For example, you work on a squad that has a bad reputation for excessive force or discourtesy complaints. One such squad existed quite a few years ago. It got so bad that suspects were being asked to expose their genitals or to improperly dispose of drugs (swallow them) in order to avoid arrest. This probably seemed like ‘fun and games’ to
the instigators. I believe one officer named William Stoops lost his job. He was a field training officer and news coverage indicated that a female officer had complained about what had been going on. Another officer (he was just a ‘rookie’ at the time) also lost his job. He was actually ‘non-confirmed’ because he was still on probation. It is
likely that he will be the next Metro Undersheriff if Joe Lombardo gets elected. His name is Kevin McMahill and now he seems to be the ‘star’ in the organization, a ‘darling in DC,’ and he represents all of the positivity and hope for the future. He faced ‘adversity’ (which may not have been caused by anything within his control) but isn’t it great that he also got another chance and was hired by the LVMPD a second time and catapulted to the highest levels of the organization?
Maybe; maybe not; it depends on what lessons were learned. I know stories of others who faced adversity…being in the wrong place at the wrong time. Sheriff Doug Gillespie would tell a story about a new officer who was assigned to work with some notorious Vice detectives when Charles Bush died. Just how much is a new officer expected to do when mistakes are made, rules are violated, and a struggle ensues where you just can’t walk away or stop the incident by yourself? Mike Campbell had a successful career after facing serious adversity (facing criminal charges) ‘back in the day’ when there was a whole lot less scrutiny than there is today.
“Adversity” as used in a sentence, “A friend will show his or her true colors in times of adversity.” I’ve got a feeling that Doug Gillespie influenced the outcome of many incidents for his ‘friends’ during his career (both before and while serving as sheriff)…but where was he for the rest of us? He kicked far too many ‘salvageable’ cops to the
curb and showed his true colors…arrogant and indifferent. To those who had their ‘second chance’ and had their careers saved by Duh-G — Congrats! To those who were (and still are) DESTROYED by the betrayal of your own agency… don’t give up. Never, never stop standing tall and knowing that you were just expendable at that time and place in the history of the LVMPD. If you were hired before the ‘truthfulness’ policy you may have survived, but the policy wasn’t the problem; it was the application of the policy once it went into effect.
I was always interested in the story of NYPD officer Frank Serpico because of the adversity that he faced. The following are excerpts that provide a concise description of who Serpico was and why he stood tall in policing.
Frank Serpico was born on April 14, 1936, in Brooklyn, New York. He became a New York City police officer in 1959 and served for 12 years.
He reported and exposed corruption within the department. In 1971, he testified before the Knapp Commission. Disliked by fellow officers, they did not come to his aid when he was shot during a 1971 drug raid.
After his retirement Serpico spoke out against police corruption brutality, the weakening of civil liberties, and corrupt practices in law enforcement, such as the alleged cover-ups following Abner Louima’s torture in 1997 and the Amadou Diallo shooting in 1999. He provides support for “individuals who seek truth and justice even in
the face of great personal risk.” He calls them “LAMPLIGHTERS,” a term he prefers to the more common “whistle-blowers,” which refers to alerting the public to danger.
Among police officers, his actions are still controversial, but Eugene O’Donnell, professor of police studies at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, states that “he becomes more of a heroic figure with every passing year.”
Frank Serpico was a LEADER even though he did not have rank — certainly not enough rank to fix problems himself. He saw wrongdoing and kept trying to report it. He faced serious consequences. His career only lasted 12 years. In reality, it seems that it should be fairly easy to report CORRUPTION — at least to those in a system that
is professional and has a focus on integrity. If you see a fellow officer shooting an unarmed subject and then ‘throwing down a gun,’ it should be easy to report this. If you see a fellow officer taking money from a suspect after a drug bust, it should be easy to report this FELONY conduct. If you see an officer being paid to ignore some
criminal enterprises (such as Vice), this is another example of egregious conduct that is criminal in nature.
Using excessive force (more than necessary) is NOT necessarily a crime. Watching how ‘managers’ push for enforcement against certain offenders while others are ignored (or how they target certain officers within their own departments) may NOT be a felony crime but it is an insidious problem. It may take even MORE courage to address problems in policing that are not so clear-cut and corrupt!
Who is likely to open their mouth about ‘administrative’ problems with hiring and promotions when the sledge hammer is going to be swung back at them? Who is going to advocate for tourists or citizens who are clearly not receiving effective police service when chances are that the ‘messenger’ will be damaged more than they are? Getting jumped (beat down) on the Strip might cause a tourist to suffer a bloody nose or other minor injuries, but an officer who tried to focus some attention on the disorder and violence faces losing his job and all of the humiliation that goes with being labeled ‘untruthful.’
Beyond the obvious examples of adversity facing police that are listed above, I believe that the near future of policing will also involve challenges never before faced by those who serve. I believe public trust and maintaining ‘civilian’ police forces will be a challenge. I believe that immigration will be a huge challenge — remember the immigration marches a few years ago where huge crowds and the powder keg of race/ethnicity could explode at any time? If these types of protests are not handled properly they could explode into violence and cause long-term problems.
It is obvious that terrorism is a problem, but we face more ‘targeted violence’ in the U.S. I don’t consider school shootings and other high-profile incidents to be ‘terrorism’ because the intent of the criminals is to inflict immediate and specific damage, NOT necessarily to instill fear into those who survive or to terrify the general
Technology is another challenge (adversity) because it cuts both ways.
The Internet has caused huge problems in the areas of pornography, prostitution, and destruction of privacy and our ability to protect our families, but at the same time it has also assisted savvy police departments to identify and capture suspects. Technology would also include body cameras and those cameras that are supposedly covering the Las Vegas Strip. Is anyone watching them?
Finally, is anyone planning to prepare for new demands from the ‘customers’ of the police? How much longer will police be able to ignore customer satisfaction when there are other options emerging?
Those options include private policing — not just ‘rent-a-cops,’ but highly trained and skilled professionals who chose to start careers in non-public employment. It is almost certain that there will be different policing models in the near future. If voters can’t sweep out self-serving regimes (such as those that can become entrenched in
county sheriffs’ departments like the LVMPD) then maybe they will have other options such as de-consolidation or contract policing which provide greater responsiveness, service, and trust.
AMERICAN policing will survive and meet the challenges of the future if there are enough LAMPLIGHTERS like Frank Serpico that seek the job for the right reasons… striving for the ideal of true JUSTICE.
Future officers are preparing in colleges and universities and learning to have a larger perspective on the role of civilian police… hopefully they can avoid watching too many TV shows because ‘Rambo’ is fine for soldiering, but protecting and serving our communities is a different game.
LAS VEGAS policing is at a turning point (November 4th). I’ve heard that things got very dirty right at the end of the campaign. Is that a sign of desperation? What an astonishing ‘loss’ it would be to the big money folks if a ‘regular’ guy named Larry Burns got a chance to take charge and make changes!
If Larry wins, the future is bright. If Joe wins, there will be a new type of adversity facing the LVMPD… an organization that overwhelmingly does NOT want to work for the new ‘King’ or all of his ‘Knights’… and the Knights could be very dark and very scary.
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Norm Jahn is a former LVMPD lieutenant, who has also served as a police chief in Shawano, Wisconsin, and has nearly 25 years of police experience. Jahn now contributes his opinions and ideas to help improve policing in general, and in Las Vegas in particular, through his weekly column in the Las Vegas Tribune.