cognizant of people’s rights and disabilities when they make arrests.”

The police officers remain employed by the Police Department and are not at any personal financial risk because of the lawsuit, Reddick said. The city’s insurer, Iowa Communities Assurance Pool, is responsible for paying the settlement.