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April 22, 2019

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Lombardo on why a Trump presidency could boost morale at Metro, curb crime

Sheriff Joseph Lombardo Interview

L.E. Baskow

Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo speaks during an interview at the Metropolitan Police Department headquarters on Martin Luther King Boulevard, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

Moments before declaring himself the "law and order candidate" during his Republican National Convention speech over the summer, President-elect Donald Trump had vowed to support and protect police.

With Trump set to take the oath of office next month, Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo anticipates changes to policing across the country.

"Frankly, I do," Lombardo said Wednesday during an editorial meeting with the Las Vegas Sun.

"He's been out, he's been vocal, he says he supports law enforcement wholly," Lombardo said about Trump. "And ... at face value, I hope that he's being honest about that."

Addressing the disturbing trend of homicide increases in several U.S. major cities earlier this year compared to 2015, FBI Director James Comey said the rise in violent crime could in part be attributed to de-policing, a term used to describe when officers stop extending full police protection to a community or become more passive in potentially violent scenarios so as not to draw public scrutiny.

Over time you can see that happening, Lombardo said, validating the FBI director's theory. The sheriff said the current federal officials' lack of support for police has been a factor in fueling a wave of anti-police protests since the 2014 killing of an unarmed black teen in Ferguson, Missouri.

The 62 U.S. police officers shot and killed this year constitute over a 60 percent increase compared to last year, according to the National Law Enforcement Officers Memorial.

"Cops are concerned about their safety, concerned about their job security and whether or not what they're doing is having an impact," Lombardo said. "Or whether people appreciate them or not."

When the leader of the free world expresses support and trust for police, "that makes a difference," Lombardo said.

"It makes a difference knowing you're not going to have the (U.S.) Department of Justice breathing down your neck and watching everything you do as a police officer or as an agency, and I think it has a direct effect whether officers are proactive or not."

Locally, Lombardo said Metro officers have not stood down from their duties, "but I would be comfortable in saying that our officers have that gnawing at them all the time. I would be comfortable saying they're not being as proactive as they used to be, but I don't see them actively de-policing."

Lombardo also spoke about Metro's efforts to curb violent crime. On Tuesday, homicide detectives responded to their 157th homicide investigation of the year in the agency's jurisdiction, about a 35 percent increase compared with last year. That increase had swelled up to 106 percent in April.

"Now we're starting to see the change, whether it's the president or not, we've had an effect on crime and we're going in the right direction."

The process is "just like turning a cruise ship," Lombardo said. "It takes time."

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