The city of Dunwoody has settled a federal lawsuit against Police Officer Dale Laskowski for $52,000 — the fourth such settlement in a year.
The settlement agreement between Colton Laidlaw and the city was reached March 20, according to court documents. The settlement marks the fourth lawsuit the city has settled against Laskowski by men who alleged he conducted traffic stops and then searched and detained them illegally.
The city’s insurance paid this most recent settlement and also paid to settle the three prior lawsuits for a total of $187,000. As part of the settlement, however, Laskowski denied any wrongdoing and the agreement is not an admission of liability.
Police Chief Billy Grogan said Laskowski remains on the force.
Laidlaw stated in his lawsuit filed in August against Laskowski that the officer stopped him in 2014, when he was 17, on Old Village Run near the intersection of Village Court while he was driving to work.
According to the lawsuit, Laskowski told Laidlaw he stopped him for driving more than 15 mph on a curve and wanted to make sure he was not on his cellphone or listening to loud music.
“Then, without any reasonable suspicion or probable cause to believe that the plaintiff was committing or about to commit any crime, defendant asked plaintiff if he used ‘occasional recreational marijuana,’ ” the lawsuit stated.
Laidlaw denied he was speeding or used marijuana, but Laskowski said he could see marijuana in his vehicle which gave him probable cause to search his car, the lawsuit stated.
After demanding Laidlaw step out of his car and patting him down, Laskowksi began an approximately 15-minute search of the teen’s car. No marijuana was found in his vehicle and Laskowski at no time gathered any alleged marijuana as evidence, the lawsuit stated.
After eventually checking Laidlaw’s license and registration, Laskowski lectured the young man for several minutes about the “dangers of having and being caught with marijuana, but then stated that he was going to let [him] go without any charges whatsoever,” according to the lawsuit.
The city settled three other search-related lawsuits against Laskowski in March 2016 for a total of $135,000, while also not acknowledging any liability or wrongdoing. The three men who sued Laskowski claimed in their lawsuits that the officer conducted unconstitutional searches during traffic stops in 2013.
Laidlaw’s lawsuit has some differences from the three lawsuits filed in 2013 and settled earlier this year. In those three cases, Laskowski called for the Doraville K-9 unit to conduct drug sniffing around the men’s vehicles after they refused to allow the officer to search their cars.
Grogan previously said, regarding the three other lawsuits, that the department changed its policy long before the settlements and now requires an officer to get a supervisor’s approval before requesting a K-9 unit.
The department also follows a 2015 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that states, “absent reasonable suspicion, police extension of a traffic stop in order to conduct a dog sniff violates the Constitution’s shield against unreasonable seizures,” Grogan said.