LVMPD Undersheriff Kevin McMahill discusses the recent spike in violent crime, and the strategies being implemented to address it. The interview aired on March 18th, 2016 on KNPR’s State of Nevada.
LVMPD Undersheriff Kevin McMahill discusses the recent spike in violent crime, and the strategies being implemented to address it. The interview aired on March 18th, 2016 on KNPR’s State of Nevada.
It’s only a matter of time before all uniformed Las Vegas police officers are equipped with body-worn cameras.
That was the consensus of police and academic representatives who participated in a panel discussion Saturday at the University of Phoenix campus.
The Metropolitan Police Department requires body cams for all new recruits, who wear slightly more than half of the 500 or so body cams in use in the field today. Department veterans are given the option of wearing one, but Metro’s policies don’t require them across the board.
Las Vegas police Sgt. Peter Ferranti, a supervisor in the department’s video unit, said the Legislature sent a strong message that a statewide mandate may be coming down the road when it passed a law in 2015 requiring Nevada police agencies to start preparing policies for body cams.
And in recent months, Ferranti has seen officers in specialty units volunteering to wear the cameras. Requests came from the SWAT unit in December and from the K-9 unit in February.
“That’s a relatively new thing,” he said.
Daniel Barry, a retired Las Vegas police officer and the chairman of the University of Phoenix College of Security and Criminal Justice, compared body-worn cameras to the rise of DNA testing in the 1990s: Both technologies were policing game-changers.
Although the department said its body cam policies were crafted based on national best practices, speakers pointed to a few challenges that will need to be confronted as the technology evolves.
Storage for the videos is demanding and costly: With more than 500 units in use, the department has about 300,000 videos stored on the Internet. Of those, 90,000 are marked for long-term storage. Most videos are automatically deleted after 45 days.
And preparing the footage for release is labor-intensive: Thirteen requests have been made to the department for body cam footage in the past six months. About half of them had to be dismissed because there was no footage for the incidents in question. Others couldn’t be released because of pending criminal cases, and one had been automatically deleted, Ferranti said.
The department released body cam footage in response to a request for the first time Thursday. It took eight hours to redact the footage to make sure that personal details — things like addresses and social security numbers — weren’t released as well.
UNLV criminal justice researcher William Sousa said that there is a difference between transparency and trust. Sousa completed a study of public perceptions about body cams last year and found that the public emphatically supports the adoption of body cams but has mixed feelings about public dissemination and being filmed by the police.
Some of the roughly three dozen attendees at the discussion wondered if having all police interactions filmed framed those interactions from a place of mistrust from the beginning. Others asked about whether it was appropriate for the police to be policing themselves.
“The camera gives us more information, but it doesn’t have all the answers,” Sousa said.
Sousa is also working on a pilot study of the department’s initial rollout of body cams. That study should be completed in the next few months.
Body-worn cameras are a blessing for police officers, Ferranti said. Footage from body cams has been used to exonerate 90 Las Vegas police officers accused of misconduct to date.
The next University of Pheonix criminal justice panel will discuss mental health issues in policing and probably will be held in May, Barry said. The panels are open to the public.
A former Las Vegas police officer was indicted by a federal grand jury Tuesday on felony charges of roughing up a woman he suspected was a prostitute.
Richard Scavone, 49, was charged with violating the civil rights of the woman when he used excessive force while arresting her in January 2015 and falsifying his report of the encounter to obstruct an FBI investigation, according to the Justice Department.
The woman was identified in the indictment only by her initials, A.O.
Scavone, who also faces a local misdemeanor battery charge in the incident, has been summoned to answer the two felony counts in federal court on Jan. 20. He is to appear in Las Vegas Justice Court that day, as well.
Defense lawyer Josh Tomsheck said Scavone is digging in for a fight.
“The federal charges don’t match the facts that we’ve uncovered in our investigation,” Tomsheck said. “Mr. Scavone has always maintained his innocence and wishes to aggressively fight these charges, and we look forward to all of the facts coming to light through the court process.”
