Feds: Las Vegas police shootings decline, more changes needed

Progress has been made, but there’s still work to do in reforming and maintaining the Metropolitan Police Department’s use-of-force policies, according to a six-month progress report released Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Of the 80 recommendations handed down in November after a wide-ranging, yearlong study of the police department, 56 had been fully implemented, said the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing, or COPS.

Many of the department’s reforms involved key structural issues in how officer-involved shootings were reviewed. The creation of the Critical Incident Review Team in 2010; implementation of reality-based training in 2011; and changes to the Use of Force Review Board last year were “milestones” for the department, the report said.

And the creation of the Office of Internal Oversight, which analyzes department policies, training methods and shooting statistics was another key step toward transparency, the report said.

The changes were significant for an agency that for years lacked basic measures of accountability for officers’ actions in a shooting, the report said. But even with the revisions, it’s the department’s responsibility to ensure policies meet national standards for best-practices.

Joshua Ederheimer, acting director of COPS, said the department’s progress was “very good,” with almost 90 percent of the reforms either complete or in progress.

“I think it’s important to note what’s been done and put everything in context,” he said. “We’re talking major significant progress in just months. When you look at other jurisdictions engaging in some kind of reform. … we’re talking years, sometimes decades.”

Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie said he received the report Monday, which he called “very favorable.” He thought the report backed up his promise that the department would take all suggestions from the Justice Department.

“Actions speak louder than words,” Gillespie said. “Based on the analysis done in this report, it shows we were and are and will continue to be committed to these reforms.”

In addition to the 56 completed reforms, 15 other recommendations are in various stages of implementation. Las Vegas police had not yet addressed nine recommendations as of June, the most recent update by CNA, a Virginia nonprofit hired by the Justice Department to conduct the study.

Some of the suggested reforms yet to be addressed:

■ The police department has yet to formalize its plan for training officers in de-escalation techniques, which the authors of the study said should make up at least 25 percent of an officer’s defensive tactics training.

De-escalation has been emphasized in revision of the department’s use-of-force policies, a reaction to determination that an officer’s unnecessary escalation of a situation is often a precursor to a police shooting.

■ The department recently scrapped its relatively new Force Investigation Team, or FIT, a specialized group of detectives responsible for investigating police shootings. Police officials cited lack of manpower and resources in their decision to revert to the old method, in which a rotating group of homicide detectives investigate officer-involved shootings.

The new team didn’t meet the Justice Department’s standard, anyway, as some of the FIT detectives received no specialized training for investigating police shootings.

■ Post-shooting interviews with officers are not recorded on video. Some police officials expressed concern that failing to tape an officer’s statement would appear biased, as interviews with suspects in many criminal cases are recorded to video, the report said.

But other officials worried the policy would discourage officers from cooperating with detectives. As the study noted, local police unions have recommended officers not speak with their department’s criminal detectives, although all officers are required to give statements to internal investigators.

PROGRESS MADE

But the agency made substantial progress in other key areas, the study noted, including its reality-based training program, which focuses on officers’ decisions in real-life scenarios.

As of June, 68 percent of officers and sergeants had completed required reality-based training. The study said that scheduling conflicts and manpower issues have slowed the program, which was designed with the intent of training officers twice a year.

The report recommends the department conduct a manpower study to ensure it can handle the new training responsibilities. One of the recommendations to the Clark County District Attorney’s office was listed as “complete,” but with a caveat.

The report authors said they were pleased that prosecutors now respond to scenes of fatal police shootings, but urged them to respond to all shootings.

“The assessors urge the DA’s Office to respond to all instances in which an officer makes the decision to use deadly force, regardless of the outcome (death or injury of someone or a missed shot),” the report said. “The intent of any officer firing their weapon is to hit their target. Therefore, it is only a matter of chance that the subject was not struck when the officer fired.”

