MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) — The Minneapolis City Council president is responding to a WCCO report about how much it costs taxpayers to settle officer conduct lawsuits. Our report found the city authorized tens of millions of dollars in payouts over the last decade. And on average, Minneapolis pays more each year compared to similarly sized cities. City Council President Lisa Bender declined to be part of our initial story. Then WCCO’s Jennifer Mayerle caught up with her after a recent press conference.

“This is a whole system problem and that’s why we have so many lawsuits against the city,” Bender said.

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Bender says the Minneapolis City Council approves a monetary settlement based on advice from the city attorney’s office.

“When the city attorney thinks a financial risk is lower to settle than it is to go to court, they bring that recommendation to the city council,” Bender said.

She says the amount is pre-negotiated. And adds the council then decides how to proceed.

“I think we’re reaching the point where the average tax payer will start to feel that liability in that tax payment and in their services,” Bender said.

Lisa Bender (credit: CBS)

The city has paid more than $36.5 million in settlements from 2010 to 2020. This year the city announced the historic $27 million dollar payout to the family of George Floyd. And there’s more lawsuits on the horizon connected to police conduct during last year’s riots.

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“Each of those cases has the possibility of being a financial risk to the city, so it is a significant overall risk, and one which we all need to take seriously,” Bender said.

Bender points to police conduct, and not the council, for the pattern of payouts.

“The police officers should stop using force that results in the lawsuits in the first place,” Bender said.

And says she hopes the state and federal civil rights investigations into Minneapolis police conduct will result in change.

“There are too many instances of officers using force, there’s too many instances of officers not being disciplined in a way that leads to a shift in behavior, getting officers off the street,” Bender said.

The state Department of Human Rights opened an investigation into the Minneapolis Police Department last June following George Floyd’s killing.

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The Department of Justice launched its own investigation in April.

Jennifer Mayerle