North Las Vegas police officer arrested on misconduct, other charges

North Las Vegas police on Tuesday arrested a department patrol officer accused of exposing himself and trying to coerce women into performing sexual activities in order to get out of traffic tickets.

James Vernon Clayton, 40, was arrested on five counts of misconduct of a police officer, two counts of oppression under color of office and one count of open and gross lewdness for the incidents, which took place between March and July. Misconduct of a police officer and oppression under color of valor are felonies that each carry a maximum sentence of four years in prison.

"This behavior that is alleged here is totally unacceptable," Sgt. Tim Bedwell said.

Clayton on multiple occasions would encourage women to flirt their way out of a ticket or expose themselves, according to an affidavit by a North Las Vegas police detective.

He would pursue some women aggressively, according to the affidavit. One victim claimed that, over the course of a few weeks, Clayton pulled her over twice, ran into her at a mall, and went to her place of business, a strip club, where he requested a lap dance from her.

Other victims claimed he called them, sent text messages or illicit photos to them, or showed up at their home and work, according to the affidavit. Another victim claimed he exposed himself to her.

There were five victims named in the affidavit. None of them are minors, Bedwell said.

A five-month investigation resulted in the Tuesday morning arrest, Bedwell said. Clayton, a three-year veteran of the department who has been on paid administrative leave since the beginning of the investigation, was arrested at the department’s northwest area command facility at 9:15 a.m. and is being held at the Clark County Detention Center on $108,000 bail.

The incidents left some women badly shaken, with one claiming "her sense of security had gone out the window," the affidavit states.

On one occasion, Clayton responded to a domestic disturbance call involving a husband and wife. While two other officers were looking for the husband, the wife later told detectives that Clayton asked her to open her dress and told her she was "hot," the affidavit states. He later called her, texted her and asked to sleep with her, according to the affidavit.

The woman told detectives she initially had to trust him "because he was a cop and in uniform."

"She said he was in government and the government protects you," the affidavit states.

Bedwell said that police often have to fight the fears of citizens who are reluctant to come forward with complaints about police officers because they feel the complaints will be ignored. But he said the charges against Clayton show that citizens should still feel the department is credible.

"I don’t know whether Mr. Clayton is guilty of these charges, but I do know that people in North Las Vegas can still rely on their police officers to come and treat them fairly," he said.

Police were initially informed of the case by co-workers or friends of the first two victims.

"At that point we realized we had serious allegations that would have to be dealt with in a criminal investigation" rather than through the department’s Internal Affairs section, Bedwell said.

In two cases, victims claimed Clayton pulled them over after following them out of grocery stores.

One of the victims told detectives Clayton was parked outside a Smith’s store and followed her out of the parking lot and onto the street for three or four blocks, according to the affidavit.

He pulled her over claiming that she had been speeding between 65-70 mph in a 45 mph zone. She denied it.

Clayton wrote a speeding ticket and handed it to the woman. As she was reading it, he snatched it back, telling her "if she would go out on a date with him he would eat the ticket right then," the affidavit stated.

Another victim told detectives that Clayton was staring at her inside a Bob’s Market. After she left, Clayton pulled her over and said her registration was suspended. When the woman went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get the situation fixed, Clayton, in plainclothes, went there and asked to "go home with her and get in her bed," the affidavit states.

Two days later, Clayton showed up in uniform at her home. She followed him in her car to a nearby school parking lot and got into the passenger seat of his patrol vehicle, the affidavit states. That’s where he asked her to flash him and where he opened his pants and exposed himself, she told detectives.

The following morning he showed up at her place of work and continued to call her, according to the affidavit.

Phone and police records corroborated the statements of witnesses, according to the affidavit.

When questioned by detectives, Clayton told them he had gone to the strip club and had flirted with some people.

"He said if they flirt with him, he flirts back," the affidavit states.

Through his attorney, Clayton declined a follow-up interview about the fourth and fifth victims, the affidavit states.

Anybody with information on the case is encouraged to call North Las Vegas police at 633-1946.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

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