Minneapolis settles police misconduct case for $3 million

Categories: Police
mplspolice560.jpg
The settlement marks the second-largest police payout in the department's history.
The Minneapolis City Council approved a $3 million payout Friday to the family of David Cornelius Smith, a 28-year-old who died in 2010 after an incident with police officers at the downtown YMCA.

Following Smith's death, his family filed a lawsuit in federal court, alleging the officers used excessive force and suffocated Smith while trying to bring him under control. The city will pay Smith's family $1.1 million from the settlement; their attorneys, Gaskins Bennett Birrell & Schupp, will receive $1.9 in legal fees. The case marks the second-largest police payout in the city's history.

SEE ALSO:
Lawsuit alleging Minneapolis police officers suffocated man at YMCA on track for trial
Minneapolis paid out $868k in police settlements for 2012

"It's a first step in the healing process for the family, but it's a number that shows that David Smith's constitutional rights were violated," says Jeff Storms, attorney for Smith's family.

The case stems from Smith's Sept. 9, 2010 arrest. Smith was acting erratically at the YMCA's basketball court, throwing a ball around aggressively. A gym employee called the police, and officers Timothy Gorman and Timothy Callahan responded.

The officers struggled to subdue Smith, Tasering him multiple times. After the officers held him down for several minutes, Smith stopped breathing. He died in the hospital Sept. 17. The medical examiner ruled the death a homicide.

According to the lawsuit, the officers detained Smith using a controversial tactic called "prone restraint," a hold in which an officer applies pressure to the individual's back, making it difficult for the person to take in oxygen. Smith also suffered from Schizoaffective disorder, which is why he was acting strangely that day, the suit alleges.

After the incident, then-police chief Tim Dolan denied that the officers used excessive force. The city filed for an order of summary judgement earlier this year, asking that all counts be dismissed. In April, Judge Susan Richard Nelson announced she would deny the claim, and that a trial should be set for September or October.

Storms says most police have already received training on how to avoid high-risk holds, but he hopes the case will raise more awareness.

"I think there really shouldn't be an officer left in Minneapolis or Minnesota who doesn't understand the risks associated with positional or mechanical asphyxiation," he says.


Advertisement

My Voice Nation Help
25 comments
Gummy
Gummy

So much concern about how much of the cash goes to the lawyers vs family......

It is almost as if everyone has come to accept misconduct and cash settlements as an inevitable or acceptable recurrence.       Would unnecessary death at the hands of our police be OK if the lawyers only got 10% of the settlement?     

Fretting about the lawyers' payday is a very passive stance..           Taxpayers will keep paying until they demand better policing through a system with transparency and accountability.     This is taxpayer money- your money - start demanding transparency, accountability, and a less expensive status quo.

nbrooks4
nbrooks4

Wow, the lawyers got more than the family who lost a loved one......  Gotta love this system!  Geesh!

Peterson Marquis
Peterson Marquis

might as well keep that check book open.... and pay for all the injustice you've done

Geoff Carl
Geoff Carl

It's no wonder their badges look like they say "sewing since 1867."

Kathie Carlson
Kathie Carlson

I say we all stop calling the police -- they have NO obligation to protect us any way. 2005 Supreme court ruling!!

Stuttering John
Stuttering John

At least they didn't put a plunger in his ass like they normally do.

matthewnaney
matthewnaney

seems the tax payer will pick up the bill for that one.....scumbag cops and lawyers.

andreatte
andreatte

So the lawyers get more than the family, yeah justice...pfffft

Patrick Garcia
Patrick Garcia

1.9 mil for the lawyer hey. way to rip off the taxpayer Bennett Birrell & Schupp. Who committed the real crime here. No wonder every one hates lawyers.

Gummy
Gummy

The applicable laws, and not-so-objective system of oversight, give police tremendous disgression on the use of force.   These settlements for police misconduct typically indicate clear misconduct that due to circumstances, cannot be ignored.   When officers do not behave according to standards of training or do not evaluate situations with "objective reasonableness",   we as a community should require a police agency that is open and prepared to correct problems.    Unfortunately, cities & counties have a pattern of brushing aside problems with individual officers or with training.    The result is misconduct and the occasional monetary settlement without any improvement in policing.    We should expect much more.   At several points during this incident the officers made choices that suggested poor (or ignored) training.   As the "civilians",  we should be confident that oversight is adequate, misconduct will have repercussions, and that law enforcement that preserves civil rights will be administered - camera or no camera.         This settlement only perpetuates the status quo - it is a symptom of the problem.

mrdave
mrdave

Who's footing the $3,000,000 bill?

blacksheep
blacksheep

@nbrooks4 Yeah, the family loved him so much that he was off his meds and homeless. They really, really loved him when the sleaze-ball lawyers came knocking!

Gummy
Gummy

@Kathie Carlson    It was about a specific CO state law that appeared to create a requirement for policing re: domestic abuse.     Generally, police agencies have immunity from the kind of liability the petitioner sought.    

Police are still obligated to respect the civil rights of suspects/perps and follow MN law.      

Gummy
Gummy

@andreatte  Maybe it is time to expect our officers to behave according to the best training standards.      Over-aggression and excessive force is a symptom of fear and poor training.

Forget the lawyers, it is time to get mad at the management choices that put officers on our streets without the proper training or, alternatively, without the discipline to apply proper knowledge and skills.

 Taxpayers are paying for a systematic management failure - but there will be no accountability..

swmnguy
swmnguy topcommenter

@mrdave Insurance.  All cities have tons of it, and it's never terminated, nor are the premiums risk-adjusted.  That's why the city is so willing to pay out money, rather than address any of the underlying issues that keep surfacing in these cases.  There's a movement to make the insurance companies actually raise the rates and terminate cities making multiple ongoing claims, the way you or I would lose our homeowners' or automobile coverage, but that's not popular in law enforcement or "get tough on crime" political circles.  So basically you and I pay it; not through our local property taxes, but through insurance premiums.

nbrooks4
nbrooks4

@blacksheep @nbrooks4 I think you missed the point.  The lawyers made 900k more than the family with the loss from the PD's wrong doing.  Just doesn't seem right IMO.

mrdave
mrdave

@digitalprotocol Oh, right... the CITY pays... and where do you suppose the CITY gets its money from, genius?

blacksheep
blacksheep

@nbrooks4 @blacksheep  

I didn't miss anything, if the greedy family didn't bring the lawsuit the greedy lawyers wouldn't have got a dime.

And, the police were cleared of any wrong doing.

mrdave
mrdave

@digitalprotocol Does the CITY have some sort of revenue generation scheme - besides receiving taxpayer money - that I'm not aware of? 

Now Trending

Minnesota Concert Tickets

From the Vault

 

Loading...