You talk to Capt. Sasha Larkin, head of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s Northwest Command, and you come away sensing a renaissance of sorts that has been quietly taking shape between police and the community.
And you have every reason to respect Larkin, who is in charge of the largest command area in Las Vegas, headquartered at 9850 W. Cheyenne Ave. and encompassing most of Summerlin, especially when she tells you:
“We keep a close eye on the rest of the world. We know all about Ferguson and the other communities in America where there has been unrest. We have never had that kind of problem here and we don’t want it. We as a police agency will go the extra mile to (prevent) that from happening.”
Larkin is one of six female captains in Metro — five of whom oversee commands in Las Vegas. She explained how she has arranged for minority leaders in Summerlin and surrounding areas to be represented at meetings to exchange views on terrorist threats, as well as racial and religious concerns.
“We talk about what we can do to better understand one another, to solve community problems,” Larkin stated. “Our meetings create an organic exchange of ideas. For example, it’s so nice to see Hassidic Jews engaging in friendly conversation with Muslims, or Hindus in talks with Christians.”
She listed religious institutions in Summerlin that are represented in the group that she and other Metro officers meet with quarterly.
“We have one mosque, three Jewish temples or synagogues, one Hindu temple, one Sikh temple, a Baha’i center, and numerous Christian and Mormon churches. Until recently I had no idea that the Ethiopian community in Las Vegas consisted of 40,000 Christians,” she said.
Larkin was appointed by Sheriff Joe Lombardo last July to head up the Northwest Command.
“It was the first time any female was appointed head of this command station,” she said during an interview in her office. “In fact, this is the first time we have ever had any women serve as police captains and heads of any command in Las Vegas, which is certainly a credit to Sheriff Lombardo.”
Larkin told of an incident in which police chased a drug dealer who was thought to have entered a mosque.
“We wanted to get into the mosque that day,” she said. “But first we had to say ‘hello,’ and we continued to say ‘hello.’ And finally they said ‘hello’.
“My officers asked, What can we do to help you? The imam said there was a lot of graffiti, abandoned cars and other litter strewn around their neighborhood. He asked if somebody from the city could clean up the mess. We took care of the problem, and in doing so we gained their trust,” Larkin said.
She said that after her appointment to head the Northwest Command, she adopted her policy of community outreach.
“We have three basic interests,” she said. One is to educate police about the concerns of the community. Second, “I don’t want anyone in the community to feel disconnected from us.” And third, “give everyone in the community a voice when needed.”
Larkin said that much of Metro’s policy of transparency, “not only in this command but throughout the community,” can be attributed to Undersheriff Kevin McMahill.
“His approach is to preach peace,” she said.
Herb Jaffe was an op-ed columnist and investigative reporter for most of his 39 years at the Star-Ledger of Newark, New Jersey. His most recent novel, “Double Play,” is available. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.