According to the indictment, Scavone, while acting under color of law, handcuffed the woman on Jan. 6, 2015, and assaulted her several times.
He grabbed the woman around her neck and threw her to the ground, struck her in the forehead with an open palm, slammed her face into the hood of his patrol car two times and slammed her into the door of his car, the indictment alleges.
The actions resulted in “bodily injury” to the woman, the indictment alleges.
Scavone also falsified a use-of-force report about his confrontation with the woman, according to the indictment.
Authorities last year said Scavone was wearing a body camera during the scuffle, but police have not made the recording public.
Scavone had stopped a woman about 5 a.m. near Tropicana Avenue and Interstate 15, where he said she was loitering and trying to solicit work as a prostitute, according to authorities.
His supervisors concluded his use of force was “excessive” and “unreasonable,” Undersheriff Kevin McMahill told reporters after the district attorney’s office filed criminal charges in March.
The woman was charged with littering and loitering, but those charges were dismissed, McMahill said.
Scavone was put on paid administrative leave when the allegations against him first surfaced, but was terminated from the department on Sept. 10, police said.
The federal case was investigated by the Las Vegas FBI and is being prosecuted jointly by the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division in Washington, D.C., and the Nevada U.S. attorney’s office.
Las Vegas police will pay more than $80,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by a woman who said officers detained her for two hours in The Cosmopolitan after falsely accusing her of being a prostitute.
A federal judge U.S. District Judge Miranda Du wrote that the case showed Metro’s prostitution sweeps in casinos were overly broad and threatened people’s constitutional rights.
Chentile Goodman was released without charge after the 2011 incident and filed a lawsuit later that year.
The $82,500 settlement of her case was approved this week by Metro’s Fiscal Affairs Committee, an oversight board of two Clark County commissioners, two Las Vegas City Council members and a citizen member.
In her lawsuit, Goodman said she had picked her friend Ayda Mosafer up at the airport the night of Feb. 9, 2011, and the two were planning to meet Goodman’s boyfriend for a late dinner and drinks.
In court filings, police said undercover vice officers were at The Cosmopolitan that night because it was known to be “overrun with prostitutes.”
Two of the officers, Sgt. James Signorello and Detective John Segura, spotted Goodman and Mosafer near the elevators. Police said Signorello recognized Mosafer from her arrest on suspicion of prostitution days earlier at the Spearmint Rhino strip club, where both Mosafer and Goodman worked.
Goodman said Segura approached her and asked if she knew where he could have some “fun.” By both sides’ accounts, the women showed no interest.
Despite that, the detectives identified themselves as police, asked for the women’s phones and said they needed to talk to them in the casino security office, Metro’s lawyers wrote in a court filing.
Goodman’s lawyer, Robert Nersesian, said she has never worked as a prostitute in her life. The women told the officers they were on their way to meet Goodman’s boyfriend at The Henry, a 24-hour restaurant in the hotel.
Goodman said the officers grabbed her and Mosafer by the arms, seized her cell phone and purse and took the women to the security office, where they were held and threatened with arrest. Goodman said police called her “whore” while holding her.
“LVMPD has developed a policy and practice of broad-scale prostitution sweeps in public casinos in a manner that threatens the constitutional rights of the women they target,” U.S. District Judge Miranda Du wrote in a 2013 order granting some of Goodman’s claims.
“As evidenced by Goodman’s detention and arrest in February 2011, the imprecise nature of Vice’s undercover activity results in a chaotic atmosphere that portends serious constitutional violations in cases where officers fail to appropriately assess the suspicion of their targets, all without appropriate checks on individual officers’ actions. The Constitution requires more.”
Du ruled police had no “reasonable suspicion” of criminal activity that justified detaining Goodman, which made the search of her purse and seizure of her phone unconstitutional.
That ruling was overturned in June by a federal appeals court, which said the case should go to trial “because the facts here are so thoroughly disputed, and the resolution of the federal claims depends entirely on who is believed.” After that, the two sides held a settlement conference and agreed on the $82,500 payment.