The 65-page progress report was released 10 months after the initial report from CNA, which was an extensive, critical look at a department that faced increased scrutiny in the wake of controversial incidents and a yearlong investigation of officer-involved shootings by the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

The agency shot and killed a record 12 people in 2011 and tied its record of 25 total shootings in 2010.

But the department has seen a gradual yet sustained decline in its police shootings since the peak years in 2010, the study said.

The rate of monthly shootings from 2007 to 2010 was 1.46, the report said. Since CIRT’s debut in 2010, the rate decreased to 1.1. Since the Review-Journal investigation was published in 2011, another milestone cited in the report, the rate decreased to 0.89 shootings per month. And since the first CNA report was released last year, the monthly rate dropped to 0.86 shootings.

“Subsequent milestones may have sustained or accelerated the decline of OIS incidents that began in 2010,” the report said.

At least one of the changes lauded by the Justice Department has faced extreme scrutiny in recent months, however.

The Use of Force Review Board, a seven-member panel of four officers and three civilians that reviews police shootings, was once considered a rubber-stamp process that “justified” 99 percent of police shootings.

But in the nine shootings reviewed since the changes, the board has ruled against an officer in some fashion one- third of the time, the study found.

The department changed the classifications to “administrative approval” and “administrative disapproval” and started scrutinizing officer tactics, decisions and training. A separate Tactical Review Board, held immediately after the Use of Force Review Board, also examines the decisions of every officer on the call, not just those who used deadly force.

The changes were aimed at examining the totality of the officer’s actions rather than simply issuing a blanket approval or rare disapproval. Before the board changes, no officer in an on-duty shooting was ever recommended for firing.

Since the changes, there have been two: Jacquar Roston, who shot and wounded an unarmed man after mistaking a label on his hat for a gun, and Jesus Arevalo, who shot and killed mentally ill Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson in December 2011.

In addition to Roston and Arevalo, four other officers in shootings were assigned remedial training. The supervisors on scene for the Gibson shooting, Sgt. Michael Hnatuick and Lt. David Dockendorf, were also disciplined. Hnatuick was recommended for suspension and Dockendorf was to be demoted two ranks to officer, although their punishment can be appealed in arbitration.

The report’s authors attended the Gibson review.

But Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, who oversaw the changes to the review process, abruptly retired in July after Gillespie saved Roston’s job. Six civilian members of the Use of Force Review Board, which has more than 20 rotating members, also quit after Moody’s retirement. The CNA report was delayed at least a month because of Moody’s retirement.

The report authors noted that changes to Use of Force Review Board was good policy, but final decisions in officer discipline remain with the sheriff.

The resignations were “undoubtedly a setback,” the report said. “However, it is important to note here that the process unfolded according to LVMPD policy and procedures.”

“At the present time, we consider LVMPD’s internal review process to be among the most progressive and transparent in the nation. The fact that the most recent board outcome was transparent as well as the subject of public debate, is an improvement over past practices.

“However, it is clear that more work needs to be done to restore trust between the community and the department. We will continue to work with LVMPD on their review process, the involvement of civilian members, and the adjudication process.”

Moody later announced he will run for the soon-to-be vacant sheriff’s office. Gillespie has said he will not seek a third term.

Steven Carter, one of the authors of the report, said the controversy surrounding Use of Force Review Board will be addressed in more detail in second progress report.

But it’s not the job of the assessors to review Gillespie’s decisions, he said.

“Like a CEO of any big company, they have the final say,” Carter said.

Although the new policies are sound, the authors noted the difficulty in changing department culture. Some training instructors were observed not supporting the revised policies, the report said.

“Through direct observation, it was learned that LVMPD instructors did not consistently express support for portions of the newly revised Use of Force Policy. It is important that all LVMPD instructors be ambassadors of the policies, procedures, and tactics they are teaching.”

The report authors will continue to monitor the department until the end of the year. Their final report is slated to be released in February.

