In an unprecedented decision, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has recommended an officer be fired for his actions in a police shooting.
Officer Jacquar Roston, 36, is on administrative leave since the November shooting of a man in an east valley park. Roston shot a man in the leg after mistaking the shine from a label on the man’s hat for a gun.
Roston, a four-year veteran of the department, recently went before the police Use of Force Board, a panel of four civilians and three officers who determine whether an officer’s actions violated policy.
The board proposed Roston’s firing and Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie signed off on their decision this week. The next step is a pre-termination hearing, where Roston would have a final chance to make his case for lesser punishment.
Even if the pre-termination hearing recommends dismissal, Gillespie has the final say.
“I reserve judgment until after the pre-term board has rendered its decision,” Gillespie said.
Police terminations are usually appealed and an arbitrator often decides an officer’s fate.
Roston, reached by phone Monday, declined to an interview but said, “It will all come out.”
The officer was roundly criticized by the force board for mishandling a slow-moving call that didn’t require quick decision-making.
The incident began at 10:22 p.m. on Nov. 11 when a woman called police to a park at 1600 S. Hollywood Blvd., claiming her ex-boyfriend had beaten her and damaged her car.
When police arrived, the woman and the man were in the car. Police removed the woman from the car. While speaking to the man sitting in the passenger seat of the car, Roston fired at least one round, striking the man in the leg.
Police have not released the name of the injured man or any other information about the case. Details are expected to be released when the department releases its internal findings on the shooting, although a timetable for the documents’ disclosure was unknown.
Chris Collins, who oversees the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, said he didn’t see anything in the force board that would warrant Roston’s termination.
Collins said Roston saw the man reaching under his seat and perceived there was a weapon. Nevada law permits an officer to use deadly force in that scenario.
He was concerned patrol officers will become hesitant to draw their weapons if they’re afraid of losing their job.
“If Metropolitan officers are no longer going to use that standard, we’re going to bury a lot of cops,” he said.
Monday’s decision is the result of changes made to the force board last year in the wake of a federal review of the department’s use-of-force policies and publication of a Review-Journal series, “Deadly Force,” a yearlong investigation on Las Vegas police shootings.
Both the Justice Department and the newspaper found the force board lacked accountability and transparency. Police hoped the changes would re-establish credibility with the public and broaden the scope of a panel that has been criticized as a rubber stamp after shootings.
In the past, the force board determined whether a shooting was “justified” or “unjustified.”
The department changed the classifications to “administrative approval” and “administrative disapproval,” and also offers feedback on tactics, decisions and training.
The changes were aimed at examining the totality of the officer’s actions rather than simply issuing a blanket approval or rare disapproval.
“I think the board looked at the totality of the circumstances and a number of other things and felt this particular shooting should be looked at by the pre-term board,” Gillespie said. “That’s what is going to happen.”
Discipline against an officer in a shooting situation is unusual. Bryan Yant, a narcotics detective who killed unarmed Trevon Cole in a botched 2010 drug raid, received a 40-hour suspension and was reassigned to a desk job.
Gillespie said he could not recall an officer who had been fired for an on-duty shooting. Las Vegas police killed a record 12 people in 2011, but the number of shootings dropped in 2012 and 2013. There were 11 Las Vegas police shootings in 2012, with four deaths. There were three shootings so far this year, with one being fatal.
The force board’s decision in the Roston shooting could foreshadow their intentions in a more high-profile shooting.
Officer Jesus Arevalo, who shot and killed unarmed veteran Stanley Gibson in a much-critiqued shooting in December, 2011, will appear before the force board next month.
Contact reporter Mike Blasky at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0283.