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Metro settles

The Metropolitan Police Department Fiscal Affairs Committee — consisting of two Clark County commissioners, two Las Vegas City Council members and a citizen-chairman — voted Monday to approve a $125,000 settlement for a local attorney roughed up by a motorcycle officer.

But some members weren’t happy about it.

County Commissioner Steve Sisolak objected to the lack of information provided by police about the case. He told a reporter after the meeting he was unable to learn whether the officer had been disciplined or what other complaints may have been filed against him. City Councilman Ricki Barlow agreed that the Fiscal Affairs Committee functions in such votes as little more than a rubber stamp, given how little information members are provided.

Kristina Wildeveld, a veteran criminal defense attorney, filed a civil rights lawsuit after being stopped and ticketed by officer Richard D. Goslar outside the Regional Justice Center in October 2008. When the attorney stepped out of her car to hand the officer her driver’s license and proof of insurance as requested, she says the policeman “took my right arm and threw me up against the car.”

Las Vegas police responded to Ms. Wildeveld’s lawsuit by arguing that the officer used “a reasonable degree of force” and that any injury to Ms. Wildeveld — she reports suffering a torn rotator cuff and neck ligaments, as well as injuries to three ribs — were “a direct and proximate result of her own misconduct and actions.”

Really? Why is any force at all required against a woman in a parked car, dutifully handing over her papers? Why did the court dismiss the citation the officer issued? And why is Metro then offering to settle her lawsuit for $125,000 instead of going to court and winning an outright dismissal?

Mr. Sisolak and Mr. Barlow are correct. There’s civilian review of such payoffs precisely so responsible parties outside the department can represent taxpayers and ask why such six-figure abuses happened.

Metro’s attorney responds the board is supposed to deal only with “financial issues,” not internal department policy.

Fine. Then the answer is for the Fiscal Affairs Committee to make a “financial” decision to stop paying off victims of Las Vegas police until the sheriff explains why officers are behaving this way, how offenders are being disciplined and how he plans to stop such costly incidents from recurring.

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