In August of 2013, former Sheriff Bill Young wrote a comment in response to one of my columns. He wrote, “Norm while you hide behind your academic credentials and take potshots at the agency that gave you a career and the credibility you so proudly brag about…” Although the topic was police EQUITY at that time, the issue of higher education (Joe Lombardo’s academic credentials) is now front and center in the campaign to elect the next sheriff in Clark County. I find that quite ironic.
One of Lombardo’s biggest supporters was basically mocking my academic achievements but now it is the best thing since sliced bread because his ‘boy’ Joe Lombardo is trying to carry on the tradition of Metro sheriffs. That tradition is simply this: “He who raises the most money gets to be the sheriff.” It has nothing to do with being the ‘best qualified’ or who can provide the leadership necessary to get Metro back on track.
Virtually all of the media coverage, both before and after the primary, has touted Lombardo for his superior education. Lombardo actually had the same level of education as Ted Moody but Moody was eliminated in the primary. SO NOW EDUCATION MATTERS AT METRO?
Joe’s Facebook page indicates he is “Well-Trained and Well-Educated” and that he has a Master of Science degree from UNLV in Crisis and Emergency Management. He earned that degree in 2006. I believe he was in the classroom with Bill Young and some other local ‘talent’ in what was an accelerated degree program for executives. I’m certain that Joe’s very happy that he made the decision to enroll and complete his degree rapidly. It took me 5 years to earn my master’s degree back in 1992. Joe also has earned a bachelor’s degree from UNLV in 1986.
It is a fact that Doug Gillespie, Bill Young, and Jerry Keller all possessed a degree (earned before they were even hired in Las Vegas). They had those degrees well over 30 years ago! That is impressive and I am certain that it served each of them well during their entire careers – not just as the sheriff.
Joe Lombardo has also attended the FBI National Academy — a common credential for top administrators, especially those who lead the largest police agencies in America. Some of the other top leaders at Metro also have advanced education – but some don’t. Anyone could make a public records request for the educational achievements of Gillespie, Undersheriff Jim Dixon, Assistant Sheriff Joe Lombardo, and Assistant Sheriff Kevin McMahill. They could then compare their formal education to the pay they receive currently.
If you step down one level where all of Metro’s Deputy Chiefs fit in the organizational chart, you can look at the educational qualifications of “my buddy” (Todd Fasulo), Al Salinas, Pat Neville, Kirk Primas, Gary Schofield, and Jim Owens. The same education check could be done at every level of the LVMPD. A college education for police professionals is important and it has been for DECADES!
There are a couple of other facts that won’t come to light just by asking for the college degrees achieved. One very important aspect is whether the degrees came from an ACCREDITED PROGRAM. Does anyone remember when Randy Oaks ran for sheriff and people claimed that his degree was not from an accredited program? The Las Vegas Review-Journal (Erin Neff) even wrote about this controversy in 2003.
CARSON CITY — A bill designed to close a loophole for the registrar of voters could end up keeping many folks from running for sheriff in Clark County. Assembly Bill 114, submitted as a response to an elections dispute last year over a 20-year-old constable candidate in Henderson, would require candidates for sheriff or constable to have reached the age of 21 on the date they would take office.
But Metro Police Lt. Stan Olsen has asked for an amendment to require a four-year college degree from an accredited college or university, a proposal that also has roots in last year’s elections. Olsen works for Sheriff Bill Young, who faced tough competition last November from veteran Metro Capt. Randy Oaks, [who] had a degree from an unaccredited college.
“We believe that in Clark County and Washoe County, the type of law enforcement is more and more complex,” Olsen said. “We feel it’s time to put a requirement on these jobs.” Oaks’ degree from Bienville University became an issue when the Internet school was closed. But some Assembly Government Affairs Committee members expressed concerns about forcing sheriff’s candidates to have the equivalent of a bachelor’s degree.
“I totally disagree with an education degree for law enforcement,” Assemblyman Tom Collins, D-North Las Vegas, said. “There’s nothing wrong with a qualified elector making that decision.” (Olsen responded that Metro is a large professional operation to run, involving nearly 4,300 employees.
Assemblyman Bob McCleary, D-North Las Vegas, said it would be unfair to require a degree for sheriff, when there is no such requirement for the state’s chief executive, the governor.
“Somebody who’s smart enough to get elected is smart enough to run the agency,” McCleary said. Clark County Registrar of Voters Larry Lomax said the only county office requiring a degree is district attorney, which requires a law degree. Olsen never mentioned Oaks by name but was asked if anyone would have been disqualified by such a law. “There was one individual,” Olsen said, describing the Bienville degree.