Contact reporter Mike Blasky at mblasky@reviewjournal.com. Follow @blasky on Twitter.

ad-high_impact_4
Crime
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Henderson Police Seek Armed Bank Robbery Suspect
This afternoon a male suspect entered the Bank of America, located at 2638 W. Horizon Ridge Parkway, at about 12:40 p.m. As he entered the bank, he pulled a black mask down to conceal his face.The suspect is described as a late-forties to early-fifties white male adult, approximately 5 foot 8 inches to 5 foot 10 inches tall and weighing approximately 160 to 180 pounds He was last seen wearing a dark colored beanie, a grayish blue plaid shirt, dark jeans and dark colored shoes. His head was shaved on the sides and the top of his hair was dark in color. Vehicle was described as possibly a gray 2012-2014 four door Ford Focus. The license plates were covered with black tape. The suspect is considered armed and dangerous. Do not attempt to contact the suspect but call police immediately. Anyone with information is urged to call the Henderson Police Department at 702-267-4911, to remain anonymous, call Crime Stoppers at 702-385-5555.
Sunset Park Homicide (update 2)
LVMPD gives update about suspect in homicide at Sunset Park (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide (update)
Update from LVMPD on Sunset Park homicide. Releasing suspect's name (Blake Apgar)
Sunset Park Homicide
Police give details about Sunset Park homicide on Sunday, April 15, 2018. (Blake Apgar)
Security guard thwarts mailbox vandals
A security guard at the Covington at Coronado Ranch apartment complex ended up in the hospital after thwarting a group of mailbox vandals on Monday morning. According to Las Vegas police, about 12:45 a.m. the guard saw a group of people trying to break into mailboxes at the central Las Vegas complex when he confronted them. The group jumped into a vehicle and while trying to flee, struck the guard. The guard was hospitalized with injures that were not life-threatening. The suspects fled and remain at-large.
Las Vegas police looking for robbery suspects
Authorities are looking for three men who police said used a weapon on their victims in a recent string of robberies across the Las Vegas Valley. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police looking for robbery suspects
Authorities are looking for three men who police said used a weapon on their victims in a recent string of robberies across the Las Vegas Valley. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro investigates an officer-involved shooting in east Las Vegas
Las Vegas police investigate an officer-involved shooting at Madge Lane and Mabel Road, between Charleston Boulevard and Stewart Avenue, Friday, April 6, 2018, in Las Vegas. Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal @bizutesfaye
Robbery Surveillance Video
Police are searching for a man suspected of robbing two Las Vegas clothing stores in one week.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
Paintball Attacks -- People injured in Las Vegas (LVMPD)
A recent series of drive-by paintball shootings in Las Vegas has resulted in the endangerment and injury of multiple people. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
USPS truck carjacked
Surveillance video of a USPS truck being carjacked on March 10. Search for suspects and pictures of suspects.
New York New York Robbery (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
A white man suspected of robbing a Strip casino in blackface in January was charged Friday in federal court, records show. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas police arrest man with guns and ammo
Las Vegas police arrested a man sitting in car who was found with guns and ammo in his trunk. The video was captured by Steven Gibson and posted to his Facebook page.
LVMPD Seeks Assistance Identifying Suspects In Lottery Ticket Scam
During the month of February, two victims have been identified by LVMPD Financial Crimes detectives as being victims of a lottery ticket scam. These victims were approached by a suspect who claimed to have a winning lottery ticket and needed legal assistance to cash it.
Metro Lt. Raymond Spencer discusses details of a murder-suicide in the east valley
Metro homicide Lt. Raymond Spencer discuses details of a murder-suicide in the east valley that left two men dead on March 6. (Blake Apgar/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas Lounge Shooting
