Las Vegas Sun

June 3, 2015

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law enforcement:

Sheriff: Metro Police evaluating cameras to be worn by officers

When Southern Nevada’s largest police force finally takes video cameras into the field, Metro Police won’t be using the kind of squad-car cameras that recorded a Henderson officer repeatedly kicking a restrained motorist in the head. The department is instead evaluating miniature cameras that would be attached to officers’ uniforms, Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the Sun on Thursday.

The cameras could record all officer interactions with the public, he said, while dashboard cameras only record what happens in front of a police cruiser.

“A lot of what you do is not in front of the car,” Gillespie said, calling body cameras “the wave of the future.”

Gillespie said his department began looking at the attachable cameras about a year ago but found the technology wasn’t very good. Since then the technology has advanced and hundreds of departments have begun testing them.

The sheriff didn’t have an estimate on when Metro Police will begin using the cameras.

“We have to find the funding for it,” he said. “You need them for every person, but you could have a bank of them. It isn’t like everyone gets one to take home.”

Gillespie said the idea of cameras came up again in recent meetings with the ACLU of Nevada and the NAACP, both of which have asked for a Justice Department investigation of Metro’s relatively high number of officer-involved shootings. “I’ve made a commitment (to them) that we’re going to move forward on the camera project,” he said.

The Sun reported this week that the head of the police union said implementation of cameras would need to be negotiated in contract talks.

Gillespie had a different opinion. “I don’t see it as part of collective bargaining,” he said. “If that’s the case, then whether we put a shotgun in the car or lights (would also have to be negotiated).”

But Gillespie said he discussed the cameras with union representatives this week and the union will be a part of the process.

“I told them, ‘Listen, we’re going to move toward a camera system,” he said. “I really think it’s in the best interests of everyone that we do it and it’s the wave of the future. It’s going to happen so let’s just understand that for what it is and move forward.”

Dashboard cameras in Nevada Highway Patrol vehicles recorded the October 2010 incident in which a Henderson police officer kicked a restrained man in the head. That led to a settlement of about $250,000 for the man, Michael Greene, and his wife. The state settled with Greene for another $35,000.

Greene was captured on Highway Patrol cameras swerving for two or three minutes as he drove east on Lake Mead Parkway. When he was stopped and dragged out of his car by five officers, Henderson Sgt. Brett Seekatz walked up and kicked him in the head five times.

Seekatz was disciplined more than a year ago for the incident. City Council members, however, only learned of the incident after the Sun reported it last week.

Early Thursday, Henderson Police Chief Jutta Chambers announced she would retire. Behind the scenes, some say Chambers was a City Council scapegoat since Seekatz had already been disciplined and could not be punished twice for the incident.

The city charter forbids the City Council from making personnel decisions. That’s the job of City Manager Mark Calhoun, who sources say was pressured by the council to oust Chambers. Calhoun earlier this week also announced he would soon retire.

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