“It became a national news story.” Oaks said this morning he opposed the college degree requirement. “A person needs to have some direct law enforcement experience,” Oaks said. “I clearly would disagree that a college degree from an accredited university is needed. “To me, you’d be hard-pressed to draw a direct corollary between a degree and the requirements of the sheriff’s job…”
Should the focus of the degree matter? Is a criminal justice degree any better than a public administration degree? Is a degree in business administration better than a degree in psychology? How about the lieutenant that has a degree in MUSIC from UNLV?
The LVMPD still requires only a high school diploma or a GED for hire as a police officer. Police officers in Las Vegas are now making over $50,000 per year after they complete the academy. Hundreds of them have come to the LVMPD already in possession of a college degree. Alyn Beck and Igor Soldo both had degrees when they chose to join the LVMPD. Metro implemented degree requirements for promotions back in 2008. In my opinion that was quite late for a progressive police organization the size of the LVMPD.
Those requirements include the following: Beginning April 2009, those individuals wishing to apply must meet the below educational requirements for Police Lieutenant and Captain, and Corrections Lieutenant and Captain, in order to be eligible to test: 30 credits required of Police Captain candidates, effective April 2009; 30 credits required of Police Lieutenant candidates, effective April 2010; 60 credits or Associates degree required of Police Captain candidates, effective April 2011; 60 credits or Associates degree required of Police Lieutenant candidates, effective April 2012; 90 credits required of Police Captain candidates, effective April 2015; Bachelor’s degree required of Police Captain candidates, effective April 2017.
By these standards (I’m not sure if the ‘regime’ has modified any of them by now to promote their pals), a large number of new hires would have the ACADEMIC credentials to be captains long before 2017! I capitalized ACADEMIC for emphasis (no, I’m not yelling, Captain Charles Hank)! There is much more than academic achievement that is considered during the LVMPD promotional process and this is the way it should be.
I admire the current captains that I taught at the Clark County Community College because they had the initiative to strive for a higher education. They could not have known that it would have been valuable back then. I experienced a college degree to be more of a burden (not an advantage) at different points during my career. It didn’t do you much good if you were going to go into the ‘tactical’ or ‘undercover’ units at the LVMPD.
When I wrote my professional paper for my MPA Degree at UNLV I actually researched the value of college education in respect to getting promoted at Metro and also how well lieutenants and captains performed on the job. At that time, my surveys (of LVMPD supervisors) revealed that a college education was ‘not statistically significant’ and part of this was because there were zero college education requirements for lieutenants and captains. Another explanation was that there was still an anti-education attitude. You were much better off back in those days if you had been a United States Marine!
So why have I not mentioned Larry Burns when he is the LEADER that I support for sheriff? Larry does not sell himself based on having an associate’s degree. Larry does not sell himself based on having a bachelor’s or master’s degree either. Larry is going to get criticized (most likely behind his back) because he lacks these college degrees.
But does anyone think that you don’t have to be a good manager to raise a large family like he has? Does anyone not think that Larry has developed skills during his career and outside work and other life experiences? The most important requirement for the next LVMPD sheriff is NOT Joe Lombardo’s comparative strength (his college degrees and money to burn); it IS proven communication skills and leadership!
There is no comparison between Lombardo and Burns when it comes to having followers (one of the definitions of a leader). I’ve never heard a single officer say that they hate Larry Burns. I have heard this frequently about Joe Lombardo. I have heard and read about hundreds and hundreds of police officers who support Larry Burns and would literally walk into the unknown with him leading the way. Just because Larry has the overwhelming support of the members of the LVMPD does not mean that he will maintain the status quo. What it does mean is that he will have willing and enthusiastic members of the department standing in line to improve the LVMPD – even if they don’t agree with everything that Burns might have to do!
Some of Joe Lombardo’s campaign treasure $$$ was spent on a commercial where he claims that being the sheriff is “all about people.” He claims to be the best at this and the best at that and that he knows how to fight crime in our neighborhoods. He has a pretty face and he has lots of money contributed by people (inside the LVMPD) who want promotions. He has advisors and consultants and ‘movers and shakers’ that support him because they will benefit from their ‘access’ to him to receive inequitable service–while the ‘general public’ will have to settle for whatever is left. Joe may have memorized a catchy campaign slogan and he may no longer have to ‘hide behind his academic credentials,’ but Larry Burns is truly all about PEOPLE and positive change.
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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.