I learned last week about the end of yet another police officer’s career in Las Vegas. It didn’t take much analysis of the information that I was given to realize that this was a disgrace. Let me explain.
The Sheriff’s Protective Association is a ‘social’ organization. They sponsor the annual Christmas Party, the SPA Picnic, and they used to sponsor an event at ‘Wet & Wild’ and I participated in all of these activities with my family during my career. I’m going to substitute the name ‘Joe-Lo’ as if this had happened to Sheriff Joe Lombardo. He really needs to personally experience what is happening to his employees and put a stop to these practices.
‘Joe-Lo’ was facing termination. He contacted me via the internet after he had read some of my columns and wanted some advice. He was a 10-year veteran police officer with the LVMPD and had zero discipline. His is a Hispanic male. I have never met him and didn’t even know his name until just last week. After a few days of extreme stress (going back and forth with people who were supposed to be aggressively advocating for him — i.e., Police Protective Association) he decided to resign. He now hopes he can continue a law enforcement career with another agency if he gets a chance to explain in person what happened seven months ago.
Yep, after waiting for seven months, Metro (and the PPA) offered him a chance to check the box on the ‘Employment Separation Notice’ that reads ‘VOLUNTARY RESIGNATION — passed probation. He was given 48 hours to make this life-changing decision. I asked WHY. I had never heard of such a thing and wondered when this all started.
‘Joe-Lo’s’ second best option was to select ‘VOLUNTARY RESIGNATION’ — in lieu of pre-termination hearing he had another day or two to resign. After a horrible few days of struggle and doubt, ‘Joe-Lo’ resigned. He sent me a final email that reads, “A year to get on, and 15 minutes to get out. What a shame!” He also sent a copy of his Employment Separation Notice.
Why the ‘rush’ to decide and give up on due process rights? He was told that the PPA and Metro had made a ‘gentleman’s agreement’ on the terms and conditions (and timing) to end his career —WITHOUT HIS INPUT of course! I could feel his pain. I wish he had not resigned but he didn’t have time to get opinions from anyone other than PPA attorney David Roger and PPA ‘hack’ Kelly Sweeney. I told him Metro was so unethical that they could still ‘black-ball’ him in any attempt to seek another job. I know this from actual experiences of many other people who separated from employment with Metro.
Both of his options would forego a pre-termination hearing which had been scheduled for this week. ‘Joe-Lo’ would have had to watch a case presented against him by Internal Affairs in front of two command-level administrators and one civilian. They would then hear ‘Joe-Lo’s testimony, any defenses, and consider whether he was ‘remorseful’ enough for them to recommend against termination. Sheriff Joe Lombardo would then decide the outcome-subject only to appeal through an arbitration process and/or the courts in the future. Oh yes, this hearing would come just a couple of weeks after ‘Joe-Lo’ (and his union representatives) received the case file. One important item was missing and that was the statement of his accuser. Interesting, huh?
I wish Officer ‘Joe-Lo’ could explain to the sheriff how it felt to be in exile for seven months with admonishments not to discuss the matter and eventually knowing that he had almost no chance at a pre-termination hearing. At a time in life when you need more support from friends and co-workers, Metro threatens you not to talk to almost anyone. This is by design. The half-billion dollar monster known as the LVMPD hopes you will start doubting your career choice and question why you would ever want to work for the LVMPD after this.
So what did happen and what were the charges? ‘Joe-Lo’ went to the picnic and drank many glasses of beer over the course of many hours. He and his ‘best’ buddy (Officer G) planned in advance that ‘Joe-Lo’ would stay at with ‘G’ if they had too much to drink. The picnic ended up being too much (drinking) for both of them. ‘G’ called his 16-year-old daughter (who may or may not have had a driver’s license) for a ride home. The ride arrived and ‘G’ got home (still not sure who actually drove). ‘Joe-Lo’ made the poor decision to drive himself and ended up as his buddy’s house. This was the first charge leading to the pre-termination hearing. They called it ‘administrative DUI’ and it does not mean the normal ‘legal’ DUI. It means that Metro is assuming that you were in violation of the law (.08 BAC or higher) from the description of your actions and with circumstantial evidence only.
‘G’ is in his forties but dates a girl that is reportedly only 20 years old. That is not old enough to drink! Nobody seemed to care that ‘G’ got his ‘minor’ girlfriend into the picnic (and that she was drinking) when he reported alleged misconduct of ‘Joe-Lo’ a few days after the picnic. At some point during the 7-month investigation you would think that credibility determinations would be made. Are the witnesses credible? This is not starting very well if a 40-year-old cop is dating a 20-year-old girl and they both got drunk at the same police picnic.
(Next week – the second ‘administrative’ violation and the rest of this perplexing story of career destruction due, in part, to nocturnal penile tumescence [abbreviated as NPT]. It couldn’t get any crazier!)