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Taxpayer bill for Metro's mistakes may reach record level

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Updated: 5/17/2012 7:42 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- When Metro messes up—we all pay up… News 3’s Mackenzie Warren did some digging to find out just how much Metro's mistakes have cost you, the taxpayer, in recent years. This year is on pace to become the most expensive year yet.

When a Metro officer violates one citizen’s rights, the other citizens pay up. Sheriff Doug Gillespie hasn't responded to our request for an interview to talk settlements. But Gillespie sat down with our own Jon Ralston Tuesday night to discuss excessive force and officer involved shootings.

“I think when you take a look at the LVMPD over the years, to categorize us as "not willing to change"—I don't think is fair,” says Gillespie.

Take a look at the timeline of payouts over the past five years, not just for the obvious violations, but also for minor ones like fender benders.
  • 2008: Metro wrote 25 checks for a total of $1,001,595
  • 2009: Metro wrote 37 checks for a total of $1,386,812
  • 2010: Metro wrote 36 checks for a total of $728,814
  • 2011: Metro wrote 42 checks for a total of $3,206,996
  • As of April 2012: Metro wrote 12 checks for a total of $1,907,000
  • TOTAL OVER FIVE YEARS: $6,514,918
Sheriff Gillespie explains, “Whether we have one or 25—the important thing is that you look at each one of those instances and you evaluate those.”

Gillespie says he's looking at new equipment and training policies to save lives and taxpayer dollars. He is also battling a big question mark: right now there are 19 pending coroner inquests.

“It's tough to bring closure to these cases.” Caught up in the courts for now, each of the 19 cases is a potential pay-out and Gillespie is planning for the growing cost. This year Metro budgeted $1.1 million. For fiscal year 2013, which starts July 1st, Metro wants to set aside $8.2 million. Translation: Metro is asking to bump its insurance fund by nearly 600%.

“I think in policing it's very important for us to be open, transparent and willing to change and demonstrate that to the public,” Gillespie said.

Critics like the ACLU say Metro should track the cops responsible for pay-outs and take action if they spot a trend.

“I’ve never been afraid of someone coming in and taking a look at Metro from the outside,” Gillespie said.

A branch of the Department of Justice continues to review Metro's use-of-force policy.

“I’m not afraid in this case,” Gillespie said. “Do I believe they will come forward with some recommendations on what they think we can improve? Yes. And do I think they'll also find we do many things right? I believe that as well.”

The DOJ findings will be released soon, according to the sheriff. He says some policy changes will follow and members of Metro Fiscal Affairs hope the changes will save lives and dollars.
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