Goodman also sued the owners of The Cosmopolitan, arguing casino security officers improperly helped detain her. Nersesian said the casino and Goodman reached a settlement, but he would not elaborate. The Cosmopolitan declined to comment.
Metro’s public information office didn’t respond to a request for comment Tuesday on the lawsuit settlement.
In a court filing, Metro lawyers said the detectives were justified in detaining Goodman for several reasons, including that she worked at a strip club, was “dressed provocatively” at 2 a.m. and was seen near the hotel elevators, which police said called “a known area for loitering for prostitution.”
Du, the judge, wrote that such vague standards could “scoop up many, if not most, women visiting the Cosmopolitan at the time.”
Goodman’s lawyer, Nersesian, said he thinks the detectives’ explanations were invented after the fact. Asked why he thinks the officers really stopped his client, he said: “They just go into these places and sweep everybody they think looks hot.”
Goodman, who is in her early 30s, is now living in another state and working as a nurse, Nersesian said. She could not be reached for comment.
Goodman’s lawsuit said the incident caused her emotional distress, and her lawyer said it took courage for her to pursue the lawsuit in hopes of changing police behavior.
“We have a constitution for a reason,” Nersesian said. “One of the biggest reasons is so that good people aren’t swept up in bad situations. And from my perspective … this was a glaring example of the failure to recognize constitutional limits, sweeping in a good person and causing her great harm.”
A new sheriff inevitably means changes to the Metropolitan Police Department.
Under Clark County Sheriff Joseph Lombardo, changes came quickly.
Most of the department’s detectives now have different job descriptions. Substations that were closed to the public because of funding concerns have been reopened. And police shootings have dropped, while violent crime continues to rise.
The sheriff sat down to speak with the Review-Journal this past week.
Probably the biggest change since the start of the Lombardo regime Jan. 4 was finalized just more than a week ago.
On July 18, his plan to decentralize operations for about 150 detectives formally started.
With the shift, detectives who worked in specialized units, such as robbery, domestic violence, drugs and gangs, were filtered out and now staff each of Metro’s eight area commands throughout the Las Vegas Valley. Each area command has about 24 detectives, Lombardo said.
But the way it was, Lombardo said, it took on average 12½ days after a crime was reported for a detective to review the case file for the first time.
That, the sheriff said, needed to change.
It’s evidence-based, he said.
Metro has experimented with the idea before, when the agency decentralized property crimes detectives, who typically handle crimes such as home burglaries.
Before pushing those detectives out to area commands, the department solved about 33 percent of property crimes, Lombardo said. Since the change, it has jumped to about 45 percent.
By pushing the detectives out to handle smaller geographical areas, Lombardo said he hopes to cut that time in half.
Under the old system, most detectives worked out of Metro headquarters, at 400. S. Martin Luther King Blvd. Some units, such as homicide, sexual assault and crimes against youth and family, will remain centralized. Those investigations tend to be more forensics-based, while those that have been decentralized are more “human-based,” he said, utilizing informants and interviews more often.
But another reason also initiated the change.
“In years past, crooks were specialized,” Lombardo said. “We’ve really seen that change over the last five to 10 years. Now they’re poly-criminals.”
To keep up, Lombardo said, his detectives need to have multiple areas of expertise too.
“We’re limiting ourselves if we stay specialized and the criminals are not,” he said.
When the Clark County Commission approved a $539 million Metro budget for 2015-16, it meant two things for the department: more cops and the ability to reopen four area commands that had been closed to the public.
Those area commands — Bolden, 1851 Stella Lake St.; South Central, 4860 Las Vegas Blvd. South; Southeast, 3675 E. Harmon Ave.; and Downtown, 621 N. Ninth St. — were closed in previous years because of a lack of funding that forced layoffs at the civilian employee level.
But with the $28 million bigger budget for this year, 46 civilian positions were added, allowing Metro to restaff and reopen those front desks. Residents now can file police reports in person at those locations.
With those civilian employees, Metro was able to hire 55 new officers.
