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GF pays man $100,000 settlement

Almost a year since police officers made Jason Hickman stand in dangerously cold weather without a coat, hat or gloves during a traffic stop, the 25-year-old received a six-figure settlement from the city of Grand Forks.

Hickman, of East Grand Forks, was paid $100,000 in exchange for him releasing the city and its officers from liability in the February 2008 incident that reportedly left his ears frostbitten and tears frozen to his face.

Hickman's attorney, Tom Omdahl of Grand Forks, said his client, who hasn't enjoyed the notoriety the incident has caused, was pleased to get the matter behind him.

"I just think the guy didn't bring this on himself; it was brought on him," Omdahl said. "He just wanted it over."

Omdahl said the city will benefit from new police training and policies that were sparked by the incident.

"It's better for the community that it happened because we have a better police force," he said. "I think it's resulted in a police force that's more responsive to the public's need."

Mayor Mike Brown was also glad a resolution was reached.

"We look forward to working together to implement safeguards so this doesn't happen again," he said.

Omdahl said he and the city spent much of Jan. 14 negotiating the settlement with the help of a mediator hired by the city. Omdahl, who received a percentage of the one-time payment, would not say how much he and Hickman originally requested from the city.

In a news release issued by Hickman and the city Monday, Chief John Packett acknowledged that Hickman did "nothing that warranted his exposure to the winter elements that evening." Also in the release, the department apologized to Hickman and invited him and his mother to meet with officials to discuss police policies and procedures.

Hickman recognized that the department's investigation into the incident and the disciplinary actions taken were prompt and appropriate, and that the police have taken "further corrective action through additional training of members of the Department," according to the release which was signed by Packett and Hickman.

The $100,000 check came from the North Dakota Insurance Reserve Fund, which provides coverage to the city and, according to its Web site, "is a not-for-profit organization owned by its members and our goal is to be a stable source of risk services to North Dakota's political subdivisions by providing cost effective liability, automobile and public assets coverage."

The mayor did not know how much the settlement will cost the city in real dollars, but said no money would come from the general fund. Brown referred other questions to City Attorney Howard Swanson, who did not return a message left at his home Monday evening. Lt. Jim Remer of the Grand Forks Police also referred questions to Swanson.