A group of five Baltimore police officers could have to personally pay $40,000 in damages after a jury found they acted with “actual malice” in the course of an arrest — a development that prompted a warning from the officers' union and, in turn, a fiery response from the city’s top lawyer.

Photo: Baltimore PD/Facebook

Photo: Baltimore PD/Facebook

The Baltimore police union said that forcing officers to pay up personally was a change in policy by the city. But City Solicitor Andre Davis said Wednesday the policy has not changed and officers have potentially been on the hook for decades in such cases.

Davis told the Baltimore Sun what has changed is that he has been more transparent about the policy, which he noted in materials submitted to the city’s spending board in December. Davis called the police union’s memo an attempt to “stir something up.”

In the case of the five officers — one of whom faces paying $15,000, with the others responsible for smaller amounts — Davis said it was possible he could grant an exception to the rule after further review.

Police union president Gene Ryan in a message Tuesday to union members asserted that the city had “generally supported” officers in the past by paying punitive damages as well as compensatory damages awarded in civil jury trials. Ryan told his members that Davis, a former federal judge who joined the city last year, has changed that policy.

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