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Henderson police chief asked to resign in wake of motorist beating


Nevada Highway Patrol

A screen grab from the video of an incident with Henderson Police.

Updated Wednesday, Feb. 15, 2012 | 3:46 p.m.

Jutta Chambers

Jutta Chambers

Man kicked in the head by Henderson Police officer

Video footage from a Nevada Highway Patrol dashboard camera of a Henderson Police officer kicking a man in the head during a traffic stop, Feb. 7, 2012. Warning: The footage contains material that may be offensive.

Man kicked during traffic stop speaks out

KSNV coverage of a man speaking out after being kicked by a Henderson Police officer while he was having a medical episode, Feb. 8, 2012.

Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers has been asked to step down, City Hall sources said today.

The request came from the departing city manager, Mark Calhoun, who sources said was pressured to make the request by members of the Henderson City Council.

Another source said the most likely scenario will be that Chambers, if she goes along, will retire not resign.

Chambers, the first female officer in the police department's history, has been with the department for nearly 30 years. Since becoming chief in 2008, "she has done a lot of good, made a lot of changes in the department," a source said.

The call for her resignation follows the release last week of video showing Henderson Sgt. Brett Seekatz kicking a restrained driver in the head five times during an October 2010 traffic stop. The man was suffering a diabetic episode and was deemed “semi-conscious” by police at the scene.

Sources said that if City Council members pressured Calhoun to get rid of Chambers, that would be a violation of the city charter, which states that personnel decisions are solely the city manager’s call.

Calhoun could not be reached for comment and Chambers is on vacation this week. A city spokesman could not be reached.

Sources said that even though the request has been made, Chambers remains in her position. Deputy Police Chief James White is filling in while Chambers is on vacation.

The resignation request has angered officers in the department, sources said, because some believe Calhoun should have been asked to resign, instead.

“(Calhoun) has known about this (kicking incident) for well over a year,” a source said.

Meanwhile, Calhoun, who recently announced he will retire, was also forced out by the City Council, according to sources. Jacob Snow, head of the Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, is said to be in line to replace Calhoun.

The maneuvering stems from the public uproar over the Oct. 29, 2010 incident in which Seekatz kicked motorist Adam Greene, who was suffering from a diabetic reaction. Officers believed Greene was driving under the influence.

Seekatz was disciplined more than a year ago for the incident, sources say, but what form the discipline took is unknown since it’s a personnel matter and has not been made public.

A source said that even if city officials wanted to fire Seekatz now, they would not be able to since he was already disciplined for the incident a year ago. "You can't go back and do that," the source said.

The Sun obtained the dashboard camera video of the incident through a public records request with the Nevada Highway Patrol — Henderson police did not have dash cameras at the time.

Greene sued the state and Henderson. He and his wife agreed to a settlement of about $250,000 from Henderson and $35,000 from the state.

Now Clark County officials are considering installing dashboard cameras in Las Vegas police cruisers. The head of the police officers’ union, however, says installing those cameras is something that would need to be negotiated in the union contract.

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  1. From all that has been revealed lately the entire chain from the officer up to Calhoun should be fired and also held accountable to pay the damage awards.

    Next, that city charter needs to be changed so the City Council has some direct control over and responsibility for the actions of the people it ultimately hires to run the city.

  2. Now Clark County officials want dash cams in all police cruisers but the union says would need to be negotiated in the union contract. Here is what Clark County officials should say to the union. Dash cameras are going to be installed and that is not up for negotiation. If you don't like it, find another place to work.

  3. The officer should have been fired, severly punished or demoted at a minimum. And now the chief should be fired for not properly disciplining the officer.

    Allowing her to retire with full benefits is not punishment.

  4. "escape goat-Period!"

    maxima191 -- it's "scapegoat." Next time try

    "Chief Jutta Chambers is a great chief and a great person. There are several hundred Henderson Police Employees and it's not possible to know what they are all doing all the time or to know about isolated incidents of this nature."

    cpb -- perhaps she's a sterling individual, but she wanted to be the one in charge, and she is. Allowing this kind of mentality on badged thugs let loose on the public makes her accountable.

