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Henderson spends more than $50K investigating police chief

Updated January 21, 2019 - 4:21 pm

Henderson officials paid more than $50,000 last year to investigate police Chief LaTesha Watson.

Watson was the subject of 10 internal investigations and a memo outlining other issues in less than one year on her first job as chief.

She did not respond to requests for comment but has told investigators that she was informed the department lacked respect and professionalism and ran on a “good ol’ boys” system, according to one investigative report.

“As such, she expected there to be resistance when a black female was brought in as chief and set on making changes/improvements to the department,” the report said.

Most of the investigations revealed no policy infraction wrongdoing on the chief’s part, but other findings revealed issues with leaders in the Henderson Police Department, including forcing employees to read a chapter of a leadership book that contained religious references.

City spokeswoman Kathleen Richards said that hiring outside counsel to investigate claims against department directors is common practice because it reduces the potential for internal bias.

She said the city wants to send a message that it takes complaints seriously and wants employees to come forward.

“You want to make sure that there really isn’t something there,” Richards said.

About the time former chief Patrick Moers was forced out of his post amid an investigation of inappropriate conduct, the city set up a 24-hour hotline.

Watson was hired from the Arlington Police Department as a reformer after Moers’ ouster. She is the first black woman to serve as chief of Henderson police.

One anonymous complaint from last summer alleges that Watson was taking excessive time off. The law firm Littler Mendelson P.C. found the claim unsubstantiated, but the firm’s recommendations are redacted.

Four other complaints were emailed to city leaders anonymously in June. None was substantiated during the investigations, but recommended actions are redacted in one of the final reports.

One complaint alleged that Watson acted unethically in accepting Stanley Cup tickets for the Vegas Golden Knights from the ambulance company AMR. Watson told investigators she attended the game to represent the Police Department during an event with other valley law enforcement leaders. Watson and her staff were not spotlighted during the game.

Another complaint alleged that Watson and Deputy Chief Thedrick Andres solicited the help of an officer to falsify results for a fitness test required by state law for police officer certification.

Watson’s decision to bring in an outside consulting firm run by her former chief, Theron Bowman, for an audit of the Police Department was also investigated. She said an external audit of the Police Department was a condition of her accepting the chief position, according to the report.

She told the Review-Journal in October that she disclosed to the city her relationship with Bowman.

Littler Mendelson also looked into an anonymous complaint about Watson’s creation of a hostile work environment. More than one captain reported that “their careers may be over because they are tainted in the chief’s eyes,” according to the report.

Although the investigator said those fears might not be invalid, no evidence was found to show that Watson intended to fire anyone except for legitimate performance reasons.

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

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