weather icon Clear

String of complaints filed against Henderson police chief

Henderson police Chief LaTesha Watson was the subject of several city investigations last year, records obtained by the Las Vegas Review-Journal show.

Five internal complaints about Watson and the department include accusations of the chief making her employees read religious materials to prepare for a meeting and harming morale with her management style.

Some of the specific complaints were unfounded, but other findings show signs of turbulence in the department. Littler Mendelson P.C. was retained by the city in September to investigate all five complaints.

In one complaint, the investigating firm determined that it was “more probable than not that there is a serious morale issue amongst supervisory personnel at HPD.”

Investigators reached that conclusion after more than one person reported that Watson’s management style is unprofessional, harassing and demeaning, according to the report.

Watson could not be reached for comment, but has acknowledged that her decisions are not always popular. However, she has insisted her employees are seeing a level of fairness and consistency they have not seen before.

The chief’s supervisor, Bristol Ellington, who serves as Henderson’s chief operating officer and deputy city manager, declined to discuss personnel matters in depth, but said that the string of complaints do not affect his confidence in Watson.

“With change, you’re going to find that people are not happy,” he said. “Some people are, and some people aren’t.”

Watson told investigators and has said publicly that complaints against her are the product of a small group of disgruntled employees.

“At this point, that does not appear to be the case,” the report reads.

Religious reading

Some of the claims filed with the city appeared in a complaint filed months later by a pair of police unions with the state-run Employee-Management Relations Board.

One such complaint came from more than one person who reported being offended because Watson required them to read a chapter of a book with religious references before attending a meeting.

Watson told investigators she assigned the reading for the leadership principles it covers. The firm determined no religious discrimination occurred, however, Watson’s order violated the spirit of the of city’s harassment-free workplace policy.

“There was no legitimate business reason for the use of the chapter as other secular leadership materials are readily available,” the report reads. “Moreover, use of the chapter could easily lead employees to believe that Christian principles were expected to be used and/or were favored.”

Unfounded complaints

In another accusation that also appears in the union complaint, Bridget Ward, a transgender police officer, complained that she was denied a specialized assignment because of her gender identity. The law firm determined her complaint was unsubstantiated.

According to a separate report, the firm found no specific policy infraction, but determined department leadership created “significant issues” by muddling the role of Henderson’s human resources department in the police agency.

More than one person alleged that the songs and vignettes featured in the Police Department’s lip sync challenge video in September were inappropriate. One employee who emailed a complaint to Watson’s chief of staff was later counseled about the message by a police executive.

Although the law firm did not find a policy violation with the lip sync video, it did determine that it was “highly problematic for the City that the counseling took place at all.”

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

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Politics Videos
Tomi Lahren Speaks at UNLV - VIDEO
Fox News contributor and UNLV alumna Tomi Lahren returned to campus Wednesday night for a speech, titled “Stay Triggered,” that drew an auditorium of supporters as well as a group of protesters outside. (James Schaeffer/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders released from Las Vegas hospital - VIDEO
Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., issues a statement after he was released from Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Friday, Oct. 4, 2019, after suffering a heart attack earlier in the week. (Bernie Sanders via Twitter)
Democratic presidential candidates speak on impeachment - VIDEO
Democratic presidential candidates attending the March for Our Lives/Giffords Gun Safety Forum in Las Vegas comment on possible impeachment proceedings. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden Las Vegas Rally Highlights - Video
2020 presidential candidate, Joe Biden, came to Las Vegas to talk guns, climate change and the Ukranian-Trump scandal. Biden was interrupted by a protestor who sat amongst supporters at the rally and continued with his speech. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Joe Biden comments on Trump and his campaign efforts in Nevada - Video
After an impeachment inquiry was opened on Donald Trump, Joe Biden talks with Review-Journal politics reporter Rory Appleton about Trump and his campaign in Nevada. (Angus Kelly & James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders Unveils Affordable Housing Plan - Video
Bernie Sanders sits down with the Las Vegas Review-Journal to talk about his new affordable housing plan he unveiled at Plumbers & Pipefitters.
Jim Marchant talks gun control and Dreamers - Video
Republican Candidate for District 4 Jim Marchant talks about gun control and immigration policies. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Hurricanes, Gender, and Science in the Press
Imagine if the mainstream media’s current hurricane-sized obsession with scientific accuracy applied to gender.
Cory Booker on college tuition and minimum wage
Cory Booker talks on the RJ Politics podcast about college debt, informing workers about their rights and livable wages.
Nevada Politics Today: Teacher raises - VIDEO
Jason Goudie, the chief financial officer for the Clark County School District, talks about teacher pay and raises. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Media's Double Standard On Incitement And Trump - Video
Over the weekend, an Elizabeth Warren-supporting socialist who opposed gun violence used a rifle to commit a mass murder in Dayton, Ohio. The media has downplayed that aspect of the tragedy.
Project Our Care Tour Kicks Off In Las Vegas
U.S. Rep. Dina Titus joined health care advocates and local residents as part of Protect Our Care’s nationwide bus tour kick off in Las Vegas on Monday, August 5, 2019. (Mat Luschek / Review-Journal)
Bernie Sanders talks about guns, response to El Paso shooting
Sen. Bernie Sanders spoke about his response and continued policy ideas about guns and gun control to the Review-Journal after a panel of other topics. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Pete Buttigieg On Gun Control And Climate Change - Video
Pete Buttigieg talks about his campaign for the 2020 election and how Nevada is a vision of what the future can be.
Beto O'Rourke speaks in Las Vegas
Presidential candidate Beto O'Rourke spoke to supporters at the East Las Vegas Community Center in Las Vegas, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2019. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)