    This whole affair was handled badly, starting with ALL the police officers on the scene, on up to the mayor. If it hadn't been for that NHP dash cam monsters like Seakatz would still be merrily kicking without accountability -- unless the Greenes mortgaged and borrowed and everything to buy the justice they deserved over the next decade.

    "In a government of laws, existence of the government will be imperiled if it fails to observe the law scrupulously. Our government is the potent, the omnipresent teacher. For good or for ill, it teaches the whole people by its example. Crime is contagious. If the government becomes a lawbreaker, it breeds contempt for law; it invites every man to become a law unto himself; it invites anarchy. To declare that in the administration of the criminal law the end justifies the means - to declare that the government may commit crimes in order to secure the conviction of a private criminal - would bring terrible retribution." -- Olmstead v. United States, 277 U.S. 438 (1928), Justice Brandeis dissenting

  5. Part 1

    Henderson voters and taxpayers are like many others in medium sized cities throughout the West, where City Charters are written so that there is a "strong City Manager and weak Council with ceremonial Mayor". Voters and taxpayers in medium sized cities simply don't understand how these "Strong City Manager" charters work, and get very angry with the wrong people. Anger over rank and file city employee misconduct, and its cost to a city, needs to be directed at the Legislature (which is heavily influenced by public employees and their unions) who force this form of government on medium to small sized cities and who enact the wording of the City Charter. Voter and taxpayer anger also needs to be directed at the City Managers themselves, on whose watch the employee misconduct occurs, since under city charters like the one foisted on Henderson by the Legislature, the City Manager is the only city official with the power to set policy "on administrative matters" to be implemented by rank and file city employees. Under these forms of "strong City Manager" city charters, the City Manager and his subordinates (like a Police Chief) are the only people with the power to enforce city policy or discipline city employees.

    In Henderson's case, the City Charter provides:

    "Sec. 1.090 Appointive offices.

    1. The City Council of the City shall appoint the following officers:

    (a) City Manager.

    (b) City Attorney.

    (c) City Clerk.

    2. The City Council may establish such other appointive officers as it may deem necessary for the operation of the City. Appointment of such officers must be made by the CITY MANAGER, subject to ratification of the City Council. Such officers must include:

    (a) Chief of Police.

    (b) Director of Public Works.

    (c) Fire Chief.

    (d) Director of Finance.

    (e) Such other officers as may be necessary."

    "Sec. 3.140 Interference by City Council.

    1. No Council Member or the Mayor may direct or request the appointment of any person to, or his or her removal from, office by the City Manager or by any of his or her subordinates, or in any manner take part in the appointment or removal of officers and employees in the administrative service of the City. Except for the purpose of inquiry, the Council and its members SHALL DEAL WITH THE ADMINISTRATIVE SERVICE SOLELY THROUGH THE CITY MANAGER, and neither the Council nor any member thereof shall give orders to any subordinate of the City Manager, either publicly or privately.

    2. Any Council Member or the Mayor violating the provisions of this section, or voting for a resolution or ordinance in violation of this section, is guilty of a misdemeanor, and upon conviction thereof shall cease to be a Council Member or the Mayor."

  6. Part 2

    The "strong City Manager" form of government of a city is like having the voters and taxpayers being denied the right to elect and re-elect the President. It's a ridiculous thought that the head of the Executive Branch of a local government is completely immune from being directed what to do, on day to day management issues, by the voters and taxpayers' elected representatives. Regardless of the state where the strong City Manager local government is located, the result is ALWAYS a complete lack of accountability to the voters/taxpayers by the City Manager and the other senior managers (such as a Police Chief) which the City Manager chooses. In cities with City Managers who rule the city employees with an iron fist, the City Managers ultimately work, assiduously, to keep the Council, Mayor and public in the dark about what they are doing, especially when mistakes have been made. It's an ego and power trip to be a strong City Manager. The Assistant City Managers and department heads become more powerful than the voters' elected Council members. I could write a book about the obnoxious conduct, using the taxpayers money, which I've seen around the West under this "strong City Manager" set up. And in cases where the City Manager is not a strong manager, the conduct of rank and file city employees is invariably worse, in terms of rudeness, laziness, insubordination, and a host of other misconduct which a normal employer would find as the basis for firing an employee. With a weak or lazy or stupid City Manager in a "strong City Manager" the miscreant employees run around like mutineers, refusing to do what they're told by their department managers or the City Manager.

