FOX13 Investigates: How much lawsuits against MPD cost you

by: Jim Spiewak Updated:

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When a Memphis police officers gets caught breaking policy or the law - we all pay for it.  FOX13 Investigates uncovered MPD has paid out more than $5 million to cover lawsuits since 2011. 

In September, the city paid more than a half a million dollars to settle with the family of Steven Askew who was shot and killed by two Memphis police officers.  

When patrolling a city of more than 600,000 people, things are bound to go wrong.  Defense attorney, Randy Fishman says “I mean we're dealing with a big city, we're dealing with a lot of employees, there's a lot of liability running out there on the street.” 

But knowing when a suit could be settled can be tricky and thus so can be budgeting for it. 

In MPD's case that timing of payouts looks like this.  Since 2011, there have bene 163 settlements and payouts. 

The most came in 2014 and 2015 with 31. 

For three years starting in 2011 the payouts went up substantially every year, peaking in 2014 at $1.6 million. 

MPD paid out nearly $600,000 each of the last two years.  Councilman Berlin Boyd says “we take the money that we get from the taxpayers, we take it very seriously.” 

Boyd adds “we hope within the ramifications with what we allocate we don't have any major ramifications of not having enough money to take care of the needs.” 

When it comes to fighting lawsuits and claims, the city is a different type of defendant. 

“You don't get a jury against the city, you get a bench trial.  There are a bunch of other little intricacies in the act that are designed to protect government” Fishman says. 

Unless a lawsuit is filed in federal court under the Civils Rights Violation Act, like the $17 million suit filed by the family of Darrius Stewart, who was shot and killed in 2015 by former MPD officer Connor Schilling. 

When asked about how city government protects your tax dollars, Fishman said “I see this administration, I'm going to use the word more engaging more with the litigation perhaps than a prior administration.” 

 If MPD ever goes over what's budgeted for lawsuits they can request to dip into the city's reserve fund. 

We reached out to both the city administration and MPD for an on camera interview. 

We received an email response back saying "the city will not comment on media inquiries involving litigation or legal matters." 


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