St. Louis police pay $4.7 million for 44 settlements

AP News
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Posted: Jun 06, 2016 10:51 AM

ST. LOUIS (AP) — The city of St. Louis has paid $4.7 million to settle 44 cases involving police filed since 2010 over injuries, wrongful imprisonment or death, according to a newspaper review of payouts that had not previously been publicized.

Two of the cases involving six-figure settlements were never reviewed by the city prosecutor's office and there are no plans to do so. Another case, the 2011 fatal shooting of Anthony Lamar Smith, wasn't reviewed for more than four years. The former officer, Jason Stockley, was charged with murder in May, The St. Louis Post-Dispatch reported (http://bit.ly/1XwDxdY ).

The Missouri Attorney General's Office, which represented the police in civil cases until 2013, released the payout amounts after a public records request from the newspaper.

The city paid $900,000 to Smith's survivors in 2013 but the prosecutor's office didn't file charges against former officer Jason Stockley until last month.

The prosecutor's office has not reviewed the case of Cary Ball, whose family was awarded $400,000 after he was shot 21 times in April 2013 after he crashed his car during a police chase. In another case that was not reviewed, the police department agreed to pay $212,500 to the family of Normane Bennett, who was shot in June 2010 after he fled police who were trying to arrest him for alleged drug activity.

The officers involved in the shootings of Ball and Bennett were cleared by the police department.

City Prosecutor Jennifer Joyce was concerned that the police department settled the two shooting cases for a total of more than $600,000 but did not involve the office in reviewing those cases, spokeswoman Susan Ryan said. But Joyce currently has no plans to review either the Ball or Bennett cases, citing a lack of manpower and funding, Ryan said.

In September 2014, the police department established a Force Investigation Unit to review use of force by officers, and Joyce's office started a similar unit to conduct parallel investigations.

An attorney who in March won a $2.5 million award after a trial for a client who was exonerated after spending five years in prison in a case that involved two former St. Louis police officers said local prosecutors should review cases that result in large police settlements.

"In my considerable experience, police departments do not settle and certainly don't settle for a lot of money unless there is clear evidence of liability, clear evidence the shooting was unjustified," said Jon Loevy, of the Chicago firm Loevy & Loevy. "Anything short of that and they decline to settle."

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This story has been corrected to show that Smith was shot in 2011, not 2012.

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Information from: St. Louis Post-Dispatch, http://www.stltoday.com