    From the comments about this latest incident which I've seen in the newspapers, and on television, it's clear that Henderson's voters and taxpayers want their City Council to be directly accountable, thereby requiring the Council to have direct control over city administrative policy, and direct control over implementing policies concerning city staff conduct/misconduct. The Henderson City Charter, including Section 3.140 needs to be changed, to create a "strong City Council" which is what uninformed voters/taxpayers think exists already.

    A re-write of the Henderson City Charter satisfactory to its voters and taxpayers is not impossible. For example, in the little city of Alameda, CA its City Charter provides each city employee the right to notice that they are going to be fired and the right to a closed session appeal to the City Council before that happens.

  7. Part 3

    The idiotic mechanism of only allowing a City Council to respond to employee misconduct and the expensive litigation resulting therefrom, by firing a City Manager, is simply ridiculous, because the public purse is taxed twice for the misconduct: First by paying out settlements or judgment and second by paying the City Manager's "termination pay" since the City Council may only fire the City Manager for "cause". That term "cause" is construed to be misconduct by the City Manager himself, not poor management by his subordinates or outright wrongdoing by a rank and file city employee.

    Under Henderson's City Charter, with respect to city employees, or the setting or enforcement of administrative policies the City Council and Mayor are very limited in what they can do:

    "Sec. 3.010 Mayor: Duties;

    1. The Mayor shall:

    (a) Serve as a member of the City Council and preside over its meetings.

    (b) Have no administrative duties.

    (c) Be recognized as the head of the City government for all ceremonial purposes.

    (d) Perform such emergency duties as may be necessary for the general health, welfare and safety of the City.

    (e) Perform such other duties, except administrative duties, as may be prescribed by ordinance or by the provisions of Nevada Revised Statutes which apply to a mayor of a city organized under the provisions of a special charter....

    Sec. 3.020 City Manager: Duties.

    1. The City Manager shall perform such administrative and executive duties as the City Council may designate. His or her duties and salary must be set by the City Council.

    2. The City Manager may appoint such clerical and administrative assistants as he or she may deem necessary, subject to the approval of the City Council.

    3. The Mayor or a Council Member may not be appointed as City Manager during the term for which he or she was elected or within 1 year after the expiration of his or her term.

    Sec. 3.030 City Manager: Removal. The City Council may remove the City Manager for cause."

  8. Part 4

    Henderson has always had a reputation that its police officers on the street will not put up with "crap" from the public, especially if they don't live in Henderson. That is a policy which the City may want to keep, despite the most recent cost. However, it's important to note that under the Federal Civil Rights Act (42 USC 1983) when police brutality repeatedly occurs, the injured party or a decedent's family may seek "Monell damages" from the City, (over and above damages from the on-the-street officer,) if it can be proven that the Police Chief or City Manager or City Council has an express or tacit policy of tolerating or encouraging brutality. In Monell v. City of New York Department of Social Services, 436 U.S. 658 (1978) decided by the United States Supreme Court, the Court held that government agencies qualify as "persons" liable under 42 U.S.C. 1983, an important part of the Federal Civil Rights Act.

    By way of illustration, in the 10 years after the "Rodney King incident" in Los Angeles, plaintiffs lawyers in Federal civil rights cases usually pled, and often won, Monell damages from the City of LA based upon the statements, conduct and inaction of its three successive police chiefs. Even poor little Simi Valley was hit with Monell damages when two politically motivated motorcycle cops arrested a local activist for handing out political literature in a public park while a Chamber of Commerce auto show was occurring. The point is that the smart move for Henderson, when it has a new City Manager and a new Police Chief, is to document that the city has "seriously retrained" the Henderson police officers on Federal civil rights law as applies to them doing their jobs, as well as re-training them on nationally accepted methods of policing without violating 42 USC 1983 or state assault and battery laws. Whether the street cops would then implement what they had been taught would be another matter, but at the very least retraining would be a way for the City to insulate itself from Monell damage liability.

