Clark County School District police chief resigns

The Clark County School District’s chief of police has resigned after months of controversy.

Citing privacy issues, a district spokeswoman said she could not disclose the reason behind Chief Phil Arroyo’s resignation. However, it comes after a lawsuit filed in October alleged that Arroyo ordered the cover-up of circumstances surrounding a 2009 holiday party attended by a minor who later was involved in a drunken-driving accident that killed a UNLV student.

At the school district’s request, Las Vegas police conducted an investigation into the party and whether district employees provided alcohol to minors, Sheriff Doug Gillespie said in an interview Friday. But police weren’t tasked with looking into the allegations of a cover-up or Arroyo, who wasn’t at the party.

Gillespie, who reported findings of the investigation in a Dec. 21 meeting with Superintendent Dwight Jones, said police didn’t turn up sufficient evidence of providing alcohol to minors. Even if they had, the statute of limitations has expired, preventing any charges from being filed. Gillespie didn’t provide a written report to Jones, only a verbal one, Gillespie and district spokeswoman Amanda Fulkerson said.

Because the investigation didn’t include looking into whether Arroyo initiated a cover-up, the issue hasn’t been put to rest.

Partygoer Kevin Miranda pleaded guilty to felony drunken driving and was sentenced in July to between six and 17 years in prison in connection with the crash that killed 24-year-old Angela Peterson. He was 18 at the time of the incident.

In October, Peterson’s parents filed a lawsuit alleging negligence by the School District Police Department and some employees. Francis and Linda Peterson alleged school police officers allowed Miranda to drink alcohol and drive away from a holiday party, then tried to cover up any involvement with underage drinking. The lawsuit names eight police employees, including Arroyo, and Miranda. Peterson’s parents seek more than $100,000 in damages.

According to the lawsuit, a school police dispatcher hosted the party at her home on Nov. 28, 2009, and invited officers via email and fliers posted at police offices with Arroyo’s knowledge.

Another dispatcher’s 16-year-old daughter and her boyfriend, Miranda, attended the party and drank "as much alcohol as they wanted" in "obvious" sight of police employees, the lawsuit alleged. Miranda and his girlfriend left the party with the "knowledge, consent and/or reckless disregard of the individuals who drank with him," it said.

Arroyo was accused in the lawsuit of ordering employees to destroy party fliers and emails and of not giving the findings of an internal investigation to authorities.

Fulkerson said that Arroyo, who earned $114,000 annually, is not receiving severance pay.

"While we are required to keep the terms (of Arroyo’s resignation) confidential, the public should be assured this was not a buyout situation," she said.

Even though Arroyo formally resigned Friday, he’s been suspended since early October and Capt. James Ketsaa has served as acting chief of the police department, which has 150 officers and a $18.3 million operating budget.

Now that Arroyo won’t return to his post, Ketsaa will remain as interim police chief as the district conducts a search for a permanent replacement, Jones said in a Friday memo to police staff.

"I understand that the past few months have been difficult for all school police employees, and I want to thank you for continuing to work hard to keep our school community safe," the memo said.

Arroyo, who could not be reached for comment, became school police chief in February 2008 after serving as a captain for three years.

Arroyo began in law enforcement at the Miami Police Department in 1983, was project manager of the West Palm Beach, Fla., Juvenile Assessment Center and then joined the Palm Beach County School Police in 2000 before coming to Clark County.

His tenure as the district’s top cop has had its controversies.

A year ago, Utah’s Iron County sheriff’s office expressed frustration that a district employee was still on the job a year after the department submitted a case against him to school police that alleged he engaged in lewd chat room exchanges and sent images of himself masturbating.

Arroyo initially said the investigation was the responsibility of a federal agency he could not name. Almost a week later, the district announced in a statement that school police had thoroughly investigated the allegations and had submitted the case to the Clark County district attorney’s office.

But District Attorney David Roger denied that a written case had ever been submitted. No charges have been filed.

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