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EDITORIAL: New sheriff takes unfortunate path on accountability

“Defund the police” is a toxic and naive concept. But its misguided roots stem from legitimate frustrations concerning law enforcement accountability. Ironically, too many police agencies continue to ignore the connection and operate as if they have no obligation to the communities they serve to punish rogue officers and promote transparency.

Take the Metropolitan Police Department in Clark County.

The agency, like many others, has a long-cultivated reputation for hostility to open records laws and preferring secrecy over sunlight. For example, a court in 2022 ordered Metro (read: taxpayers) to pay the Review-Journal $250,000 as part of a settlement with the paper over access to information from the Oct. 1 Strip massacre. In March, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the department broke the law by failing to provide the Review-Journal with documents surrounding an investigation into a Highway Patrol officer.

These are not isolated instances as much as a pattern of behavior.

Metro — led at the time by Sheriff Joe Lombardo, now governor — announced improvements in recent years, but it appears that was all for show. In 2021, Metro released a 37-page report with data from 2018 and 2019 on complaints made against officers and the outcomes of those investigations. The information is vital for residents to determine whether the agency takes seriously efforts to ensure officers conduct themselves professionally.

Department officials vowed to release similar analysis each year. But that was then, and this is now.

Last week, Metro officials said they had stopped producing the report because it no longer suited the department’s “business needs” — whatever that means. “There are no plans for the current administration to resume production of this report,” said a statement.

It shouldn’t take a hardened skeptic to wonder what Metro brass seeks to hide. You can bet that if the data gave the department something to crow about, it would have been released with bells and whistles. The fact that department officials now run for the hills — without providing any explanation for the about-face — speaks volumes.

It’s also the type of bone-headed decision that gives ammunition to Metro’s most vociferous critics. The vast majority of men and women in gray serve with dignity and exhibit an abiding commitment to making their community a safer place to live and work. They don’t fear transparency. They welcome it.

This is a self-inflicted wound by Sheriff Kevin McMahill, a three-decade Metro veteran sworn in as head honcho in January, who touts the “non-traditional partnerships” he has developed over the years with “faith leaders, non-profit organizations, activists and other community stakeholders.” If he continues to embrace the shadows over accountability, he’s likely to find those partnerships in tatters.

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