Las Vegas police on Wednesday released surveillance video of man suspected of firing several shots into the Las Vegas Lounge late last week. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Detectives Seek To Identify Burglary Suspect
Spring Valley Area Command Patrol Detectives are seeking the public’s assistance in identifying a male who has been responsible for approximately eight burglaries in the area of Oakey Boulevard and Rancho Drive since January 2018. During these incidents, the suspect makes entry through a rear window or a sliding patio backdoor. The suspect is described as a black male between 20 and 30 years of age, slender with an athletic build. A vehicle of interest in these incidents is described as a white Nissan Pathfinder with a red and white bumper sticker.
Cabana Market Shooting -- Persons of Interest
On February 3, 2018 at approximately 1:57 p.m., patrol officers were dispatched to a parking lot located in the 3900 block of East Owens Avenue to investigate a report that a man had been shot. Responding officers located an unresponsive adult male suffering from a gunshot wound. The victim was pronounced deceased at the scene. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Las Vegas Mob Museum adds new interactive exhibits
The Las Vegas Mob Museum previews it’s recent renovation and three new attractions including Organized Crime Today, Use of Force Training Experience and a Crime Lab.
Two Suspects Arrested in Deadly West Las Vegas Shooting, Kidnapping
Officers identified a second suspect in a deadly shooting and abduction Wednesday in the west valley, police said. Jessica Tolentino-Arciga, 26, was booked into the Clark County Detention Center on Wednesday in connection with the incident, according to police. Officers previously accused Joseph L. Fernandez Jr., 27, of breaking into his ex-girlfriend’s home just before 4 a.m. He is suspected of abducting his ex-girlfriend, Mandy Hernandez, in a gray BMW sedan and shooting her friend.
Video of attempted kidnapping suspect's car
Las Vegas police are attempting to identify a suspect in 2 attempted kidnappings. The suspect's vehicle was described a red four door sedan with silver trim around the windows. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Media Briefing: OIS #3 for 2018 -- Suicidal Subject Points Gun at Officer
Assistant Sheriff Charles Hank meets with members of the media to discuss additional details about the officer involved shooting that occurred on February 6, 2018. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Metro Homicide Lt. Dan McGrath speaks about a homicide and kidnapping
Las Vegas police are investigating a homicide and kidnapping in the 3300 block of Robin Nest Court, near Desert Inn Road and Hulalapai Way. (Bizuayehu Tesfaye/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @bizutesfaye
Homeless being targeted by unknown shooter
Capt. Robert Plummer of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department briefs the media on the recent shootings of four homeless men.
Douglas Haig talks to reporters
Douglas Haig, identified as a person of interest in documents related to the Las Vegas shooting, spoke to reporters Tuesday evening outside his home in Mesa, Arizona. (Madison Miller/Las Vegas Review-Journal Correspondent)
Suspected Aria counterfeiter hurt jumping off Harmon overpass
A man who allegedly tried to use a counterfeit bill at the Aria was hospitalized after he jumped off an overpass trying to escape police. About 2 a.m. Tuesday, security at the Aria flagged down police. When police tried to talk to him, the man fled and led police on a foot chase, according to Lt. David Gordon. The chase ended at the Harmon Avenue overpass above Interstate 15, when the man jumped off the side and landed in the rocky landscaping below. The man was taken to the hospital for evaluation.
Rancho Discount Mall shooting
Las Vegas police are investigating a deadly shooting Monday morning in central Las Vegas. A man was found dead after 3 a.m. outside the Rancho Discount Mall at 2901 W. Washington Ave. The man had been shot once. He was pronounced dead at the scene. Police have blocked off the parking lot in front of the store while detectives investigate. At 5 a.m., the man’s body was still on scene, laying on the walkway near a shopping cart and a pile of blankets.
Deadly shooting on Calimesa Street
