When Trevon Cole, a Las Vegas pot dealer, heard the front door burst open and police entered, he started flushing pot. The tragedy was the execution of an unarmed man.
The cop would claim Cole ‘lunged’ at him. It was a claim that would be contradicted after the physical evidence was collected.
Cole was not only unarmed. He wasn’t the man the cops were looking for. Las Vegas Metra had pursued the wrong person. The person they were looking for had a lengthy criminal record, a disparate age and didn’t even look like Cole.
Months later, another case of misinformed identity. Las Vegas Metro law enforcement shot and killed a defenseless Iraq veteran whose only failure was to have a vehicle closely resembling a car used in a nearby burglary. The veterans had been diagnosed with PTSD and refused to leave his automobile — even when surrounded by police.
Experts would eventually point to each of these instances as patterns of inadequate training, a shortage of transparent policies and a department which was unwilling to punish unruly officers.
The deadly environment became a multi-part feature by the Las Vegas Review-Journal titled “Deadly Force: When Las Vegas Police Shoot, and Kill.”
Now, in 2017,, the police force has become a model of reform. Notwithstanding a brief surge in violence pointed at Las Vegas PD, there were no lethal force incidents concerning unarmed suspects last year. The quantity of officer-linked shootings dropped as well.
Recently, officers with the New York Police Department, Baltimore PD and law enforcement bureaus as scattered as Utah, Massachusetts, New Mexico and Australia have attended training with Las Vegas PD to learn from the new training regimen.
Here’s how Metro PD stopped the inclination toward unreasonable violence.
After the Review-Journal printed its story on Las Vegas’ account of extreme force, the most damaging appraisal was from specialists who examined twenty-years of police shootings. The conclusion: The majority of the episodes may have been circumvented.
When the US Department of Justice initiated its investigation, the DOJ reviewed the force’s history, instruction, and oversight and returned 75 recommendations which are now part of the nationwide discussion on stopping police abuse.
In a five-hour course, Las Vegas police now get an education from social psychologists which indicate all humans tend to lean towards racial bias. The attitudes, programmed by individual confrontations and cultural preferences, become generalizations which must be disregarded.
“When you are conscious of personal prejudices, where they are around a person’s, race or gender, you must to place oneself in check,” the mandated class teaches.
No initiative would be compelling in a vacuum if officers are permitted to enjoy a culture of impunity. According to the Review-Journal’s reporting, before Metro’s reform, 95-percent of lethal events were verified by the agency’s ‘Use of Force Review Board.’
Metro has shown a renewed willingness to punish, fire and prosecutes problem officers and civilian representatives are permitted to out-vote department personnel who sit on the review board.
Nicholas Wooldridge, a prominent Las Vegas Defense Attorney, said, “The process in place now is driven more by accountability than it has ever been.
The American Civil Liberties Union is optimistic that Las Vegas’ law enforcement reforms will succeed.
“There’s still some skepticism,” Wooldridge said. “Everyone is taking the trust-but verify approach.”