Buildings pay tribute to sheriffs who helped shape Metro

Things were different back when Ralph Lamb worked in local law enforcement.

“I was coming off of the hill at Railroad Pass with two guys in my car, both of them dead,” Lamb said. “I looked down at the town, and it looked big to me then. There were 15,000 people in Las Vegas back then.”

Lamb, a former Las Vegas police sheriff who served on the force from 1961-1978, was recalling his early days in the department. He was coming back from an accident.

At the time, there wasn’t an ambulance in the city. If someone was still alive at an accident, it was likely he’d end up driving into town in a hearse — sometimes dead.

That was how the young lawman ended up driving down a lonely rural road one night with two fresh corpses in his patrol car.

“These two guys tipped over in a car, one of those old Kaiser-Frazers,” Lamb said of the former automobile company. “It was pretty spooky driving down there in the night. It made me stop and think about everything. That was 1949.”

Lamb was one of three former sheriffs who attended a ceremony Dec. 3 at the Metropolitan Police Department’s headquarters, 400 S. Martin Luther King Blvd., where plaques honoring them were unveiled, and three buildings at the complex were named for them. In addition to Lamb, buildings were named in honor of John McCarthy, a sheriff from 1978 to 1982, and Bill Young, who served from 2003 to 2009.

The three were honored for their contributions to Clark County, including the More Cops Tax, the Clark County Detention Center and the merging of the Las Vegas Police Department with the Clark County Sheriff’s Department, which formed Metro.

“The middle building was named for Sheriff Lamb because of his role in the consolidation,” Metro public information officer Jesse Roybal said. “The A building (the south building) was named for Sheriff McCarthy, and the B building (North) was named for Sheriff Young. That’s simply because of the order they served, so the naming of the side buildings is in chronological order from left to right.”

Roybal said Metro’s training center, 9880 W. Cheyenne Ave., is already named for Sheriff Jerry Keller (1995-2003).

Lamb was the sheriff serving when Metro was formed, but he also was there as the town made the transition from a rural community to a metropolis. There were just a handful of law enforcement officers when Lamb began his career. He said he was 21 or 22, and there were four or five police officers in the city and a few in the county. Some of the small towns, such as Searchlight, had one officer handling everything.

“It was very interesting back in those days,” Lamb said. “The guys will say it was nothing, but back then, if you got in a fight, you just got in a fight. That’s all there was to it. There wasn’t any sending for help.”

Contact East Valley View reporter F. Andrew Taylor at or 702-380-4532.

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