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Fellow detectives accused him of racism.

Henderson’s new police chief cleared him of discipline.

Fellow detectives accused him of racism. Henderson’s new police chief cleared him of discipline.

Updated December 11, 2023 - 6:53 am

Henderson Police Chief Hollie Chadwick has cleared the disciplinary record of a police detective accused of hurling a racial slur and urging the killing of Mexicans and Black Lives Matter protesters, a Las Vegas Review-Journal investigation found.

Detective Kevin LaPeer broke department policies a dozen times, including ones that ban workplace harassment or discrimination, untruthfulness and prejudice, according to a December 2022 finding by Deputy Chief of Police Itzhak Henn.

But Henn reversed some of his decisions after Chadwick decided that officers won’t face punishment for multiple policy violations that stem from the same incident.

Chadwick later dismissed LaPeer’s three remaining and less serious violations — two regarding workplace professionalism and another for attitude and demeanor — earlier this year, city records show. LaPeer was on suspension for 17 months while the city investigated the allegations and was paid over $135,000 in salary during that time.

Chadwick, a longtime Henderson officer who was appointed chief in May, has publicly said her department does not have racists within its ranks, but she refused repeated requests by the Review-Journal to discuss LaPeer’s discipline. She fled when a reporter tried to question her at a public event last month.

LaPeer’s fellow detectives accused him of using the N-word and calling Black, Latino and LGBTQ people derogatory terms, including “savages” and “garbage,” according to a 123-page investigative report obtained by the Review-Journal.

One property detective said LaPeer also voiced support for political violence.

In November 2020, he “spoke very highly” of a Michigan militia’s foiled plot to kidnap Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, the detective claimed, according to the report. The detective also heard LaPeer say he would kill Black Lives Matter protesters if he didn’t have a family, the report states.

The property detective, whose name is redacted from the report, said complaints about LaPeer’s conduct fell on deaf ears within the department.

“Even though I would bring it up, it never seemed to end,” the detective told the investigator, according to the report.

LaPeer, who is white, vehemently denied the accusations, the report states. LaPeer told the Review-Journal that the report omitted key information, but that his attorney advised him not to participate in an interview. He filed a defamation lawsuit against the city on Wednesday, claiming the investigation was conducted in bad faith and resulted in a “complete assassination” of his character.

However, Henderson’s investigation into his conduct found he “most likely has used offensive and pejorative language to describe members of racial minorities and members of the LGBTQ community while on the job.”

LaPeer was also accused of using racist language in 2004, three years before he became a Henderson officer, according to another police record.

A change in discipline

The city paid outside law firm Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith more than $58,000 to investigate LaPeer’s conduct. Las Vegas attorney Robert Freeman, who authored the report, did not return requests for comment for this story.

his 2017 Review-Journal photo shows Det. Kevin LaPeer at a St. Patrick's Day parade in Henderson.
This 2017 Review-Journal photo shows Detective Kevin LaPeer at a St. Patrick's Day parade in Henderson.

After reviewing the case late last year, Henn found that LaPeer violated department policies a dozen times during 2020 and 2021. LaPeer, 46, returned to work this March. City officials wouldn’t say why he was brought back.

In May, two months after his return, Chadwick took over as chief and decided that officers would not be punished for violating multiple policies during one specific incident.

Days later, Henn reversed course on nine of his prior findings, records show. He recommended LaPeer receive a written reprimand for the remaining misconduct. Instead, Chadwick overturned LaPeer’s final three violations.

Despite clearing the detective herself, Chadwick will not discuss the discipline, because it stems from an investigation prior to her taking the department’s helm, a spokesperson said. Henn also declined to comment.

Shortly after Chadwick was promoted to chief, a local TV reporter asked her about ex-Police Chief LaTesha Watson’s racial discrimination lawsuit. Chadwick insisted there is no racism in the department.

“That has never been something in our environment,” she said.

Watson did not return a call seeking comment.

Henderson has a history of officers with repeated allegations of misconduct remaining on the force.

