tragedy. I watched the funerals for Igor Soldo and Alyn Beck on
Channel 8 via streaming on the Internet. Those were some awe-inspiring
celebrations of the lives of two fine people. They had impressive
personal achievements before they came to Las Vegas to serve the
community. They served with distinction. Las Vegas is fortunate that
so many people like Igor and Alyn have chosen to come to Las Vegas to
I compliment Sheriff Gillespie for delivering a timely and genuine
message at Beck’s funeral. I think two terms as sheriff have clearly
worn on him. So many times he appears aggressive and overbearing.
During yesterday’s funeral he was just about perfect. I empathize with
him and would hate to have been in his shoes for so many police
Larry Burns also delivered a powerful message at the Soldo funeral.
His message will positively impact many in attendance and help them to
move forward — potentially, under his leadership! Come to think of
it… had the strengths of Gillespie and Burns ever been combined (as
‘one’ person) or had they ever had a chance to work together at the
top of the LVMPD I don’t think the agency would have started to fall
off the tracks. Gillespie and Burns can make you cry (even if it’ not
at a funeral) — but they will make you cry for different reasons. One
can be overbearing and indifferent (just ask the long list of officers
who were ‘involuntarily separated’ during Sheriff Gillespie’s tenure);
the other (Burns) is motivational and seems to see the BEST in people.
For example, Burns took a stand AGAINST extending Lt. Dave
Dockendorf’s probation after the Stanley Gibson shooting. Dockendorf
may have changed the initial plan, but it was not his fault that all
officers on the scene did not hear radio traffic. The reality is that
no one person can totally control anyone’s trigger finger but his own.
There was no malice, misconduct, or gross negligence that resulted in
the Gibson tragedy. It is one thing to punish when punishment is
necessary — but to punish for political reasons is destructive. This
might be the best example of why Larry Burns has the support of the
vast majority of officers and the unions — he won’t be ‘counting’ his
terminations like Gillespie and his entourage.
I wrote a comment on Facebook about Burns’ speech shortly after
viewing the Soldo funeral online on Thursday. I wanted to see what
people were continuing to post about the tragedy on Facebook. Whenever
you log in there is that question, What’s on your mind? That question
sure is a conversation-starter for some of us!
Larry Burns gave a phenomenal speech today. The ‘clowns’ (including
that chubby one in the back at all of the press conferences) will say
that the selection of Burns, for this speech, is politically
motivated. That is a disgrace!
If they want equal time, they can pay some of their 1 million dollars
(already raised for a primary election) to buy some more votes. They
will never be able to BUY… what Larry Burns has to offer — Larry can
restore trust inside and outside of the LVMPD! He may not have a
Master’s Degree from a defunct ‘accelerated’ degree program at UNLV,
but he can articulate a powerful message and he will be the most
charismatic LEADER that there has ever been in the history of Metro!
Larry will implement reforms where they are necessary and, even if the
changes are unpopular, the officers will follow him. He does not need
to worry about competing with Lombardo’s stumbling, mumbling,
inappropriate use of words and totally missing agenda for change. I
still can’t figure out what he will change-can you? What is most
appalling is that the ‘regime’ now says that Joe has ‘more education’
than Larry. The last few sheriffs have spent more time ‘mocking’
employees who have advanced their education but NOW they use it as
their #1 reason to select Joe Lombardo. Are you kidding me? What did
he mean when he said ‘prevalent’ on TV the other night after the
primary? He sounds like he is the next Norm Crosby comedy routine.
Think about this…Just count how many officers who have tested for
sergeant (like Igor and Alyn) already have college degrees when they
came to the LVMPD… and then compare them to the folks standing in
the background at the press conferences. Vote Burns — SAVE METRO!
I signed off on the comment: Vote Burns — SAVE METRO! That is what was
on my mind after listening to his powerful message. The only part of
his powerful message that I didn’t agree with was his opinion about
the Metro FAMILY. I’m sure that he believes the Metro FAMILY is as
strong as he described it. I’m sure that he is correct that Metro will
always be there to support the Soldo and Beck families. Metro is
indebted to the families after the huge losses from the two families.
Their lives will be changed forever but they will hopefully move on
with the support from the Las Vegas community (and Metro) when they
are at their very best!
Burns believes in the power of the Metro FAMILY because he obviously
has had different experiences than a long list of others. I have
written about some of them. I may write about others in the future.
These people did not commit felony crimes. They did not fall victim to
the temptations of the job, abuse their authority, engage in substance
abuse, or harm others because they were unsuited for the job and
needed to be purged from the organization. They were accused of
violating the unwritten CODE of the current ‘regime’ — and they got on
someone’s bad side and were targeted for termination.
One person (me) crossed the street and was accused with being
untruthful. Another (Officer Dakota Almazan) merely went to lunch and
excused himself after seeing an entire Vice squad in the same
restaurant. Yet another (Wil Guevara) made a phone call to dispatch to
have him added to a police unit that was already on duty. He actually
had the night off and didn’t want to be confronted by a girlfriend
(who also worked at Metro) if she were to check on him and realize
that he was not working when he was only trying to enjoy spending a
night off the way he wanted to spend it. He called back to dispatch
and logged off but his ‘horrible deed’ had been detected and his
career was put on the chopping block.
