Las Vegas Sun

October 23, 2018

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Metro taping ban comes under fire

A new Metro Police Department policy that bans employees from covertly taping their supervisors without permission from top brass comes after a lieutenant was demoted based on conversations taped by a subordinate.

The policy, outlined in a memo dated Sept. 18 and effective immediately, followed the demotion earlier this month of Lt. Debra Gauthier to sergeant after a subordinate recorded her talking with him.

The employee, Sgt. Chuck Jones, had earlier complained to staff about Gauthier treating him badly, but the department investigated and found his allegations baseless, officials said. He came back with what he told Internal Affairs investigators was evidence: the tape recordings.

Gauthier, who has been on administrative leave with pay since June during the internal investigation, said she learned in May that Jones was covertly recording her. She informed Deputy Chief Mike Zagorski in writing and asked for his advice. He did not respond, she said.

"(Jones) was allowed to covertly tape me," Gauthier said. "I have never had a reprimand in 17 years with this department. And now, after I'm demoted, put on graveyard shift, given a $1,000-a-month pay decrease and removed from the captain's list where I was next in line for promotion, they make it a policy violation to tape record supervisors without permission. I was set up."

The new directive, signed by Undersheriff Richard Winget, states that "employees will not covertly record conversations involving other employees unless such recording is in furtherance of an official department investigation and prior approval for the covert recording has been obtained from the undersheriff."

Winget said if the new policy had been in place when Jones complained about Gauthier, "he still could have taped (conversations), but he would have had to have permission."

The Civil Service Board is about to hear a case in which an employee taped a discussion between him and a high-ranking administration member, several police sources said. The employee is challenging a Metro decision, the sources said.

Winget said he is aware the new policy hasn't been well received by the rank-and-file.

"What the order says is an employee can't surreptitiously record unless they beforehand seek authorization and approval from the undersheriff," Winget said. "It doesn't say the employee can't do it, but sets a direction to the process."

It prevents employees from "individually launching an investigation," he said.

It also prevents employees from catching their bosses, some employees say.

"Instead of dealing with the supervisors who are causing the problems, they're protecting them from getting caught, and that's not the way you maintain morale," one officer said. "I think it's ironic that they say, 'Don't protect yourself or you're in violation of a policy,' instead of telling supervisors not to treat their subordinates badly. If they treated people with dignity and respect, they wouldn't have to fear being tape-recorded."

A high-ranking officer who asked that his name not be used said, "The people being protected are the ones who are doing something wrong. If I'm not doing anything wrong, go ahead, put me on tape. I'll deal with someone's performance according to the guidelines."

"If you're a Metro Police officer and you're unhappy with a supervisor, you're not going to go to Winget and ask him to help you get him," another officer said.

Another officer said, "You think I'm going to go to Dick Winget? No way. They play these good-ol'-boy games. They are going to have some problems with this."

Winget agreed that "all people aren't going to feel comfortable coming to me. Those who don't, they should all feel comfortable going to their (union) association. The association and I work very closely together on a continual basis."

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