Las Vegas police officers punished for ride


Two on-duty Las Vegas police officers who took the scenic route through northwest Arizona in a department patrol car apparently were headed to a tourist attraction.

The officers were stopped in January by Arizona law enforcement in Dolan Springs while speeding on a road to the Grand Canyon Skywalk, which is about 40 miles northeast of the town.

Metropolitan Police Department Assistant Sheriff Ray Flynn, who didn't know the pair's exact travel destination, said this week that the out-of-jurisdiction jaunt will cost each officer a week's pay.

"It doesn't matter whether it was the Grand Canyon or a mile in Arizona," Flynn said. "They claimed they wanted to take a picture at a tourist attraction."

Officers Brad Gallup and Jake Grunwald, who were placed on paid administrative leave after the incident, will be suspended without pay by June 18, Flynn said. A week's suspension without pay is the department's second-highest form of discipline; termination is the most severe. The officers were being investigated for neglect of duty and abandonment of their post.

On Jan. 19, a Mohave County, Ariz., sheriff's deputy stopped the Las Vegas patrol car after wondering why the officers were about 80 miles outside of their assigned beat. Gallup and Grunwald were assigned to the Enterprise Area Command, near the south end of the Strip.

The two Las Vegas officers faced possible termination, but they ultimately kept their jobs because they had clean records within the department before the Arizona incident, Flynn said.

"They've never been in trouble before, and they owned up to their responsibilities," Flynn said.

Gallup was hired by the department in June 2005. Grunwald joined the force in January 2006. Their salaries were not available Wednesday.

Flynn said the investigation of the incident branched out into the entire Enterprise Area Command to determine whether such behavior was widespread. The investigation found it wasn't.

Mohave County Sheriff Tom Sheahan told the Review-Journal in February that the Las Vegas officers said they were "scouting the area for locations for something to do with K-9 photos."

"We were just concerned that it wasn't a stolen vehicle," Sheahan said.

Sheahan said Mohave County sheriff's deputy Robert Oscar saw the marked Las Vegas patrol car in Dolan Springs, about six miles off U.S. Highway 93, north of Kingman, Ariz.

Sheahan said the car was traveling about 20 miles over the posted speed limit. Oscar asked his dispatcher to contact Las Vegas police to determine whether the vehicle had been stolen.

That is how Las Vegas police learned their officers were out of jurisdiction, Sheahan said.

Gallup and Grunwald stopped voluntarily after seeing that Oscar was following. The sheriff said the deputy accepted their explanation for being in Arizona and didn't issue a speeding citation.

Sheahan said Las Vegas police sometimes go through Kingman because of the city's proximity to Laughlin, which is in the Metropolitan Police Department coverage area. However, it's unusual to see them in Dolan Springs on Pierce Ferry Road, the main route to the Grand Canyon Skywalk.

Gallup and Grunwald had told Las Vegas police dispatchers they were headed to court before they left town.

Las Vegas police do not have GPS tracking systems in patrol cars.

Officers document dispatch calls on in-car computers. The system allows officers to push a button to alert supervisors when they are responding to a call, arriving at a scene or leaving a location. Officers also use the in-car computers to document when they go to court and to report when their court appearance is over.

Former Clark County Sheriff Bill Young said Tuesday that he might know the genesis of the officers' excursion to Arizona.

Young, who served as sheriff from 2003 to 2007, was a patrol officer in the early 1980s. At that time, the department's patrol cars had gas-guzzling V-8 engines. He said the agency then got two fuel-efficient cars, which were unpopular among the patrol officers.

Putting lots of miles on the unpopular new models meant they could be traded in sooner, he said. One sergeant told an officer to do just that.

Young said the officer took it upon himself, while on duty, to drive to Kingman in the fuel-efficient vehicle and take a Polaroid picture at the "Welcome to Kingman" sign. Young said the officer then put the picture above his supervisor's desk.

Young noted that while the sergeant told the officer to crank up the car's mileage, he never told the officer to drive out of town.

"It was funny at the time," Young said. "The picture hung over this one station for years and years and years."

Young speculated that Grunwald and Gallup might have caught wind of the legendary prank.

Young said he didn't know whether the officer who pulled the prank in the early 1980s was ever disciplined.

As for Grunwald and Gallup, Young said the two officers deserve another chance.

"I certainly wouldn't condone it," Young said. "It's a practical joke that I don't think the guys put too much thought into."

Contact reporter Antonio Planas at aplanas@review journal.com or 702-383-4638.

 

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