Updated December 8, 2021 - 10:40 am
Las Vegas police Lt. Ray Spencer, who oversees Metro’s homicide unit, plans to retire in May after two decades on the force, but he has already decided on his next career path: City lawmaker.
In an interview this week with the Review-Journal, Spencer said he is running for the City Council seat in the northwest Ward 6, a decision spurred by his frustration over rhetoric and divisiveness in politics.
“I could either sit around and complain about it or I could try to improve our community and make an impact,” he said by phone Monday.
Spencer, 44, started considering the prospect of mounting a campaign in the summer but he said his decision was solidified when Councilwoman Michele Fiore entered the governor’s race in October, leaving the seat open in next year’s primary election. He officially announced his candidacy Wednesday.
Focus on public safety
Spencer will cap off 25 years in law enforcement at the time he retires, including fewer than five in Northern Nevada. He built a lengthy career after returning to his hometown, Las Vegas, rising through the ranks investigating sexual assault and child abuse cases before becoming Metro’s homicide lieutenant a little more than four years ago. He was the incident commander during the 1 October mass shooting.
His perspective on key issues facing the city has been informed by both his work experience and certain political attitudes across the nation.
He said his primary focus will be to ensure that public safety is supported amid rising rates of violent and property crimes in the northwest and citywide, and he committed to protecting investment in police against any efforts to “defund the police.” Advocates across the U.S. have called for reallocating law enforcement dollars to other community needs in the wake of high-profile killings of Black people at the hands of officers.
Spencer also said that the city needed to better address the root causes of homelessness, particularly mental health and drug addiction, to meaningfully carve into what he acknowledged was a complicated problem.
“You cannot allow Las Vegas to turn into Seattle,” he said, referring to an omnipresent mass congregation of tents in that city. “I’m all for helping and giving someone a hand up, but not necessarily handouts. People have to want to help themselves and take some effort.”
Las Vegas passed a highly controversial anti-camping law in late 2019, although very few people were penalized during its first full year in operation, which officials attributed to limited enforcement during the pandemic, among other things.
Touting track record
Spencer said he lived in a hotel as a child with his mother who worked two jobs, and he recalled his first gig delivering pizzas as a young teenager. He said his upbringing shaped his understanding of hard work and the need for education and opportunity.
Having lived in Ward 6 now for a decade, he praised its mix of urban and rural elements, a “unique quality of life” that he pledged to preserve.
Preservation means being opposed to overdevelopment, including ultra-high density residential buildings, he said, and working with developers to bring in more small businesses, improving access to quality medical care and creating more recreation opportunities for children.
Spencer did not offer any criticisms of Fiore, a controversial lawmaker, and he commended her community outreach while on the council.
He cast himself as even-tempered, a good listener and unafraid to admit mistakes. And he said he can point to a successful track record: The department’s rate of solved homicides under his tenure — more than 90 percent — leads all other major police forces in the country, he said.
No stranger to regularly communicating with reporters as part of his role with Metro, Spencer vowed to be a transparent city lawmaker. As an agency, Metro has a history of fighting against the Review-Journal and other media’s efforts to obtain public records, but Spencer said he could only speak for himself.
Unprompted, he addressed the city’s apparent deletion of City Hall surveillance videos that showed a physical altercation between Fiore and Councilwoman Victoria Seaman, despite efforts by the Review-Journal to obtain the footage through public records requests.
“That’s unacceptable,” he said.
The candidate filing period for nonjudicial races in 2022 begins March 7. The primary election is June 14.