During my career as a police officer, I often heard a certain comment at police funerals and after the deaths of police officers that seems to still be quite commonly used: “We will not remember him for how he died, but for how he lived his life”; but is this a proper or valid position to take? If a police officer’s life ends with him or her committing a crime, does that define his entire life’s legacy?
Feelings are very strong about the Walters family tragedy. I don’t know if there should be a ‘taking of sides,’ but I can NOT just erase all of my memories of working with and working for Lt. Hans Walters. His final actions were beyond comprehension and horribly wrong. But, were they taken because of pure evil, or despair? Were they premeditated, or the result of reaching a breaking point? Most importantly, can we deflect or divert a person’s despair into something less devastating?
This event was horrific, but these events do happen elsewhere and will continue because we are human beings that are imperfect. Wouldn’t it be a good idea to try to figure out what happened and then try to use our knowledge to prevent such situations from ever happening again?
There is a popular Christian group that sings a song, “Measure of a Man,” which includes the following lyrics: “God knows and understands, for he looks inside to the bottom of your heart, and what’s in the heart defines the measure of a man.”
What was in Hans Walters’ heart for 52 years? I think that only God will be able to sort this all out. But I want to relay some things that I do know.
I do know that Hans Walters was a co-worker, a supervisor of mine, and a ‘friend’for the period of time that I knew him. I knew his wife, Michelle, briefly while she was one of the TAC officers in my second police academy. I never met Max, but I know how much Hans adored his son.
I have read that Hans was NOT under any investigation for misconduct at the time of his death. The news reports indicate that he was recently required to change back to the graveyard shift and that everything seemed normal during his last day at work.
The LVMPD may or may not reveal whether Hans was having any performance problems (work issues other thanmisconduct) after he transferred away from the Convention Center Area Command to DTAC and then to EAC.
I do know that his probation as a new police lieutenant was extended by one year (until July 2nd, 2011) by Cpt. Hank and Cpt. Fasulo. I do know some of the reasons why they claimed it was necessary to extend it. One reason was that Lt. Walters had already praised the performance of a sergeant (in writing) when Cpt. Hank actually wanted that employee investigated. The captain did launch an investigation, which was totally unfounded. Hans stood up against the power and bias of the captain, and the captain went on to describe his actions as‘subversive.’ I call his actions honorable!
Another reason was that he had surgery to repair an injury sustained on duty (at a training program where you ‘catch’ another person as part of a TRUST exercise). How ironic! He was not performing full duties as a lieutenant during his recovery period so his supervisors didn’t have a chance to evaluate his performance for the normal probationary period.
I do know that he made a comment in a briefing setting in response to an officer’s comments. Someone was offended in that briefing and reported Lt. Walters for what was, essentially, nothing important at all!
I do know that he attempted to use internal resources (the PMSA and the Employment Diversity Section), but only they know what assistance they were ever able to give him…or NOT!
I do knowthat I last saw him in person in May of 2012, when he testified at my arbitration hearing. He did not appear to even be the same man that I knew up until July of 2011, when I was relieved of duty and home for several months. I had been terminated in November of 2011 and waited for an arbitration hearing until May of 2012. We didn’t even have any eye contact that day. He looked like he had just ‘given up.’ His answers to some questions from the attorneys were, “If you say so,” or “Whatever you say.” He was not allowed to be forthright.
Prior to my May 2012 hearing, he had already testified in a hearing for another officer who had been terminated by Metro after he simply went to lunch at the Peppermill restaurant. I’m sure that his testimony in strong support of Officer Dakota Almazan made his chain of command upset with him. He was under a lot of stress because of the opinions that his supervisors had of him. He stood up for his men, as far as he could, but he may have reached a point where he simply had to comply to survive.
We talked and e-mailed each other extensively — even during the seven months after his promotion when we did not work together. We met car-to-car on the Harmon overpass between City Center and the Panorama Towers and griped about work. He knew (better than I did) what his supervisors were doing to him and forcing him to do to others. He warned me more than once about what they were trying to do to me.
