Two former Las Vegas police SWAT officers have filed a complaint against the department asking for reimbursement after they were reassigned during the backlash over the abandoned federal roundup of rancher Cliven Bundy’s cattle.
The Police Protective Association — the union that represents most Metro officers — joined officer Russell Laws and retired Sgt. Mike Quick in filing the grievance Monday with the Employee Management Relations Board, a government entity that handles disagreements between employers and employees.
The complaint alleges the Police Department violated policy by refusing to accept a grievance that Laws filed about his transfer out of SWAT.
Laws’ transfer stemmed from a Facebook comment he left on a post about the Bureau of Land Management’s roundup of Bundy’s cattle. The rancher hasn’t paid grazing fees for 20 years and has ignored a court order to remove his animals from public land. The conflict came to a standoff April 12 when protesters drew guns on armed federal workers near his Bunkerville ranch, 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas.
It ended with the feds releasing Bundy’s cattle.
A Bundy supporter posted a photo from the standoff on Facebook showing someone pointing a rifle at Metro officers. Laws, who wasn’t at Bundy’s ranch April 12, responded by saying officers had their guns aimed at the man, too.
“… don’t worry, he wouldn’t have felt a thing!” Laws posted.
Laws, 41, deleted the post, but his supervisors found out about it. Metro brass said the comment could have escalated an already dangerous situation.
Metro then moved Laws to patrol.
According to the union-backed complaint, Quick disagreed with Laws’ transfer and testified on his behalf during an arbitration hearing.
After that, Quick also was transferred out of SWAT and given the choice to continue as a sergeant on patrol or in an administrative role, according to the complaint. For a month before his transfer, Quick was not allowed to go out on SWAT calls.
Quick retired effective Thursday, according to Metro spokesman officer Jesse Roybal.
Union Executive Director Chris Collins declined to comment on the complaint, which seeks an unspecified amount of money, including lost pay for both officers and reimbursement of money Quick paid to retire early.
Metro Deputy Chief Gary Schofield said employment-related complaints filed against the department are common.
“That is well within their rights,” Schofield said, though he noted it was interesting that Quick was involved considering his recent retirement.
Police union agreements don’t cover retired officers.
When the Employee Management Relations Board receives a complaint, it gets the choice to either dismiss or grant a hearing. There are enough cases in the queue ahead of Laws and Quick’s that it could be months before the board even gets to that step with this complaint, said Teri Williams, a spokeswoman for the board.
If a hearing is granted, it wouldn’t occur until after the new year. Hearings already are scheduled through January, Williams said.
Contact reporter Annalise Little at email@example.com or 702-383-0391. Find her on Twitter: @annalisemlittle.