North Las Vegas police on Tuesday arrested a department patrol officer accused of exposing himself and trying to coerce women into performing sexual activities 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 in connection with the incidents, which authorities alleged took place between March and July. Misconduct of a police officer and oppression under color of officer 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 alleged 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 said 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 alleged he exposed himself to her.
Five victims were named in the affidavit. None is a minor, 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 start 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 shaken, with one saying “her sense of security had gone out the window,” the affidavit said.
On one occasion, Clayton responded to a domestic disturbance call involving a husband and wife. The wife later told detectives that while two other officers were looking for the husband, Clayton asked her to open her dress and told her she was “hot,” the affidavit said. He later called her, texted her and asked to sleep with her, according to the affidavit.
The woman told detectives that she had to trust him “because he was a cop and in uniform.”
Bedwell said that police often have to fight the fears of citizens who are reluctant to come forward with complaints about officers because they feel the complaints will be ignored. But he said the charges against Clayton show that citizens should 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 initially were told of the complaints by co-workers or friends of the first two women who said they were 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 alleged Clayton pulled them over after following them out of grocery stores.
One of the victims told detectives that 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 and said that she had been speeding between 65-70 mph in a 45 mph zone. She denied that.
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 said.
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, the affidavit said.
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 said.
Two days later, Clayton showed up in uniform at her home, and she followed him in her car to a nearby school parking lot and got into the passenger seat of his patrol vehicle, the affidavit said. That is 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 said.
Through his attorney, Clayton declined a follow-up interview about the fourth and fifth victims, the affidavit said.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0440.