That can help Las Vegas police push back a slight uptick in violent crimes.
This year, violent crime — which includes homicides, sex assaults, assaults with a deadly weapon and robberies — has gone up 2 percent overall compared with last year.
Assaults with a deadly weapon saw the biggest jump, about 12.5 percent, according to Metro crime statistics.
Lombardo said he simply needs more officers if he is going to bring that number down.
Even with the new officers, Metro’s officer to resident ratio, hovering at 1.74 officers per thousand residents, is far below where Lombardo would like to see it.
Lombardo said he would like to see the department get back to what he considers the standard, which is at least two officers per thousand residents.
Going the opposite way of violent crime, Metro’s officer-involved-shooting numbers have plummeted this year, with just six compared with 11 at the same point last year.
A big reason for the drop, Lombardo said, is that the enhanced emphasis on de-escalation “is really hitting home now.”
“There’s never not going to be officer-involved shootings,” he said. “We have to look at it as ‘was it necessary?’ instead of ‘was it justified?'”
And while the sheriff understands that even the current number of police shootings can change seemingly overnight, that hasn’t stopped him from praising what he says is the progress his department has made.
“I’m very proud of our officer-involved-shooting numbers,” Lombardo said.
Morris Mattingly, 54, who was director of security for the scheme’s central figure, former construction company boss Leon Benzer, also was ordered to serve three years of supervised release after prison and pay a share of $190,417 in restitution.
U.S. District Judge James Mahan said Mattingly, a Benzer-controlled board member at Vistana, abused his position of trust during the multimillion-dollar scheme by helping steer construction defect work to Benzer’s company.
Federal prosecutors have alleged that Benzer swindled the Vistana HOA out of more than $7 million for construction repairs that weren’t completed.
Mattingly apologized for his actions, telling Mahan he made a “very, very stupid judgment” he’ll regret the rest of his life.
His lawyer, Andrew Leavitt, said Mattingly was held to a higher standard in the community because of his former position as a police officer and, as a result, suffered extra shame and humiliation.
“He’s paid his price,” Leavitt said. “Nobody is going to punish him more than he’s punished himself.”
Two other key players in the massive takeover scheme, which involved a dozen HOAs between 2003 and 2009, avoided prison time on Wednesday.
Mahan sentenced former attorney Brian Jones, who admitted helping rig HOA elections at Vistana and Chateau Nouveau, both in the southwest valley, to three years of supervised release.
Jones, 41, who worked for the politically connected law firm Kummer Kaempfer Bonner Renshaw as the scheme unfolded, also was ordered to pay a share of $10,000 in restitution. His former firm, which lobbied local governments, disbanded in 2009, months after Jones moved to Utah and gave up practicing law.
Jones admitted in court that he made a “bad decision” that ruined his once-promising legal career. He said he now teaches at a Utah college.
Lisa Kim —who ran Platinum Community Services, which managed the Vistana HOA at Benzer’s direction — was sentenced to eight months of home confinement and three years of supervised release. Prosecutors had sought prison time for Kim, who admitted participating in election rigging at Vistana.
Defense lawyer Charles Kelly said Kim, who now runs a small house cleaning business, “lost basically everything” and made amends by being one of the first to cooperate in the long-running investigation.
Kim, 51, whose assistance was praised by lead prosecutor Charles La Bella, apologized to Mahan and tearfully said she regretted becoming involved in the takeover scheme.
All three defendants pleaded guilty to one count of conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and cooperated with the government. Mattingly and Jones testified at the federal trial of former Benzer attorney Keith Gregory and three other defendants, who were convicted in March.
Kim also pleaded guilty in a related bank fraud scheme involving the Courthouse Cafe, which once operated out of the Regional Justice Center in downtown Las Vegas. Her former husband, retired Las Vegas police Lt. Ben Kim, was sentenced to three years probation in 2013 for his role in the scheme.
A total of 20 defendants are being sentenced this week in the largest public corruption case federal authorities have brought in Southern Nevada. In all, 38 defendants pleaded guilty in the FBI-led investigation, which began in November 2007.
