Accountability has long been a problem for the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, especially when it comes to officers who shoot people. Year after year, the public saw officers who made obviously terrible decisions, resulting from inexcusable mistakes, keep their jobs despite injuring or killing civilians. Too often, the review process was a joke, a pointless exercise in rubber-stamping.
All that was supposed to change in the wake of an award-winning 2011 Review-Journal investigation that prompted multiple reviews and reforms in the way police were trained and how officer shootings were investigated.
With one decision, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie has set back some of the gains his department had made in changing its culture and restoring the public’s trust. He has decided to retain yet another officer who should have lost his job.
In April, the department’s Use of Force Board recommended firing officer Jacquar Roston, who shot an unarmed man in the leg in 2012. The board was revamped following the Review-Journal investigation and a U.S. Department of Justice review. The Roston case marked the first time the board had recommended termination over an on-duty shooting.
Mr. Roston was confrontational and unapologetic during the review and said he wouldn’t change how he handled the incident. But during his subsequent pre-termination hearing, he toned down his abrasiveness and took responsibility. That hearing board recommended a one-week suspension, and Mr. Gillespie supported the reduced discipline.
On Wednesday, five civilian members of the Use of Force Board resigned over the sheriff’s decision: co-chairman Robert Martinez, Glenn Rinehimer, Sandra Eddy, Jay Shafritz and Miriam Rodriguez. The other co-chairman, Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, retired two weeks ago. The Review-Journal’s Mike Blasky reported Thursday that Mr. Moody’s peers said he was disappointed with Mr. Gillespie’s decision.
“I can no longer support the Department’s consistent effort to minimize openness and transparency,” Mr. Martinez wrote in his letter of resignation to Mr. Gillespie, ripping his decision to side with “the employee and ignore the conclusions of the members of the civilian population specifically assigned to scrutinize these matters.”
These citizens should be applauded for taking their responsibilities so seriously. They were supposed to be part of an improved process, one with integrity. Now Mr. Gillespie has created doubts about that integrity.
If the Use of Force Board’s work doesn’t warrant proper consideration from the sheriff, then it’s time to go back to the drawing board and construct a transparent review process with teeth.