A Review-Journal investigation in 2021 found that police officers with years of sustained citizen complaints, allegations of sexual misconduct or criminal arrests were still working. Some had even been promoted.

Georgetown University assistant professor Andrea Headley, an expert in criminal justice policy and police-community relations, said the lack of reliable statistics about misconduct and discipline nationally — or even data about how many officers had no complaints — makes it difficult to measure whether any specific department has problems correcting bad behavior.

When presented with the findings of the Review-Journal investigation into LaPeer, Headley said police chiefs must balance the competing demands of appeasing their employees versus the community.

‘He’s not a racist’

Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers executive director Andrew Regenbaum said LaPeer has a good reputation and that the claims against him were just hearsay.

The union leader advocated for the detective during a pre-disciplinary hearing that Chadwick conducted in June. He told the Review-Journal that the outside investigation was a “sham” orchestrated by the last police administration to fire the detective — but he provided no evidence to support his claim.

“He’s opinionated,” he said. “He may be loud. But he’s not a racist.”

Regenbaum added that LaPeer’s case is just one of several investigations into officer conduct that Chadwick has changed at the pre-disciplinary hearing stage.

“She did the right thing, and she made a courageous decision,” he said.

Former interim Chief Michael Blow and ex-Chief Thedrick Andres, who retired in February after a police union vote of no confidence, did not respond to multiple interview requests.

It is uncommon, but not unheard of, for new police chiefs to reverse course in discipline cases, and the lack of an industry standard has led to problematic officers causing more issues later, said Matthew Hickman, a criminal justice professor at Seattle University.

“It’s a massive liability,” he said. “It’s a great risk.”

The home where Detective Kevin LaPeer visited while off duty, dumped the neighbor’s tras ...
The scene of a June 2021 shooting in Henderson, where Detective Kevin LaPeer responded while off duty and allegedly used a racial slur while talking about his Black neighbors, records show. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @rookie__rae

Reinstatement causes rift

LaPeer’s return to work this March caused a rift among his department’s ranks, police emails obtained by the Review-Journal show.

Writing from his official work email to a union listserv, Lt. Jeb Bozarth commended LaPeer for enduring “unbelievably cruel and unusual punishment.” Then he lambasted the officers who participated in the investigation.

“Their selfish, unjust and moronic careers will fade into the cesspool of failure,” wrote Bozarth, who declined to comment for this story.

Bozarth’s email read like a threat to Detective Hector Villa, a member of the department’s internal affairs unit, records show. He filed a complaint against LaPeer in September 2021, alleging the detective spewed racist statements for years.

Villa, a Mexican-American, claimed LaPeer described Hispanic nations as “s**thole countries,” according to the investigative report. In September 2021, after Henderson police killed a Hispanic man, Villa heard LaPeer tell another officer that “we need to just get rid of all the (expletive) Mexicans,” — an accusation LaPeer later denied, records show.

“When he’s saying that about a Mexican – he’s talking about my kid, my parents, my brothers and sisters. So of course it affects me,” Villa is quoted as saying. “How is he going out there to give that guy an unbiased investigation?”

The garbage that Det. Kevin LaPeer was accused of dumping in anger when he showed up off-duty t ...
The garbage that Detective Kevin LaPeer was accused of dumping in anger when he showed up off duty to the crime scene in his neighborhood, records show. (City of Henderson)

When Villa and other detectives responded to a June 2021 shooting in LaPeer’s neighborhood, LaPeer showed up off duty and angrily dumped his Black neighbors’ trash, cursed and used the N-word, according to Villa’s account in the report.

The family who lived at the home could not be reached for comment. Police arrested one resident at the scene after he fired two rounds at his girlfriend and 8-year-old son, police records show.

Villa told the investigator that LaPeer was “upset that these black people brought this to his neighborhood” and was throwing the garbage to “teach them a lesson,” the report states.

LaPeer was at the scene for almost three hours before the case’s lead detective requested he leave to avoid a confrontation with the home’s residents, the investigation alleges.

