Union head, police chief spar

The head of the union representing UNLV police officers said Friday the university isn’t prepared to deal with a crisis such as the Virginia Tech shootings.

Ron Cuzze, president of the Nevada State Law Enforcement Officers’ Association, said University of Nevada, Las Vegas police don’t have adequate training and equipment.

“Stand up and say, ‘We’re not prepared,'” Cuzze urged UNLV police Chief Jose Elique.

But Elique said his officers are properly trained and that the police union has a grudge against the university.

“The union is not this department’s friend, and they’re constantly making erroneous statements,” Elique said.

When he was a member of UNLV’s police force, Cuzze, along with two other officers, filed a federal lawsuit accusing university officials of defaming and harassing them at a time when the department was accused of excessive force and misconduct.

Cuzze said no university police department could adequately handle a situation such as the one that occurred at Virginia Tech, but that the UNLV department lacks even radios that could communicate with the Metropolitan Police Department, which also would respond to a crisis on campus.

Elique said he ordered radios for the 36 people in his department about a year ago, but the order is backlogged because of high demand.

UNLV police officers have radios in their cars with which they can communicate with Las Vegas police, but their hand-held radios can communicate only with UNLV police dispatchers.

Elique said those dispatchers have a direct line to Las Vegas police dispatchers.

Cuzze also complained about Elique’s comments to the media that UNLV police had trained with Las Vegas police’s SWAT unit.

The department’s last course by a SWAT officer in responding to an “active shooter” was in 2004. Only six of the department’s 18 patrol officers who underwent the training are still with the department, according to Cuzze.

Elique said UNLV police officers undergo disaster training with Las Vegas police several times a year when they prepare for events on campus, such as the NBA All-Star Game and the National Finals Rodeo.

He also said 24 of his 36 employees have undergone training by the International Association of Campus Law Enforcement Administrators.

Elique said he arranged this week for his department to team up with Las Vegas police for on-campus training this summer.

University system Regent Stavros Anthony, a Metropolitan Police Department officer, said in the event of an emergency at UNLV, “our SWAT team is just minutes away.”

He said UNLV police would benefit from hand-held radios that could communicate with Las Vegas police.

He added, “I can tell you UNLV and Chief Elique have a good reputations in the local law enforcement community.”

Chancellor Jim Rogers said there is little campus police can do to prevent a Virginia Tech-like situation.

“You can’t make it safe from a son of a bitch coming on and shooting up the place,” Rogers said.

He said the best thing is to notify people on campus to stay away from the area in emergency situations.

UNLV spokesman Dave Tonelli said the university acquired a reverse-911 call system this year and has tested it with university emergency officials.

The system can call phone numbers and play a recorded message or leave text messages.

He said officials would evaluate the effectiveness and the capabilities of the system in May.

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