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Straighten up

The current motto for the city of Henderson is “A place to call home.” Indeed, many have rightly found Henderson a fine place to live, with the population now over 250,000, the second-largest city in the state. There is still some small-town charm to parts of Henderson, but make no mistake, this is not a small town. And with that size comes greater responsibility, particularly from those who most visibly represent the city.

Like those in the police department.

As reported Saturday by the Review-Journal’s Mike Blasky, SWAT officer Justin Dera was suspended last month pending an internal investigation into an incident of horseplay that led to the injuring of a co-worker. The department wouldn’t confirm what took place, but Mr. Blasky learned that Mr. Dera shocked officer Daniel Boskovic with a handheld stun gun while a group of officers clowned around at the office. While such an incident might bring to mind the infamous Youtube video of a University of Florida student pleading to a police officer, “Don’t tase me bro,” there ended up being little humorous about this incident. Mr. Boskovic was briefly hospitalized and missed about a week of work.

Mr. Blasky reached the injured officer by phone last week, and Mr. Boskovic didn’t dispute the incident happened. He indicated he had recovered. “I’m good. I’m all right.”

The same can’t be said for his department, and perhaps more so the SWAT unit. In February, officer Justin Simo drove a SWAT vehicle several miles on a rim after a tire blew out, and the SUV ultimately burst into flames and was totaled, an estimated loss of $60,000 to the city. Mr. Simo was fired in April.

Last month, the Review-Journal’s Francis McCabe reported that a federal lawsuit was filed against the department by a family claiming its Third Amendment rights had been violated. On July 10, 2011, the family refused to let SWAT officers use their homes to perform surveillance in what authorities suspected was an ongoing domestic violence incident involving a neighbor. The suit alleges that officers manhandled Linda Mitchell and arrested husband Michael Mitchell and son Anthony Mitchell on charges of obstructing a police officer. The suit also said that Anthony Mitchell was shot three times with a pepperball gun, and his dog was also shot with the pepperball gun. The alleged domestic violence suspect was arrested, but the charges were later dismissed.

The February SUV incident and its subsequent fallout should have been more than enough to have all Henderson police officers — SWAT and otherwise — on their best behavior. But that clearly hasn’t been the case. Patrick Moers was promoted to police chief in July 2012, with the department under scrutiny for a controversial police beating recorded by a Nevada Highway Patrol trooper’s dashboard camera. Upon his hiring, Mr. Moers said, “It’s my commitment to continue to make Henderson one of the safest communities in the country.” He would do well by starting right within his department.

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