A civil suit had been filed by the family of a mentally ill man who was killed by the police during a barricaded subject incident. The department defense was that the incident was handled in a ‘reasonable’ manner hoping to avoid liability for wrongful death. Later the chief used the same incident to justify demoting the commander. On the one hand the department called police actions ‘proper’ in the killing, but then they slammed the commander by spinning 180 degrees in response to his civil suit. In a key ruling, the judge decided that the jury could not hear both stories because of the conflicting defenses.
Telling ‘stories’ about proper policing to avoid civil liability and then changing the story for a different audience reminded me of the LVMPD. If you are targeted at Metro, I believe a narrative is created for Internal Affairs. Once the predetermined conclusion is reached, another story is presented at a pre-termination hearing or discipline
board. Ultimately, they embellish even more at arbitration and beyond. I believe it is highly unethical for people who are seeing this process to allow it to continue.
Who is in a perfect position to pay attention, take notes, obtain transcripts, and confirm that there are different stories being told at different times? Who is in the position to recognize conflicting testimony and even lies? Who should be acting HONORABLY and putting a stop to this when they see someone like “my favorite captain” take one position in a hearing for an officer, then testify under oath and tell a different story for another officer he is trying to fire, and then spin it all over again for an arbitrator or a court? Why not? they really face no sanctions for perjury from Metro because Metro rewards
them for saying what Metro wants them to say. I once asked the union about lying supervisors. I was told, historically, nothing had ever been done about it.
The answer to WHO should have some integrity includes union reps, union attorneys, and the LVMPD attorney who I call “Tricky Nicky.”
Yes, they are all in a position to see what is happening because they are the only ones that can compare what is said at one proceeding with others that they are allowed to witness. The conflicting defenses strategy was viewed as ‘dishonorable’ in D.C., so the judge instructed the jury to disregard all testimony criticizing the commander’s handling of the barricade.
I thought about similar situations in Las Vegas which have involved (or could have involved) the same issues. For example, if a civil lawsuit had been filed by Stanley Gibson’s family and Metro wanted to fight (instead of settling out of court) it, there would likely be a ‘story’ of reasonableness or proper police tactics told to minimize liability. I can hear it now, “The LVMPD used proper tactics in order to render the situation safe.”
The ‘contradictory defense’ comparison occurs if Metro then decided to ‘punish’ the same people. For example, Officer Arevalo ended up being terminated by Metro for his role in the incident (firing a rifle at Gibson when he thought shots had been fired from the car). The contradiction is claiming that we did a good job on the tactical incident but actually realizing there were screw-ups. Do police departments play the game for the initial lawsuit and wait to impose discipline, demote, or terminate? Of course they do!
Don’t forget, the Gibson incident ended up with the demotion of a lieutenant and the suspension of a sergeant who has now retired. This makes me wonder what might have happened to those ‘in charge’ of the Chartered Oak incident when over 600 rounds were fired into an apartment. Oh, that’s right — corrective action didn’t need to be taken because the suspect was killed and the folks lucky enough to avoid bullets didn’t get hurt. No harm, no foul on that one but no corrective action to prevent the next nightmare!
I know of many situations where Metro decides that an officer (or supervisor) used ‘bad judgment’ and I actually have seen some shooting reviews published on the Office of Internal Oversight page where they use the term ‘administrative approval’ or ‘administrative disapproval.’ This is a judgment by management, but it does not always result in discipline. One remedy is additional training such as reality-based or scenario training. Another might include updated incident command system training or table-top exercises if a supervisor was viewed as not doing a good job. In ‘legacy’ Metro, it
would be very rare to see a supervisor demoted. Some have been given an extended probationary period, but taking away their rank was a rare occurrence during my career. Speaking of deadly force reviews, why there are so few of them being released? Did Metro bamboozle the Department of Justice so easily?
There was more to that D.C. police story. The Washington Metro PD came under fire after actor Charlie Sheen tweeted photos in April 2011 indicating he received a high-speed police escort from Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia to a performance in the District. The former commander testified that the police commonly provided celebrity escorts which contradicted what the chief had been telling the public. Do the celebrity escorts sound familiar? Remember
Metro’s helicopter flight-marriage proposal? Celebrity escorts occur at Metro just like in D.C.
The demoted commander had also ‘pushed back’ against the chief regarding overtime issues. Overtime distribution is also a very important topic at Metro as well. Many feel there are ‘special’ people who are favored in the system and they seem to always get overtime assignments. I have to wonder if police work still comes to a stop on the mornings when the overtime call-in line is open? How many drunk drivers could possibly be arrested if so many cops don’t go ‘out of service’ and spend time on their cell phones trying to get some overtime?
As the D.C. commander learned, once you are ‘targeted’ they come up with stories about how you were ‘not operating at the level expected of a commander,’ or they look back and study all of your actions and all of your decisions. The good news for the D.C. Metro commander is that he has his chief on the witness stand giving testimony about her decision to demote. I don’t know if anyone ever got that far with Sheriff Duh-G and actually got him testifying under oath in an employment-related civil lawsuit. It is very expensive to take on Metro’s half-billion dollar legal machine.
SEE NO EVIL, HEAR NO EVIL, SPEAK NO EVIL I’ve heard from multiple people that Internal Affairs is refusing to
take complaints from some officers. Who would have ever believed that the unit would end up being for political payback and retaliation by the regime? And what is Henderson doing trying to silence employees by threatening termination if they speak to the media? Imagine how much information can be suppressed when Internal Affairs won’t take complaints made by their own officers or when city employees can’t give facts to the media?
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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.