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EDITORIAL: County public defenders’ office prioritizes cop hate over professionalism

Public defenders have an obligation to set aside their personal political beliefs to help their indigent clients. Let’s hope that’s happening in Clark County.

As the Review-Journal’s Briana Erickson recently exposed, an anti-police culture appears to infest the Office of the Clark County Public Defender. For example, a human resources complaint stated Chief Deputy Special Public Defender Ashley Sisolak had a “F— the Police” sign in her office. Yes, that’s the daughter of former Gov. Steve Sisolak, who declined to comment.

According to the report, Monica — who requested that her last name not be used — is a retired California police detective who came to work in the office. Former police employees have investigative skills and insight into the processes police use. If you’re trying to acquit someone of a serious charge, those are valuable traits.

But Monica said the office was filled with “hateful” people. One day, she brought a mug into the office that read: “Back the Blue.” The next day, one of her co-workers, attorney Melissa Oliver, wore a shirt that read “Blue Lives Murder.”

The Review-Journal procured both a photo of her wearing that shirt and a group chat messages about the mug.

“I’m gonna wear my blue lives murder shirt again. And make sure she sees it,” Ms. Oliver wrote. Ms. Sisolak added in “Acab,” which is shorthand for “all cops are bastards.” Via text, she also offered to order “acab” mugs for those who wanted one.

JoNell Thomas, the special public defender who leads the office, emailed Monica that her mug violated the county policy about political speech.

Leave aside the absurdity of that claim. If a supervisor allows overtly anti-police slogans, she can’t simultaneously disallow pro-law enforcement sentiments. Doing so creates a double standard, which potentially opens the county up to legal liability.

That’s especially true given that Monica was released after filing a Human Resources complaint. She was still in her probationary period. That smacks of retaliation, especially because she previously received “five-star” reviews. Other former employees said they also experience hostility for their connections to law enforcement.

“Why do you post that you want former law enforcement to do investigations if you don’t really like us?” former employee Victorio Roman asked. He previously worked as a police lieutenant in New York.

Public defenders — like everyone else — have a right to their political opinions, of course. But they also have an obligation to be civil toward those with whom they disagree, to act professionally and to do the jobs they are paid to do rather than spend taxpayer time on progressive bomb throwing. This story highlights a failure on all counts.

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