February 17, 2017 - 11:24 pm
Metropolitan Police Department officers’ constitutional rights were violated when they faced termination for refusing to cooperate with internal investigations, a police union lawsuit against the department alleged this week.
“LVMPD has begun to disguise plainly administrative investigations as criminal investigations,” the five-page complaint filed Thursday states. “A controversy exists between (the police union) and LVMPD as to the nature and extent of their relationship and corresponding obligations, duties and responsibilities toward one another.”
Metro declined to comment on the complaint.
“The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is unable to comment on pending litigation,” spokesman Lawrence Hadfield said.
The Las Vegas Police Protective Association Metro Inc., which represents most rank-and-file officers, pointed to a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stated police officers could not be fired “for refusing to give a compelled statement when the immunity from the use of those statements in future criminal proceedings was not provided.”
The union asked a judge to prohibit the department from forcing officers to give statements.
In an October internal investigation, three officers were asked to give statements regarding an incident at a bar. The suit does not detail the incident but states that “investigators told each officer they could not have a PPA representative present, and that they had no choice but to give a statement … Refusing to give a statement would result in discipline or termination.”
That should apply only to criminal investigations, and the department “wrongfully and unlawfully took advantage of the criminal investigation carve-out,” according to the complaint.
At least one of the officers questioned in the October investigation offered a statement “under threat of discipline or termination without being provided immunity.”
When the department misrepresents administrative investigations as criminal investigations, officers lose exemption from prosecution. The Fifth Amendment protects individuals from self-incrimination.
Officers are forced to “either incriminate themselves with no immunity or invoke their constitutional right against self-incrimination and be charged with insubordination and terminated by the LVMPD,” according to the suit. “Such a situation is precisely what the Supreme Court found to be unconstitutional.”
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