How about two of the earliest terminations that I remember? I knew
both officers and worked with them but I was not working the night of
their career-ending incident. Officers Jung Yi and Joel Reiss were
both terminated over a minor use of force matter and not remembering
who took handcuffs off an under-aged drunk on the Strip. They were
reported by another officer who had observed what he felt to be
misconduct. He didn’t report them to their own supervisor; he reported
them to his supervisor and the subsequent investigation took on a life
of its own. They were accused of an ‘internal truthfulness’ violation
I am starting to think that the “you lie — you fly” policy created
around the end of the Keller and beginning of the Young
administrations may have been one of the WORST moves in the history of
the LVMPD because it is not applied fairly or appropriately! Does
anyone believe that the officers who drove to Arizona didn’t lie? Or
is it OK to lie initially, but then straighten things out at Internal
Affairs when they warn you that lying to them means termination?
The problem with the truthfulness policy is the people IN POWER get to
decide if the ‘target’ lied or not! This decision is often very
subjective (whether they ‘like’ you and are willing to give you
another chance) and the ‘filter’ that is supposed to be part of the
process (to prevent bad decisions and correct errors) begins with
Internal Affairs, moves on to Labor Relations, then the Unions are
supposed to get involved. Ultimately, you hope that someone on the
internal discipline boards or the pre-termination board or even the
arbitrator will see the light! Too often, the filter of objectivity
does not work. Too many people ‘go along to get along’ and stay in
good graces of the current regime and they get promoted too (i.e,
Kelly McMahill, Chris Tomaino, Todd Fasulo). They are ‘YES’ men and
women and they get promoted for being unreasonable and unfair to their
own people. This is NOT how a ‘family’ takes care of its members!
Had the people that I mentioned been killed in an accident or in the
line of duty they would, inevitably, have been honored by the LVMPD
and the community. We would have focused on their positive
characteristics that overwhelmingly outnumber and outweigh the
imperfections that we all have. The focus would be on correcting and
improving — NOT TERMINATION and career death.
So… will some readers believe that Metro should not be criticized in
light of the recent tragedies and the horror of the Cici’s incident?
Yes — there will be plenty of people of that opinion and that is fine.
So… will some readers feel that nobody should take advantage of the
tremendous (and well-deserved) outpouring of support shown by Metro
and the community after the deaths of Beck and Soldo? Of course, and
that is also fine. We have the freedom to have our own opinions.
This might be a wake-up call to those who get angry with anyone who
voices an opinion about Metro. Wake up — criticisms about the line
officers and the vast majority of the members of the LVMPD are rare!
Nobody is calling Metro a rotten and corrupt organization based on the
members. Criticisms almost always focus on the leadership, policy and
procedure, and specific incidents that the public has the right to be
concerned about. When Metro digs in and refuses to be transparent and
acknowledge and correct problems (just look at how many incomplete and
‘unresolved’ shootings are listed on the LVMPD website) then voices
need to get louder.
You can still support your police and ask hard questions and expect
answers. Is anyone paying attention to the new coverage of General
Motors (GM) and the fiasco at the Veteran’s Administration (VA)? The
factory workers and the employees are not the problem. Does anyone who
criticizes these organizations and their leadership also believe that
everyone is a rotten apple? I don’t think so!
When leadership ignores problems (GM) and lives are lost, criticism is
appropriate. When leadership is deceptive and acts unethically (VA)
then there is outrage and a call for removal of those in charge — even
if lives are not lost. Sheriff of the LVMPD is an elected position and
you will never see him removed due to public outcry. This insulation
and ‘accountability’ over four years (if at all) is why change is so
slow. Municipal police chiefs have much less job security and must be
much more responsive to public officials and their communities. City
Managers/Administrators and mayors routinely fire or remove police
chiefs when things go bad — even when the problem is not the fault of
the police chief.
All members of the LVMPD would like to be considered part of that
FAMILY even after we retire, get fired, or resign. We would also like
to still be ‘accepted’ as part of the FAMILY even if we are critical
of leadership or specific incidents.
Isn’t it true that family members do not always get along with each
other but they are still family? If a family member shows up at a
funeral after being ‘out of touch’ for one reason or another, should
he be shunned?
Isn’t it also true that if you were once a ‘brother’ or a ‘sister’
(member of a police department or soldier in one of the branches of
the armed forces) that you are bonded by ‘blood’ or common experiences
and that you will always support and NEVER ABANDON each other? Isn’t
it true that we don’t leave anyone (our soldiers) behind?
OUR police officers go into the darkness and face unknown dangers (I’m
thinking about going through those railroad tunnels out on the
Mountain River Trail in Boulder City). Although it might be a bright
day and everything is going fine, every day they put on their uniforms
they choose to walk into the unknown. They do this because they were
sent on a call for service, they observed suspicious activity while
they were on proactive patrol, or sometimes (as in the case of
Officers Beck and Soldo) they faced darkness just by taking a break.
Fortunately, the vast majority of officers emerge from the other side
of each of these tunnels and return to the brightness day after day.
Most of us do survive–but some don’t!
Most of us are able to retire or move into other careers at an early
age. As horrific as the Cici’s and Walmart incidents were, they must
be kept in perspective. I sure hope that the future of policing does
NOT mandate battle gear, high-powered rifles, and a warrior
mentality… but if it does, then I hope there is a way to blend in
compassion and tolerance of different opinions and openness to
criticism when it is justified.
I pray for the safety of all officers, that the darkness and evil is
rare, and that the focus at the LVMPD is to truly start treating all
members as FAMILY!
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.