Las Vegas Sun

October 21, 2017

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Feds praise Metro on use-of-force reforms as police shootings plummet

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L.E. Baskow

Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo is shown in an interview, Thursday, Dec. 1, 2016.

Metro Police's leadership, tactics of de-escalation, community engagement and transparency, as well as a notable decrease in officer-involved shootings, were lauded in a report released Wednesday by the U.S. Justice Department.

The report evaluated the "Collaborative Reform Initiative for Technical Assistance" program, which was launched by Metro in collaboration with the Justice Department in 2012 after the federal agency's critical review of the police department's use-of-force tactics.

The review became a sort of pilot program other U.S. police departments have since used to reform their agencies.

Among the key findings:

• Through training, Metro has successfully implemented verbal and tactical de-escalation techniques.

• The agency is more transparent in the way it shares information after officer shootings and their use of force. Metro's policy dictates that leadership share all the details available within 72 hours of an officer firing a weapon.

• Such shootings have decreased since 2010. Metro's 10 shootings last year — seven which were nonfatal — amounted to the lowest number in 20 years, police said.

• Metro has made an effort to "engage with the community in authentic ways."

Also according to the report:

Training and the "sense of ownership" from Metro's staff (of all ranks), as well as the ways the agency investigates officer shootings, made the report's authors hopeful that reform will be sustainable.

Metro further noted that since the Justice Department's review, 1,624 of its officers have been outfitted with body-worn cameras, which have recorded more than 1 million interactions.

The "strong leadership" of Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo and former Sheriff Doug Gillespie was recognized as being a "critical factor" in making changes after the 2012 criticism, the report's authors wrote.

Research for Wednesday's report was conducted during a nine-month period sometime after May 2014 and included interviews with more than 70 people in the department. It was written as a collaboration between the Justice Department's Community Oriented Policing Services and the Crime and Justice Institute.

“At a time when other agencies are under a great deal of public scrutiny over police use of force, this agency did some hard work five years ago and underwent changes with the guidance of the COPS Office,” Lombardo said in a statement. “This report reinforces that our efforts are paying off and will keep us moving in a positive direction.”

To read the 50-page "Assessment of the Collaborative Reform Initiative in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department: A Catalyst for Change" report, visit: here

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