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Lombardo uses State of Department to highlight rise in crime

Updated February 9, 2022 - 6:40 pm

In delivering his last annual State of the Department Wednesday, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo urged officers to take property crimes more seriously and follow department protocol in tense situations.

Speaking from a stage at The Smith Center, Lombardo thanked Metropolitan Police Department officers for their work to build trust in the community after the murder of George Floyd in May 2020. Lombardo said that officers across the nation were met with distrust and angst from their communities.

”As a result of that, our profession changed,” he said. “Right, wrong or indifferent it changed, for good reasons and bad reasons. We went through a difficult learning curve after 2020.”

Lombardo cited Metro’s decline in police shootings last year as evidence that the department’s de-escalation training was successful, but he warned of violence against officers seen nationwide.

“We’re seeing more often than not that suspects, criminals and crooks are not in fear of shooting at us, not in fear of retaliating toward us and what we do,” Lombardo said. “We have to be aware of that so we don’t overreact.”

Lombardo invited representatives from the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, Las Vegas Police Managers and Supervisors Association, the Citizens Review Board and the sheriff’s Multi-Cultural Advisory Council to attend the hourlong presentation. He presented statistics on violent crime, property crime and traffic fatalities, which all increased last year.

Lombardo is stepping down after seven years as sheriff and has announced his intent to run for governor.

In discussing future threats, Lombardo warned that cybercrime was becoming more prominent. He briefly mentioned a partnership between Metro and the Department of Homeland Security tasked with investigating cybercrimes.

Lombardo blamed social distancing and bail reform for cutting the population of the Clark County Detention Center in half.

In 2019, Las Vegas Justice Court began twice-daily one-stop custody status reviews and probable cause hearings. Defendants unable to post bail had more frequent hearings and could write a promise to return to court or be placed on electronic monitoring instead of posting bail.

Judges still use risk assessment to identify people who pose threats to public safety.

In April 2020, Lombardo announced he would release 290 nonviolent inmates from the jail in light of the pandemic. Those released included probation violators, those who had served at least 75 percent of their sentence and inmates with a higher risk of getting COVID-19.

He encouraged every officer in Wednesday’s address be an active recruiter, as Metro had lost nearly two-thirds of corrections officers employed a decade ago. Lombardo warned current officers working in the jail that not following department guidelines “will bankrupt this agency.”

Last month, Metro paid $1.8 million to the family of a man killed in the jail after officers held his head to his knees for about 75 seconds.

Lombardo specifically called out homicide Lt. Ray Spencer for Metro’s solvability rate, which last year reached 91 percent. Spencer called it the highest homicide solvability rate in the nation Wednesday.

“If we have a laissez faire attitude on solvability, what is the community going to think of us?” Lombardo said. “Where is the trust associated with what we do as a profession going to go? What are the crooks going to think? They’ll think they have free will. They’ll think they can do whatever they want to do.”

At the end of his address, Lombardo shuffled his papers quietly for a moment before tearing up and quickly proclaiming “I’m going to miss you guys.”

Contact Sabrina Schnur at sschnur@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0278. Follow @sabrina_schnur on Twitter.

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