By Donna Owens
BALTIMORE (Reuters) - Baltimore officials on Wednesday approved paying $280,000 to settle three lawsuits against police, payments that come amid a surge in killings following the death of a man injured in police custody.
The five-member Board of Estimates approved the payments for allegations that included assault, battery and false arrest. Two of the incidents took place in 2012 and the third was in 2011.
"Every time you do a settlement, it's alarming," Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, a member of the fiscal control panel, told reporters after the meeting.
Baltimore paid out about $12 million from 2010 to 2014 to settle claims and judgments against police, city hall figures show. The amount dropped to $1.6 million last year from $4.4 million in 2010, and 2015 figures will be compiled when the year is over.
Baltimore is grappling with an upsurge of violence following the death in April of Freddie Gray, a 25-year-old black man who died from a spinal injury sustained in police custody.
Gray's death sparked protests and hours of rioting and looting. Six officers have been charged in the case.
Murders surged in months following Gray's death to highs not seen since the 1970s. Baltimore has recorded 201 homicides so far this year compared with 211 for all of 2014, according to a running tally by the Baltimore Sun newspaper.
Police have blamed the uptick on gang turf wars fueled by drugs looted from pharmacies during rioting in late April. Media reports have quoted officers as saying they are reluctant to act against alleged wrongdoers for fear of facing charges.
(Editing by Ian Simpson and Sandra Maler)