Tag Archives: Las Vegas NV

Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas: The LVMPD’s Killer Reputation

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments' Pathetic History of "Accountability"

The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Departments’ Pathetic History of “Accountability”

A Community in Fear

Not too long ago I attended a meeting of the Clark County Commissioners concerning a vote over the process that would be adopted to address shootings by Las Vegas area police. Prior to the vote that eventually happened (after all the important stuff like giving a certificate to a group from a retirement home whose most lauded act was alerting neighbors if they forgot to close their garage door), members of the community were allowed to address the commissioners regarding the issue.

One speaker after another stepped to the microphone and it wasn’t long at all before a common theme began to develop. Statements such as, “I’m afraid of what will happen if I call the police,” “I would never call the police even if I was in real danger because I’m scared more of them,” and “I don’t trust them not to kill someone if I call them for help” were recited over and over again throughout the session. These fears were often accompanied by personal examples of negative experiences resulting from interactions with Las Vegas area police, including several from the families of people that actually had been killed by the police.

Legitimate Reasons to be Afraid

When the cops in Las Vegas kill people their ONLY "punishment" is paid leave.

When the cops in Las Vegas kill people their ONLY “punishment” is paid leave.

Obviously, every time the police respond to a call they don’t kill or otherwise abuse the people they encounter, even in Las Vegas. However, it happens often enough to instill the sort of fear and hatred toward them that was on public display during the commissioners’ meeting that day. The problem is that people within the community know that should something happen to them or one of their loved ones at the hands of a member of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department they have very little hope of that cop ever being held accountable for their actions. They don’t know that the cop responding wants to kill them, but they do know that if they do they will get away with it.

The bigger problem is that members of Las Vegas area police departments also know this. Jesus Arevalo told his then-wife that he wanted to shoot someone so that he could get free time off, based on the policy of placing cops on paid leave during investigations. Within a couple of months after that statement, Stanley Gibson, an unarmed, disabled Persian Gulf veteran suffering from a PTSD induced panic attack and in no way representing a threat to anyone was murdered by Jesus Arevalo. Those seven unnecessary shots fired from Ofc. Arevalo’s AR-15 were the ticket to what is fast approaching two full years of the paid vacation that he had indicated he was hoping for. No charges were ever brought against him for his actions, which even other police on the scene characterized as unexplainable in their official statement to the detectives subsequently going through the motions of an investigation. At worst, Arevalo might possibly be punished by being fired.

A Long History of Corruption and Violence

The Biggest Gang in Las Vegas

The Biggest Gang in Las Vegas

Throughout their history, the LVMPD has consistently rated among the highest statistically nationwide (even when compared against cities with much higher populations) in times they have shot at people while on duty and in the level of fatalities resulting from those shootings. Stanley Gibson was just one of the latest names in the laundry list of the victims of Las Vegas police that includes Erik Scott (whose murderers were later given an award for bravery while gunning down someone from behind and then unloading their guns on him as he lay already dying on the ground), Trevon Cole, Orlando Barlow, Tanner ChamberlainDeshira Selimaj, and Henry Rowe, among the 150+ shootings just since 1990.

Yet not one singular time in the close to forty year history of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has a Las Vegas area police officer ever been charged for shooting someone, regardless of whether the person shot was unarmed or even completely innocent of having committed any actual crime. One rather telling fact is that the reason the old Las Vegas city police was originally merged with the Clark County Sheriff department to create “Metro” was in response to an uproar after a very questionable shooting that was ruled justifiable. Yet, no matter how questionable the many shootings by Metro have been, the justifications have continued unabated.

An Absolute Refusal to Hold ANYONE Accountable

Finally someone within the Las Vegas police system has made some sort of stand for justice.

Finally someone within the Las Vegas police system has made some sort of stand for justice, but will it actually matter?

A recent incident has shined a very public spotlight on the reasons why it is so impossible to hold anyone  within the LVMPD accountable for their actions. In one of the most questionable shootings ever Officer Jacquar Roston claimed to have confused a hat Lawrence Gordon was wearing for a gun and shot him in the leg as he sat in a car. As would be expected of anybody with even half a brain, Metro’s internal Use of Force Review Board didn’t really accept that excuse and recommended that Roston be fired  as a result.

The fact that this recommendation was hailed as an “unprecedented” act by the board tells you a lot about the past history of the Las Vegas police in relation to officer involved shootings. The fact that Sheriff Gillespie promptly disregarded that recommendation in favor of a one week unpaid suspension (after Roston had already spent 8 months on paid vacation during the investigation) tells you a lot about the prospects for any sort of accountability for them in the near future.