    Its truly sad if Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers loses her job because she has been unable to maintain decorum and discipline among Henderson's rank and file police officers. Whether Ms. Chambers participated in covering up the video of a Henderson police officer kicking a man who was in diabetic shock, as a means of keeping the Henderson City Council "in the dark" is a whole other can of worms. Even in "strong City Manager" cities, it's not unusual for City Councils to "get around" prohibitions on being involved in employee discipline by firing the City Manager, and then instructing the new City Manager, as a condition of employment, to remove a specific list of ineffectual or insubordinate or reckless employees from the payroll. Handicapped by the wording of the Henderson City Charter, that's probably what will happen in this case.

  9. Unlike some other counties in California, and unlike Clark County, Orange County California has a "strong County Manager" system, not unlike the "strong City Manager" system in Henderson. Here's an interesting story I just stumbled across, which shows that the strong County Manager system cost Orange County taxpayers $10.6 Million in a lawsuit which could have been settled for $500,000...if the senior County managers and lawyers had set their egos aside, and discussed the problem with the Orange County Supervisors (akin to the Henderson City Council). By the time the Orange County Supervisors had any inkling what was going on, the County has hit with a $4.9 Million jury verdict, which rocketed up to a $10.6 Million debt when the County employees decided to cover their ashes by appealing, unsuccessfully.


    The story provides a cautionary tale for Henderson taxpayers and voters. Things can get far worse under Henderson's City Charter with out-of-control city management employees.

  10. I would imagine that the fellow that got kick in the head probably didn't understand the commands given to him that would be why he was not obeying them. Take a test here put your fist up to your mouth and press against your lips firmly and start yelling commands without opening your mouth and that's what the fellow was hearing, Nothing that made sense.

  11. How many other felonious assaults have taken place with Jutta at the Helm? This was a well rehearsed beating, everyone knew their parts, they played them flawlessly with no regrets.

    Even after the officers discovered he was in diabetic shock, they were still laughing.

    Doesn't a Judge ask one who has been found guilty, "Do you have any remorse?". So where is the remorse?

    Naah, we ain't got to have no stinking remorse.

  12. After 30 years she has got money stashed in accounts and investments all over. No doubt there has been privileged information on investments come across under the table to which the public has never had access. She won't starve or get put out on the street like so many others she swore to protect.

    She is probably worth over $2 million in actual property and cash and the equivalent of about $10 million from guaranteed income sources.

    There was no discipline carried out, which implies that the officers involved would have had a lot to say if they were disciplined, meaning she knew of many other such incidents, as did the officers, so she didn't take any action to correct them.

    I would be in the State prison and broke had I done the same things. This is the year 2012 in Western United States, not 1952 in Selma Alabama. Lets demand progress.

  13. After a Year the Chief was still not disciplining officers and creating a liability for the city. She should go immediately. All Cruisers should have cameras to protect good officers and the public when a dispute occurs. If the Union does not want them, their officers can apply for jobs elsewhere. This is a Public Safety Issue.

  14. Cynical: what are you doing? Writing a book? Becker: making outrageous accusations such as you have done in your comment needs at least a scintilla of proof. Have you any? I thoroughly doubt it.

  15. Here is another problem with affirmative action, it leads some (myself included) to wonder if Chief Chambers was actually the most qualified to be chief, or was she promoted for politically correct reasons?

    Since I don't know anything about Chief Chambers, if anybody has any real information I would love to hear it.

  16. From multiple posts it would appear we have covered the legitimacy of the City Manager/City Council, the role of deciding who is appointed, and how they stay or go. I will dispute a point made by another commenter. We, the public, are still in charge if only we would vote. In the last election, only about 10% of the people showed up to cast their vote.

    If the City is broken, then we are responsible and we can fix it, if we want to. We can't demand accountability if nobody votes. It's really that simple.

    As for the pay system...

    I don't think she qualifies as a blip on the radar compared to others who are in charge of large departments.

    Finally, I hope the Chief enjoys her retirement after ~30 years and we'll see what happens with the new City Manager. Anytime spent rewriting history is wasted, we should focus on the future, and that starts with getting involved with your city council today. In short, stop whining, start doing...