Benzer pleaded guilty in January and is to be sentenced later this year.
Metro officer Richard Scavone, 48, is accused of using unlawful force on the woman, the Clark County district attorney’s office announced Tuesday. He faces a misdemeanor battery charge.
He has not been arrested.
Scavone stopped a woman about 5 a.m. Jan. 6 near where Tropicana Avenue crosses Interstate 15, the district attorney said in a news release. The officer said the woman was loitering, trying to solicit work as a prostitute.
When Scavone told her to move, the DA said, the woman refused and threw a cup of coffee over her shoulder — not in the officer’s direction. The officer then got out of his car to arrest the woman and “used force and violence against her, which was not justified or required for purposes of his investigation,” the DA’s office said in a news release.
Scavone’s supervisors investigated his use of force and deemed it was “not only excessive, it was unreasonable,” Las Vegas police Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said Tuesday during a news conference. Metro submitted the case to the district attorney’s office for prosecution.
McMahill said Scavone was wearing a body camera during the incident but that footage would not be released yet.
“I can tell you that she did have a mark on her face at the conclusion of this incident,” McMahill said. “It appears to have come from the interaction with officer Scavone.”
The woman Scavone is accused of battering initially was charged with littering and loitering, McMahill said, but those charges have been dismissed.
“Police officers deal with a wide variety of situations, and the vast majority handle themselves in a professional and appropriate manner,” District Attorney Steve Wolfson said in a written statement. “For those who take it too far, there are consequences.”
In March 2010, Scavone was placed on routine paid administrative leave after shooting a burglary suspect.
McMahill would not comment on Scavone’s use of force prior to January. Scavone has worked at Metro for eight years.
The same year Scavone shot someone, he received a Metro award for “Meritorious Service,” given “for a highly unusual accomplishment under adverse conditions with some degree of hazard to life,” according to the department website.
Contact Kimberly De La Cruz at Kdelacruz@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0381. Find her on Twitter: @KimberlyinLV.
A Las Vegas police detective will keep his job despite drawing criticism from colleagues and local activists for his online posts about a “race war” and anti-government rhetoric, the Las Vegas Sun reported.
Some of Detective Bobby Kinch’s co-workers reportedly brought the December 2013 Facebook posts to the attention of superiors. Kinch told the Sun that he was the victim of department politics. He was recently allowed to go back on duty following an extended suspension and internal investigation.
“Let’s just get this over!” Kinch wrote in one post. “Race war, Civil, Revolution? Bring it! I’m about as fed up as a man (American, Christian, White, Heterosexual) can get!”
At least one colleague later compared Kinch’s statements to the kind of posts made by Jerad and Amanda Miller before they shot and killed two LVPD officers in June 2014.
“It’s obviously coming to a boiling point! I say ‘F*CK IT’!” Kinch stated in another angry post. “I’m ready now! Sooner or later, I would say sooner than later! Thought I could make a difference, thought it would get better! See the morale fabric of this Country get so trampled I wanna call it! GAME ON! I think we need a cleansing! Just me? What say you?”
Several of Kinch’s fellow detectives expressed concern over the posts at the time, with one asking him not to share his views on “this stupid thing called Facebook.”
“You’ve lost your mind,” Detective Joe Giannone responded. “This may be the dumbest sh*t you’ve ever posted. That’s saying a lot.”
Fifteen members of Sheriff Douglas Gillespie’s organization have been served with a Federal complaint filed in District Court for the State of Nevada that notified them they are being sued in a historical legal precedent against the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department by one of their own.The complaint has been filed by Las Vegas Attorney David Otto on behalf of his client, the Plantiff, 34-year veteran with LVMPD, Detective Gordon Martines.The lawsuit specifically names the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, the Defendants, their agents, officers, servants and/or employees, engaged in unlawful conduct by, inter alia, retaliating against Plaintiff for exercising his First Amendment right to free speech and denying him procedural due process. Continue reading