However, in one glimmer of hope for some sort of prospect for justice, seven members of the board did actually have the integrity to stand up and resign in disgust after Gillespie’s disgraceful action. One former member of the board, Glenn Rinehimer, stated that previously the board had been “stacked” with retired police officers from other parts of the country designated as civilians. According to Rinehimer, they didn’t seem in any hurry to actually investigate whether shootings were justified. “The retired police just didn’t seem interested,” Rinehimer said. “They didn’t ask a lot of questions. They voted quickly for it to be justified.”

Robert Martinez, a co-chair of the board who also resigned, had previously expressed hope that this sort of rubber stamping had ended once former police employees and their family members were banned from being appointed as civilians on the board last year. He believed that Metro truly desired a fair and transparent process. That is until Gillespie essentially exonerated Roston despite the board’s unanimous recommendation. “I was thoroughly fooled,” Martinez said. “I thought it was going to change and it isn’t.” Within his resignation letter Martinez characterized the process as a flawed one that undermined the Use of Force Review Board.

Sheriff Gillespie announcing that the final week of Roston's 8 month vacation will be unpaid.

Sheriff Gillespie announcing that the final week of Roston’s 8 month vacation will be unpaid.

Former Assistant Sheriff Ted Moody, who submitted for retirement in response to this case, agreed that Gillespie was undermining the credibility of the board even as Metro faces increasing scrutiny over questionable shootings and other scandals that are becoming hard to even keep up with lately. Las Vegas police officers will not have the public’s trust until the department has a credible process for reviewing its own shootings, Moody stated. And that process must be stable, impartial, unbiased and free from political interference. “Anything short of that is going to fuel further suspicion and mistrust and is just begging for the imposition of externally imposed oversight,” he said. “Nobody wants that. We can be better than that.”

Rinehimer went even further in his assessment of the problems with a system that is in practice designed to ensure no cop is ever held accountable. Rinehimer said the sheriff’s decision to overturn the Use of Force Review Board’s recommendation doesn’t set a good precedent, especially for officers who find themselves in similar situations in the future. “At the end of the day, the officer might be sitting there smiling, knowing the sheriff might not fire him anyway,” Rinehimer said. “It’s a farce.”

A Lack of Accountability that is Not Good for Anyone, Even the Police Themselves

The inevitable backlash

The inevitable backlash

There’s an obvious incentive for members of the community to demand accountability for the heavily armed band patrolling through the streets that they live and work. If those individuals are permitted to act as an occupying force with the impunity to do as they please to those within that community, those among their ranks that have an unscrupulous tendency will take advantage of that to commit criminal and violent acts.

However, there are reasons why even those within the local police departments should want to see accountability for those “bad apples” that we are always being told are just exceptions to the rules. Fear eventually gives rise to hostility and working within the bounds of a hostile environment makes someone’s job just that much harder to do. People within communities don’t feel real obligated to help with the investigation of crimes when the person doing the investigation is perceived as being as bad or worse than the people being investigated.

Having to deal with indifference or even active retaliation in the process only serves to make the job of the police more difficult and frustrating, which in turn makes them more bitter and cynical and leads to even more abuses. At some point, that downward spiral needs to be put to an end and the only way to do that is to create real accountability, rather than a hollow, toothless sham that does nothing but draw attention to the lack of it.  And as Sheriff Gillespie recently found out, people are a lot less accepting of having their taxes increased in order to supplement the LVMPD’s budget during an almost daily barrage of news about yet another police scandal.

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Chalk the Police State – July 18th Support the “Sunset 3”

This article was submitted by Kelly W. Patterson, who originally published it on his personal blog.  

sunset 3
Chalk Washes Off, Injustice Never Will!

Emma Goldman once stated that if voting actually changed anything they would make it illegal. The rapid progression of new laws designed (or existing laws twisted) to prevent different forms of direct action bears out the truth of that sentiment.

Direct action truly does “get the goods” and whenever the establishment recognizes that something is an effective method of exposing them for what they really are the crackdown is inevitable.

Among the terrorist cameramen, illegal milk traffickers, outlaw food sharers and cancer patients using unauthorized treatment methods another group has recently joined the ranks of the recipients of this treatment of making mundane, harmless actions illegal. This dangerous, scary group consists of people that draw on sidewalks with (gasp!) “sidewalk chalk,” something that (spoiler alert) is packaged for, marketed as, and primarily used to write on sidewalks.

Of course, the fact that someone is writing on a sidewalk isn’t really the issue as evidenced by the masses of children playing hopscotch, public events featuring chalk drawing areas, and even businesses that use it for advertising on sidewalks nearby. It’s really the content of what people have written that have gotten them in trouble, which is pretty much the definition of a First Amendment violation (in spite of what Jeff Olson’s judge would have you believe).

When a friendly game of four-square turns into an airing of the local police department’s record of police brutality and unwillingness to hold anyone accountable for that record of violence and murder, well then we have to protect the public’s property from an easily washed off, non-staining, material that will disappear on it’s own within a matter of a few days. It’s all fun and games until someone starts pointing out the crimes of the State’s enforcers and then the next thing you know people will be writing about how they steal people homes only to turn around and sell it to billion dollar corporations for less than market value or to people pretending to build stadiums nobody even wants and no local team can fill.

