The U.S. Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) today announced the completion and delivery of an eight-month review of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department’s use of force policies and practices. The report, funded by a grant from the COPS Office, lists 75 findings and recommendations regarding officer-involved shootings and other use-of-force issues.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department volunteered to undergo the review by the COPS Office after a series of shootings in 2011. The report focused on the use of deadly force over the last five years, including an analysis of policies and procedures, training and tactics, investigation and documentation and case reviews. Interviews were conducted with 95 area stakeholders, including community members, current and former officers and prosecutors, community organizations and police union officials.
“One of the most important issues facing law enforcement is the public perception of the legitimate use of force,” said COPS Office Director Bernard Melekian. “And far too often, the public perception of police use of force is different from those who are in law enforcement. We’ve now developed a tool to help assist agencies address community concerns, effectively revamp policies and practices, and enhance both community engagement and community support.”
The report was administered as part of the COPS Office’s Critical Response Technical Assistance initiative, designed to provide technical assistance to agencies facing significant law enforcement-related issues. Using subject matter experts, interviews, direct observations, as well as conducting extensive research and analysis, the COPS Office assists law enforcement agencies with enhancing and improving their policies and procedures, their operating systems and their professional culture. The COPS Office can issue a series of recommendations and be instrumental in assisting agencies with the implementation of those recommendations.
Among the findings in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department report is the need for significant changes to the use of force review board, new tactical practices when multiple officers respond to a crime scene and the implementation of new technologies, such as body cameras. The report also found that while the department’s new use of force policy is comprehensive, the format of the policy is cumbersome and not structured in a clear and concise manner that would allow for quick guidance when needed. The report recommends that the new policy be separated into smaller, specific policies that quickly address issues such as the use of firearms and less-lethal weapons.
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has already made progress on implementing a number of the report’s recommendations, addressing nearly half of the calls for action prior to the release of the report from the COPS Office.
“The issues facing the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department are not unique. Numerous agencies are facing similar challenges,” stated Director Melekian. “We are very encouraged by the Department’s proactive commitment to identifying problems and fixing them. The Sheriff and his team have been a partner throughout and we have seen results. There is much hard work ahead, but important initiatives have already begun. The approach taken by the Sheriff should be a model for departments across the nation.”
The COPS Office is a federal agency responsible for advancing community policing nationwide. Since 1995, COPS has awarded over $17 billion to advance community policing, including grants awarded to more than 13,000 state, local, and tribal law enforcement agencies to fund the hiring and redeployment of approximately 120,000 officers and provide a variety of knowledge resource products including publications, training, and technical assistance.