Las Vegas police mishaps costing taxpayers

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Las Vegas police mishaps costing taxpayers

By Darcy Spears. CREATED Oct 29, 2013

Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Whether it's a case of mistaken identity, an overly aggressive traffic stop or excessive use of force, you pay millions when Las Vegas Metropolitan Police behaves badly.

We asked Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears to see just how much you're paying for Metro's mishaps.

"I don't want no one to ever have to endure the hell that I went through, because it's not fair, and it's not right," said the Rondha Gibson.

Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson was unarmed when he was shot and killed by police in December, 2011 after refusing to obey orders. Cost to taxpayers? $1.5 million.

21-year-old Trevon Cole was shot and killed by police during a botched drug raid in June of 2010.
After an internal review, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said in January 2012, "We made mistakes that led up to that search warrant and the execution of that search warrant and I think it's appropriate for us to admit that."

Cost to taxpayers? $1.7 million.

"There's obviously a lot of money that we're talking about here," said County Commissioner Steve Sisolak.

Contact 13 obtained a spreadsheet from Metro detailing $5.5 million in payouts from 2011 through August of 2013. 

Commissioner Sisolak, who sits on Metro's Fiscal Affairs Committee, says they're faced with settlement approvals at every single meeting. 

But Metro says liability and legal are less than one percent of their annual operating expenses.

"Well, if the budget's $500,000 million, one percent is $5 million.  I don't know how that compares on a national average," Sisolak said.

So what are you paying for?

The family of 29-year-old Dustin Boone got a $1 million settlement in 2011. The mentally ill man stopped breathing right after his arrest and died in late 2009.

Then there's Dwyane Jackson. His $1.5 million settlement in 2011 came after a DNA mix-up led to his wrongful conviction for a violent robbery.

Mitchell Eugene Crooks got a $100,000 settlement in 2011. Crooks sued police for beating him as he taped them from his driveway while officers investigated a burglary across the street from his home.

You even paid $40,000 over some facial hair.

"It was an issue where one of the officers was growing a beard and it was a skin disease he had, there was a policy against growing the beard and we settled that one too," Sisolak said.

Metro's partnership with the community is proudly proclaimed right outside their headquarters, but that partnership isn't just costing you money in settlements. 

Where there are lawsuits, there also lawyers and taxpayers are paying millions of dollars in attorneys fees as well.

As of the end of August, there were 153 open lawsuits against Metro. That's up from the two previous years.

Attorney fees for 2011 and 2012 were more than $5.2 million.

And it'll be a few million more by the end of this year.

"I know Metro's got in-house attorneys on staff, but we outsource a lot of legal work," said Sisolak.

He believes they may be able to curb some costs by re-evaluating that practice.

Contact 13 has learned there's another seven-figure settlement in the pipeline over a case of excessive force and mistaken identity. 

Metro lost the case in court, so taxpayers will soon be on the hook once again. 

This time, for approximately $1.8 million.

Attorney Fees for Officer Involved Shootings:

Bryan Austin et al v LVMPD et al - DOL: 6/11/06
Settlement - $89,000 on 5/28/10
Attorney fees and costs - $54,873.41

Estate of Trevon Cole et al v LVMPD et al - DOL: 6/11/10
Settlement - $1,700,000 on 2/6/12
Attorney fees and costs - Approximately $99,047.07

Darcy Spears

Darcy Spears

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Darcy Spears is currently the Chief Investigative Reporter for Action News.