He told me he would have his ‘20 years’ in September of 2011 and he said, “Norm, wait until we get to court.” He had previously given me, and others, advice on filing discrimination complaints because of how we were being treated. All of this is well documented…and I would have to think that the LVMPD was gaining access to all of his work e-mails just like they forced him to turn over my e-mails.
I’m sure that they were restricting him from having contact with me and others. I’m sure that they were forcing him to turn over all e-mails and to report any phone calls or contacts. The LVMPD likes to control all aspects of these situations so that they will prevail in their allegations of misconduct — but this limits an employee’s ability to seek advice or other help. Technically, you can’t even call a relative for a loan to hire an attorney to fight the‘machine’ with the half-billion dollar budget.
They locked me out of my office for months. They refused to give me access to my e-mail and records for months. They finally gave me a disc which they said contained all of my e-mails. I hope they open it up and read a few of the ones that Lt. Walters wrote to me!
There is so much more to the story of how Hans Walters was treated by the LVMPD. The labor attorney for the LVMPD described him as a ‘weak’ supervisor after they used him in one hearing. In essence, they used him and then mocked him and I think he lost his pride and his self-esteem. Once you receive a ‘label’ at the LVMPD, this can spell the end of your career advancement and opportunities for different assignments. On the other hand, if you ‘get your stripes’ with a drunk driving or domestic violence (and you are a member of the Gillespie‘TEAM”) you might find yourself getting promoted or transferred to a better job. Don’t believe me? Claim this is all just ‘sour grapes’? Just ask current and former Metro cops to search their memory banks and you will be given a list of names to go with these claims.
Nothing here is an attempt to justify or explain the actions of Lt. Hans Walters on January 21, 2013. Nothing here may even end up being relevant in the least to his criminal conduct in the end…but there are FACTS that could at least be considered (by someone) and we might be able to find ways to predict or prevent things like this from happening in the future.
This is not a self-serving column … facts exist that support the information conveyed; and, although I do not expect the results from any investigation to be made public, it does no good to simply suppress information that could be part of the obvious explosion that destroyed a family.
I lost my ‘hometown friend’ to a suicide in 1985. Officer Doug Bertrand took his own life while a member of the LVMPD over 27 years ago. Other officers have also died in the past few decades. Do we write these tragedies off to their being ‘weak’ or ‘mentally damaged,’ or could we start asking someone (maybe not even the investigating agency) to try to dig deeper and possibly diagnose the cause of the problem and try to find a cure?
I’m guessing that any ‘cure’ is going to be more of an ‘inoculation’ to keep our people stronger in light of the internal and external challenges of the job. The Police Employee Assistance Program started decades ago. I’ve called Tom Harmon many times just to talk about things. He has always had the time to listen. The LVMPD has taught Dr. Kevin Gilmartin’s “Emotional Survival for the Police” materials for many years. I’m sure he is one resource among many other professionals who commit their lives to trying to find some answers and trying to keep things like this from ever happening.
If the Metro “syrup’ starts to choke you, there are other options! There is a life after Metro! We just have to make sure that our entire personal ‘identity’ is not wrapped around our job with the LVMPD. We need balance — whether that means getting involved in outside activities such as church, hobbies or fitness, or just about anything else — as long as it burns off the stress.
Retired sergeant Clarke Paris and his wife have made important contributions to the profession with their “Pain Behind The Badge” documentary and training program. Police stress, police depression, and police suicide were all topics of college papers that I read last year … but I didn’t read any about police homicide-suicide because this is (gratefully) still an extremely rare situation.
Would it be a positive move to try to give officers a chance to ‘vent’ to retired officers who still live in Las Vegas? Some of the very best people who have ever worn a badge still live in Las Vegas. They are brilliant and are still loyal to the LVMPD and they are available to help. They are motivated and have the right ‘heart’ to provide support.
The measure of a man is not found in his rank, no matter how high, or his power to control others and disrespect them. The measure of a man is found inside each individual. I think I got to know a little bit about the man that I respected and that I choose to honor.