Metro, unions at odds over policing plan

Las Vegas police patch

Violent crime is up in the valley, and Metro is putting an emergency plan in place to address the problem. Two unions that represent police, however, say that a plan already in place may be to blame for the uptick in crime.

“I think we’re in a crisis,” said Las Vegas Police Protective Association (LVPPA) Executive Director Mark Chaparian.

“From the supervisors and the officers that we’re interacting with, they are painting a very bleak picture for what’s going on in our city right now,” added Las Vegas Police Managers and Supervisors Association (LVPMSA) Chairman Lt. John Faulis.

Faulis and Chaparian both blame the uptick in crime on Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo’s decentralization plan that was put in place last year.

“We’re feeling some really difficult crime numbers right now, and, really, the only thing that has changed within the Metropolitan Police Department or the Las Vegas valley for that matter is the way that we are handling criminal investigations,” Faulis said.

Under the plan, detectives who were based at headquarters and specializing in crimes such as gangs or drugs were moved to area commands, where they may investigate multiple crimes.

“The purpose was to provide a better customer service for the community that they serve,” said Assistant Sheriff Tom Roberts.

He says the plan enables detectives to more quickly connect with victims of crimes.

“We’re not going backwards on decentralization. It’s proven to be effective,” he said.

Roberts points to an uptick in violent crime nationally. A January FBI report based on numbers from 2015 backs that up.

In Clark County this year, homicides are up nearly 67 percent from last year; sexual assaults are up 34 percent; robberies are up about 22 percent; assault and battery crimes are up 23 percent.

That’s where the violent crime initiative comes in.

“All we’re asking to do is for everybody to pitch in, give our patrol force some relief,” Roberts said.

Roberts says the temporary plan means employees like detectives will get a two-week assignment to put on a uniform and drive a squad car.

“All weekend, we’ve been fielding calls from officers, from supervisors, from spouses of supervisors that are genuinely concerned for the safety of their husbands or their wives and also concerned for the safety of this community,” Faulis said.

“Do you believe that that holds water?” Roberts asked. “I mean, really, do you think that? We hired these folks to be police officers first, detectives second.”

The unions claim those detectives working the streets may not be given proper tools that patrol officers have, such as Tasers.

“Now that you’ve mentioned it, if that’s a concern, I’ll make sure that we have 70 of them available so that they’ll all have them,” Roberts said.

The violent crime initiative is temporary. Roberts says 40 officers are in training now, and 80 to come after that. So, there will be more officers working patrol during the next few months.

Roberts says this was the first time he heard about concerns regarding available equipment, and he is supposed to be the main point of contact.

The union leaders also say their relationship with Metro is the worst it has been in a while.

The unions are currently bargaining with Metro.