LaPeer insisted that he did not use the racial slur and only dumped the trash to look for guns. Other officers at the scene said he seemed “emotional” or “upset,” but they did not hear him say anything racist.

However, one high-ranking officer said he had no reason to doubt Villa’s accusation.

“I don’t question his truthfulness at all,” Deputy Chief Jonathan Boucher told the investigator.

Claims of retaliation

After Villa fired back a response criticizing Bozarth over the email listserv, police officials used that to justify reassigning him to the department’s community relations office, where he is no longer eligible for lucrative overtime, records show.

In a complaint to the city’s human resources department, Villa wrote that police leadership labeled him incapable of being impartial while investigating his coworkers. He felt that a double standard was being applied to LaPeer, who had kept his assignment as an investigator despite allegations of racism.

“The disparity in discipline between the white officer and the minority officer (me) is very disconcerting,” Villa wrote.

The city declined to investigate Villa’s retaliation complaint, citing a lack of evidence, according to an email obtained by the Review-Journal. City officials would not explain their reasoning to the newspaper.

Villa, who has been at the department since 2009, confirmed that he filed a complaint against LaPeer. He declined to comment further, saying he fears retaliation.

LaPeer’s lawsuit claims Villa made false allegations against him and continues to target him at work.

Settlement costs taxpayers

LaPeer’s testimony has also come under scrutiny in the courtroom and contributed to Henderson paying a $575,000 settlement last year to a convicted felon.

In the civil rights lawsuit that led to the settlement, U.S. District Judge James Mahan determined that the detective gave inconsistent testimony about why officers needed to tackle Daniel Andrews during an arrest as he left the city’s courthouse in 2017. The takedown broke Andrews’ hip, requiring two surgeries, records show. LaPeer helped run surveillance on the arrest and is on video punching another suspect and taking her into custody.

Officers moved in after Andrews left the courthouse because they knew he and the other suspect would be unarmed, according to a police report cited in court documents. However, LaPeer later testified that he never saw the two suspects in the courthouse and assumed they were armed, the records show.

Andrews’ civil attorney, Peter Goldstein, said it was a significant contradiction.

“It was helpful to the case,” he said. “That was the key issue: Was he a risk?”

Andrews, now 37, was sentenced to at least 12 years in a Nevada state prison for burglary with a firearm and two counts of armed robbery.

Dishonesty in the courtroom can be a career “death sentence for law enforcement officers,” allowing defense attorneys to discredit their testimony in other cases, said Hickman.

A 2001 mugshot of Kevin LaPeer after he was arrested for driving under the influence. He pled g ...
A 2001 mugshot of Kevin LaPeer after he was arrested for driving under the influence. He pleaded guilty and was sentenced to probation, records show. (City of Plymouth, Michigan)

Prosecutor offices are known to compile so-called “Brady Lists” of untruthful officers so they can avoid calling them to testify in criminal cases. The Clark County District Attorney’s Office maintains no such list, according to Assistant District Attorney Christopher Lalli. Instead, prosecutors ask police departments to volunteer such information. The Henderson Police Department says it also does not keep a list.

“That sounds problematic because there is a pattern of police here withholding information,” American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada attorney Tia Smith said. “I don’t know if I would trust that they would give that information over.”

Before LaPeer became an officer, he was accused of yelling racial slurs at his neighbor in Michigan. Officers cited him with a misdemeanor for disturbing the peace, according to a 2004 Farmington Hills, Mich., police report. Information about whether he was convicted was not available.

The incident raises questions about whether he should have been hired by the department at all, experts said.

Headley said the kind of accusations LaPeer has faced damages trust with the community — especially when an officer is hired with improper behavior on their record.

“When we think about safety in this community, whose safety is prioritized?” Headley asked. “Is it the safety of all residents or is it the safety of certain residents?”

Contact Briana Erickson at berickson@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5244. Follow @ByBrianaE on X. Erickson is a member of the Review-Journal’s investigative team, focusing on reporting that holds leaders and agencies accountable and exposes wrongdoing.

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