An oversight body has cleared the Metropolitan Police Department and its largest union of claims by sheriff candidate Laurie Bisch that she was punished for political reasons.
The local Government Employee-Management Relations Board found Bisch’s claims to be unsubstantiated, but the board acknowledged that the investigating officer in the case called it a "tower caper," slang for when a department "bigwig" wants something looked at.
Bisch said Wednesday that she plans to appeal the decision.
"I think when it’s all said and done everything will come out in our favor," said Bisch, a Metro officer who also ran for sheriff in 2006.
The claims revolve around a June 2008 incident for which Bisch was disciplined, according to the three-member board’s findings. A friend of Bisch’s daughter was bitten by Bisch’s dog and the officer took the 17-year-old girl to a UMC Quick Care for treatment after being unable to reach the girl’s mother.
Bisch told the Quick Care personnel the girl was her daughter, and used her daughter’s name and birth date because she feared she could not authorize medical care for an unrelated minor.
Four months later the girl’s mother filed a police complaint alleging that Bisch filed an insurance claim for the girl’s treatment. The internal affairs detective found that charge to be unsubstantiated, but discovered Bisch had falsified the girl’s identity. The detective sought a legal opinion from the Clark County District Attorney’s office, which deemed her act a felony under state law and thus a fireable offense for a Metro officer.
When it came to Sgt. Kenneth Romane to discipline Bisch, he disputed the felony finding. After consulting with the human resources department and his superiors, the felony charge was dropped and Bisch was instead written up for engaging in conduct unbecoming an employee, the department’s lowest form of punishment. She was never suspended. Bisch appealed the finding, forcing removal of some harsh language in the written reprimand, then challenged the entire reprimand, which she claimed was politically motivated.
That claim revolved around the internal affairs detective’s statement to Romane that the investigation was a "tower caper." The detective later explained to the board that the term refers to any internal investigation that involves a high-profile officer or criminal charges against an officer, and that the department’s executive staff are kept abreast of those cases, said Nick Crosby, a department lawyer who attended the board hearing. It doesn’t mean that the executive staff are targeting the officers, he said.
The board determined that Bisch had reason to suspect political motives, but that there was no evidence of that.
Bisch also alleged that the union, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, did not provide her with adequate representation during the internal investigation. But the union, according to its own bylaws, doesn’t provide representation for officers who retain their own counsel, as Bisch did.
Bisch and her lawyer, Adam Levine, claim state law allows officers to have two representatives at hearings, negating the union bylaw. The board found the state law to be vague and ruled Bisch’s claims unsubstantiated.
Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at email@example.com or 702-383-0440.