Henderson council deserves swift kick

After watching Henderson city officials compound their costly bungling of the forced retirement of Police Chief Jutta Chambers, I can only conclude that a brain scan is in order.

You know, an X-ray, MRI, CT scan, or at least a guy shining a flashlight into their ears. Something is definitely amiss here.

It’s hard to imagine a group of reasonably intelligent people being this wrongheaded without some medical cause that would be revealed in an MRI. Perhaps the small-minded city officials who participated in this exercise can get a group rate.

How else do you explain the batch of poor decision-making that culminated in a top cop of Chambers’ caliber getting the shove?

Unless, that is, you suspect that embarrassed officials acted out of political expediency instead of the best interests of the police department and the community it is supposed to serve and protect.

Contrary to some reports, Chambers’ political problems didn’t start with a videotape that showed Henderson Police Sgt. Brett Seekatz repeatedly kicking a defenseless motorist in the head during an October 2010 traffic stop. Reliable sources tell me she had whispering critics inside the department from the day in 2008 she became its first female chief. And she made enemies with a few department veterans when she got tough on a certain senior officer who was caught screwing around on the job once too often.

But then Seekatz and other officers, including Nevada Highway Patrol troopers, stopped Adam Greene on suspicion of DUI. He was actually suffering from a diabetic reaction and was on his way to losing consciousness.

Greene was certainly semiconscious after Seekatz finished his Jackie Chan impersonation with five kicks to the head. Henderson officials and taxpayers caught a break when Greene and his family accepted a $292,500 settlement. The existence of that NHP dashboard video surely would have cost them many times that in a civil trial.

The Seekatz incident was no secret in City Manager Mark Calhoun’s office. If elected officials felt embarrassed and blindsided when the video surfaced, they should have been paying better attention.

This mess must be doubly troublesome to Mayor Andy Hafen, a longtime cop. But if Hafen is losing sleep over Chambers’ departure, he hasn’t been outspoken about it.

Calhoun, meanwhile, recently bowed out of his job after delivering the news to Chambers that she would be asked to resign or retire. Chambers took the latter course, announcing the end of her nearly three-decade-long career on Feb. 16.

Calhoun is gone, but he’ll benefit from a handsome Public Employees Retirement System check. Chambers is gone, but she’ll get a monthly PERS check based on her $185,000 chief salary.

Although Deputy Police Chief James White is a solid veteran, and would be a capable and professional replacement, he’s said to be nearing retirement.

In the wake of the Chambers dumping, White should proceed with caution around Henderson officials. Wouldn’t want to startle them and get pushed into the street.

The bottom line is, Henderson officials badly damaged the credibility of their police department — and it’s a self-inflicted wound.

Those who dream of the day the position of Clark County sheriff will be appointed instead of elected should be careful what they wish for.

One look at Henderson’s mishandling of Chief Chambers should be enough to push thoughts of an appointment process out of their heads.

And, remember, Henderson government is closed on Friday. Imagine all the trouble officials would get into if they worked full time.

Want to know the craziest part?

A professional police chief is gone, but the cop with the kung fu fetish still has his job and didn’t even lose his sergeant’s stripes.

As a fellow once said, ain’t that a kick in the head?

John L. Smith’s column appears Sunday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Friday. Email him at Smith@reviewjournal.com or call 702-383-0295.
He also blogs at lvrj.com/blogs/smith.

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