Las Vegas police are investigating a fatal shooting Monday morning on the 4200 block of Calimesa Street. An adult man was found in front of a house with multiple gunshot wounds. He was taken to a hospital where he died, according to Metropolitan Police Lt. David Gordon. Homicide detectives also are investigating another deadly shooting that occurred a short time after the Calimesa Street shooting. A person was killed at 2901 W. Washington Ave.
Man shoots wife and 15-year-old stepdaughter in Las Vegas
Las Vegas teen accused of sexual deviancy in elementary school
A Las Vegas teen accused of raping 4 of his classmates had been disciplined for sexual deviancy in elementary school Maysen Melton was suspended from Bracken Elementary for allegedly sexually harassing classmates He was later disciplined for sexual deviancy at three different middle schools Melton now faces 23 felony counts for allegedly raping 4 of his classmates at Shadow Ridge High School Melton may face additional charges after another victim came forward, alleging Melton sexually abused her in October In one alleged incident, Melton pushed a girl to the floor before raping her He allegedly responded by saying, "No means yes"' and "I know you’ll like it in the end." District Judge Jennifer Togliatti pointed to an "astronomical probability of conviction" and raised Melton's bail from $200,000 to $500,000
Deadly shooting in south Las Vegas
Las Vegas police are investigating a Friday shooting that left a woman in the south valley dead. Police believe her husband shot and killed her at a house on Giles Street. The shooter as of 1:30 a.m. remained on the loose and was considered armed and dangerous. A police helicopter circled the sky looking for the suspect. Neighbors could be seen peeking through window curtains as police secured the neighborhood and warned people to stay inside.
Judge Doug Herndon confronts Bryan Clay in Las Vegas
Bryan Clay was sentenced to life in prison without parole in December for the rape and murder of a mother and her 10-year-old daughter. On Thursday, he was in court again to be sentenced for other charges, including robbery, kidnapping and sexual assault of a minor under 14 . Prosecutors told Judge Doug Herndon Thursday that Clay can be heard on his jail phone conversations saying he “tricked jurors, that he’ll be back soon, that he’ll in fact get his appeal more quickly.” Judge Doug Herndon told him the case has haunted him since “opening statements.” Briana Erickson/ Las Vegas Review-Journal
Las Vegas arrest warrant details Floyd Mayweather Sr. assault accusation
Las Vegas police said Floyd Mayweather Sr. dragged a woman by the leg from the backseat of his car and punched her after a boxing match on the Strip, according to court documents obtained Thursday. The father of boxer Floyd Mayweather Jr. battered her hours after the Sept. 16 fight at T-Mobile Arena between Saul “Canelo” Alvarez and Gennady Golovkin, the elder Mayweather’s arrest warrant said. The woman and her husband had attended the fight with Mayweather Sr. and his girlfriend, the Metropolitan Police Department wrote in his arrest warrant. Police said Mayweather Sr. pulled her from the car and battered her. He then drove off, leaving the woman and her husband in a parking lot. A warrant for his arrest was issued Jan. 16. Mayweather Sr. was in Clark County Detention Center Wednesday, but has since posted bond.
Las Vegas teen accused of raping classmates appears in court
A Las Vegas teen accused of raping 4 of his Shadow Ridge classmates appeared in court Thursday Maysen Melton faces 23 felony counts, including charges of sexual assault District Judge Jennifer Togliatti pointed to an "astronomical probability of conviction" and raised Melton's bail Judge Togliatti also said she worried that someone walking by Melton's house could be at risk Melton's bail was raised from $200,000 to $500,000
Las Vegas police investigate kidnapping, carjacking and robbery at Best Buy
Shortly before 6 a.m., a man was approached by two men in the parking lot of a Best Buy at 6950 Arroyo Crossing, near the 215 Beltway and South Rainbow Boulevard. Police said at least one of the two suspects was armed with a handgun. The suspects forced the man into his car and made him drive to an ATM, where he withdrew an unknown amount of money for the suspects, Metropolitan Police Department Lt. David Gordon said. The two men then instructed the victim to drive to a convenience store at 4030 W. Charleston Blvd., where they told him to get out of his vehicle. Police said the suspects fled north on Hinson Street in the man’s car.
TOP NEWS
News Headlines
Events
Home Front Page Footer Listing
Circular
You May Like

You May Like