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Henderson police may change how department investigates police shootings

Updated October 11, 2018 - 11:58 pm

The Henderson Police Department will overhaul the way it investigates police shootings.

“There’s a lot of things that the law gives us the right to do, but should we have done it is another question,” Chief LaTesha Watson said Thursday.

Watson said in an extensive sit-down interview that the policy review is a priority for the Henderson Police Department.

Henderson police killed two men and injured another in three separate shootings between August and September. Between the two deadly encounters, 12 officers fired their weapons.

After the fatal shootings, the department released limited amounts of video after business hours, provided basic details of the encounters and answered few questions.

Watson would not say what specific policies she will alter but said the changes would affect the criminal and administrative investigations the department conducts after a shooting.

“And I’m looking to change that as we speak,” she said.

Henderson’s impending reform follows major use-of-force policy changes for the Las Vegas Valley’s largest police department. After a series of Las Vegas Review-Journal stories in 2011 about deadly force encounters involving Las Vegas police, the Metropolitan Police Department worked with the U.S. Department of Justice toward reform.

Metro’s policy overhaul emphasized de-escalation, better oversight and transparency.

Watson joined Henderson police last November from the Arlington Police Department as an outsider and a reformer. In Arlington, Texas, she held the rank of deputy chief. She accepted the Henderson job after former chief Patrick Moers left amid controversy.

As a first-time chief, she has emphasized professionalism, performance, training and education.

“Every division, every unit, every section needs to be evaluated and assessed to determine should something be changed or is it effectively operating as it needs to be,” Watson said.

This year, she has addressed crime-reduction strategies for the department, putting a new focus on geographic-based and community-oriented policing.

Part of her effort to effect change was enlisting the help of a consulting firm to perform an internal audit of policies and procedures, including use of force.

The audit is scheduled to be complete by the end of the year. Once finished, the consulting firm will offer policy change recommendations, Watson said.

Watson said her organization overall seems happy with her efforts, but she acknowledged her decisions are not always popular with others.

“When you look at me, I’m change,” she said. “No matter if it is something good, something for the better, people can’t see that because it’s change.”

Contact Blake Apgar at bapgar@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5298. Follow @blakeapgar on Twitter.

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