“Second Saturdays” with NVCopBlock.org

The reason that I know that chalking is an effective way of protest is because about a month ago, on June 8th, I along with two other members of the Sunset Activist Collective were cited during a Nevada Cop Block monthly protest for “graffiti” while listing the crimes and paying tribute to the many victims of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. After nine months of “Second Saturdays” and other events calling for the accountability that is sorely missing within Las Vegas area police departments, we were told by a “graffiti expert” that drawing with chalk on a sidewalk is now illegal, in spite of us having been explicitly told by some of his own co-workers that sidewalk chalk is in fact legal previously.

Inevitably, the upside to when the state cracks down on legal forms of protest is that they generally overreach and in the end often the public spotlight and embarrassment generated by their heavy-handed methods backfire in a big way. Such was the case when Jeff Olson wrote stuff about how corrupt the system was in favor of banks and then the San Diego police proved his point by bowing to the pressure of a bank manager to charge him in a case they didn’t even want to prosecute (and that even the mayor called stupid) with the outrageous potential of 13 years in prison for writing on a sidewalk with something that was manufactured for that explicit purpose.

Our  case, of course, doesn’t involve a penalty anywhere near that level of ridiculousness, although there are some bribery demands (i.e. fines) that could amount to as much as $1000, forced slave labor (AKA “community” service), and for some bizarre reason the removal of our legal ability to drive around for two years. Personally, I’m not particularly concerned about any of those things because the case is not just silly, it’s already been ruled in courts that chalking is legal and constitutionally protected as free speech.

Solidarity Rally for the “Sunset 3”

What has me looking forward to our court date on July 18th is the fact that this case and the subsequent lawsuit will bring more attention to the unchecked crimes of the LVMPD and their cohorts in and around Las Vegas than we ever did in those nine months of writing our demands on the sidewalk surrounding their (fancy new) headquarters buildings.

And regardless if the outcome isn’t what I expect (and common sense dictates) it to be, I will continue chalking until Metro decides to stop allowing their employees to murder people without consequence. In fact, I won’t even be waiting until the current case is decided. The next “Second Saturday” is July 13th and we will be there chalking again. We will also be holding a solidarity rally on the morning of the 18th, prior to the trial starting, and there will be chalking that day.

Unjust laws need to be challenged, especially when those unjust laws are themselves being used to hide the injustices of those in power and their enforcers. That’s why I won’t be putting down my chalk any time soon and you should pick up yours. The best way to overturn a bad law that violates basic human rights, such as the ability to protest injustices, is to violate those laws en masse in order that their true nature can’t be ignored. It’s even more true when the laws are silly and obviously being used in ways they were never intended to be.

At 11:00 am (PST) on July 18th, join us at the Regional Injustice Center (see map below)to let them know that you want accountability instead of paid vacations for cops that murder people in your community and that they can’t silence you with petty, misapplied laws. If you aren’t in Las Vegas, then be with us in spirit, draw out some stuff on the sidewalk where ever you are, and join us in a lively round of hopscotch.

We’ll see if they have the nerve and the room to haul all of us “graffiti artists” away.

View Larger Map

Kelly W. Patterson

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Nevada Highway Patrol Cop Blocked on Las Vegas Strip

(Originally posted at Liberty On Tour and CopBlock.org)

LAS VEGAS, NV – A couple of days ago Adam and I were walking across a pedestrian bridge on the Vegas Strip when we saw two vehicles being pulled over by the Nevada Highway Patrol. As advocates of holding public officials accountable we filmed the stop.

Overall I think we did well, but we could have done a bit better. Specifically, I should have responded to questions with questions. Instead of explaining myself I should have asked “Am I legally required to answer that?” or just inform them that I choose to remain silent. But, knowing that the footage we captured may end up in a video online I decided to use the opportunity to explain why I believe that filming those with badges is so important, not just to the cops themselves but to those who would later watch the video. Also, in retrospect, it’s clear the cops were trying to bait us into saying that we may use the footage in court, for which they then claimed that they needed our information.

That said, we did well in a couple of areas – we spread out so the cops couldn’t corner us and when they demanded our ID Adam asked if we were being detained. We didn’t want to end up in another situation where the cops stole our cameras (see posts about Denver and Greenfield, MA) so we moved to different vantage points to better cover the traffic stop. And throughout the incident we remained calm, cool and collected.

What do you think? Did you learn anything? Do you have any recommendations for us?

Related videos:
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Cop Block Bloggers Arrested in Greenfield, MA
FIJA & DHS Outreach
Edgewater, NJ Police Build Rapport Through Intimidation
FIJA Outreach NYC
How to Interact With Cops

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