LAS VEGAS, NV — After an unarmed man was shot by Las Vegas Metro Police, a civilian review panel, responsible for making recommendations in these types of cases, reviewed the actions of police and made the recommendation that the offending officer be fired. To their astonishment, the officer was simply slapped on the wrist, prompting mass resignations of members of the civilian review board.
On Nov. 11, 2012, 22-year-old Lawrence Gordon was shot by Officer Jacquar Roston while investigating a domestic dispute. Roston shot Gordon when he reached for his hat, claiming that he believed it was a gun.
Gordon’s thigh bone in his right leg was shattered, reported the Las Vegas Review Journal. Gordon required emergency surgery, installation of a metal rod and eight bolts in his leg, and a blood transfusion. After a week in the hospital, Gordon was swimming in debt that was not covered by insurance. The hospital filed an $82,500 lien against Gordon.
The civilian “Use of Force Board” didn’t believe Roston was responsible enough to be maintained on the police force. They recommended Roston be fired, which the Las Vegas Review Journal said was “an unprecedented move,” adding that, “discipline against an officer in a shooting situation is unusual,” citing dozens of officer-involved shootings and homicides in the last few years.
Instead of following the review board’s recommendation, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie gave Roston an easy pass: 40 hours without pay, and some danger assessment training, reported CBS Las Vegas.
The review board was stunned. Within a week, six members of the board, including the co-chairman, had resigned in disgust.
“Nothing will change as long as the leadership bows to the (union),” said co-chair Robert Martinez to the Las Vegas Sun. “That’s who is running the show.”
The union, known as the Police Protective Association was dismissive towards the resigning members, and defended the sheriff. “I think this is a group of people who didn’t understand,” said PPA Executive Director Chris Collins.
“I was thoroughly fooled,” Martinez said. “I thought it was going to change and it isn’t.”
“I am saddened by what I feel is your inability to maintain the integrity and credibility of the Critical Incident Review Process (CIRP),” Martinez wrote in a resignation letter to the sheriff. “I can no longer support the Department’s consistent effort to minimize openness and transparency in the CIRP process.”
Martinez’s letter continued: “The Jacquar Roston board participants were presented with investigative files containing comprehensive background information, employee interviews and other information and those involved freely, openly and candidly expressed and discussed their impressions and opinions and then made their recommendation. With all these facts and opinions as evidence, you decided to set that information aside and render a decision that again supports the employee and ignore the conclusions of members of the civilian population specifically assigned to scrutinize these matters.”
Another board member who resigned, Glenn Rinehimer, said he became suspicious of the review process some time ago during another case which he perceived to be an unjustified shooting. He says that the civilian review board was “stacked” with former police officers who were uninterested in the facts and quickly voted the actions to be justified, reported the Las Vegas Sun.
“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.”