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July 23, 2014

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Department of Justice program to examine Metro Police use of force

Sheriff Doug Gillespie

Sheriff Doug Gillespie

A new Justice Department program will examine 20 years of use-of-force incidents by Metro Police, ultimately recommending best practices for the agency, officials announced Thursday.

Bernard Melekian, director of the Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), said Sheriff Doug Gillespie approached federal officials several months ago, seeking guidance about use-of-force issues.

Public outcry and calls for reform regarding use of force by Metro Police hit a crescendo with the 2010 police killings of Trevon Cole and Erik Scott. Just last month, Metro’s Fiscal Affairs Committee approved a $1.7 million settlement to the family of Cole, who was shot by police while unarmed in his apartment bathroom.

The new initiative, loosely titled Outreach and Assistance, falls within the existing COPS program and will cater to local law enforcement agencies that voluntarily seek help with any policing issues, Melekian said.

Metro is the first department enrolled in the program, which relies on national law enforcement experts, many whom are former police officers, he said.

“We have an understanding of what the agencies are facing,” paired with a broader national perspective as part of the Justice Department, Melekian said.

Officials from the program have been in Las Vegas for two days, meeting with Metro’s command staff and beginning to examine cases, Melekian said.

“I think this is a real opportunity for the Department of Justice to really provide some direct, meaningful assistance to local law enforcement, above and beyond grants,” he said.

Melekian expects the program to eventually generate a report listing best practices for use of force by officers, which could be applied nationally as well, he said.

“What the exact nature of that will be, I don’t know,” he said. “It’s too early to tell.”

The federal program will review procedures, make on-site visits and incorporate community feedback into the evaluation, in addition to the case analyses, officials said.

The group also will include crime and justice analysts, federal representatives and community leaders.

“This is a proactive step that our department initiated to properly address community concerns about police use of force,” Gillespie said in a statement released Thursday.

“This is a rare opportunity for us to have independent experts look at the big picture and give us the critical analysis and support needed to make this organization even stronger,” he said.

Gillespie also announced the creation of the Office of Internal Oversight, which will serve as a liaison between Metro and the federal program to act on any recommendations that result.

Capt. Kirk Primas, previously of Metro’s organizational development bureau, will head the new office.

The program’s findings and recommendations will be available to the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division, which Gillespie met with earlier this week, officials said.

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  1. "Sheriff Doug Gillespie approached federal officials several months ago, seeking guidance about use-of-force issues. . . . . Metro is the first department enrolled in the program, which relies on national law enforcement experts, many whom are former police officers. . ."

    This appears to be a sure sign our local elected officials have failed to control it's bullies with badges, starting with our Sheriff. Is this his admission he can't control his own corner of local government? Part of the blame must be shared by Metro's other elected bosses, the County Commissioners.

    I also see there are no civil liberties representatives. I fear it's just more of the same, our police being militarized and put out of citizens' control. Check Radley Balko's excellent piece "Overkill: : The Latest Trend in Policing" @ http://www.cato.org/pub_display.php?pub_...

    "Indifference to personal liberty is but the precursor of the State's hostility to it." -- United States v. Penn, 647 F.2d 876 (9th Circuit, 1980), Judge Kennedy dissenting

  2. If Sheriff Doug went to them first, then one can't help but wonder if this will be a whitewash.

    The time has long passed for a civilian review board of some kind to oversee our police.

  3. "The time has long passed for a civilian review board of some kind to oversee our police."

    boftx -- all it takes is a small group of dedicated citizens who would just do it. They would not need anybody's permission.

    Like that would happen with We the herd.

    "This country, with its institutions, belongs to the people who inhabit it. Whenever they shall grow weary of the existing government, they can exercise their constitutional right of amending it, or their revolutionary right to dismember or overthrow it." -- Abraham Lincoln, first inaugural address, 1861

  4. @notfromhere06...

    "i obey the laws and dont seem to have any problems that you complain about killerb...have you ever thought maybe its just you???"

    Pretty sure it's 'not just them'.
    Why do you suppose the Fed's have come to town?
    Because Sheriff Doug 'invited' them'?
    Oh, please.
    This INVESTIGATION into Metro's shoots, good, bad, whatever...is A LONG TIME COMING, and this community deserves to have an independent set of eyes figure out why we have what APPEARS TO BE a modus operandi of using LETHAL FORCE to solve problems that, IN SOME CASES, have the appearance of being solvable without killing the suspects.
    TRUST is essential between a community and it's LEO's.
    We have precious little of that here.

  5. This is like hoping your dog won't crap in the house, or outside, too. Welcome to Tombstone, Nevada. Watch out for your cajones, too. A stinking joke-"I went to high school, and now I can "keel you", and get away with it". Nice...

  6. "Mr. Gillespie needs to step down."

    Wolfdog -- actually he can be recalled, like any other elected official. Or be Constitutionally impeached, which would go before the Senate. All it takes is enough people working together to get it done.

    "Fire those who refuse to follow the dammm policies!"

    doubledown_d -- essentially what you're seeing is that particular herd needs to be culled. And I would definitely go along with that.

    "...our sense of fair play which dictates a fair state-individual balance by requiring the government to leave the individual alone until good cause is shown for disturbing him and by requiring the government in its contest with the individual to shoulder the entire load..." -- Murphy v. Waterfront Commission of New York Harbor, 378 U.S. 52, 55 (1964)