The Metropolitan Police Department has agreed to open itself up to Justice Department officials, Las Vegas police said today, marking the start of a months-long process that could reform how its officers use deadly force and how those incidents are investigated.
Although the details have yet to be decided, the federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) is expected to look at 20 years of shootings by Las Vegas officers, review the department’s policies and procedures, and interview cops and civilians.
The review will begin immediately and could take six months or longer, after which a report would be released to the public detailing the office’s findings and possible recommendations.
The Metropolitan Police Department would not be bound by the recommendations if any the study makes. Still, Clark County Sheriff Doug Gillespie claims an independent scrutiny of officer-involved shootings will strengthen a department which saw a record 12 people die from gunfire from its officers last year and two shootings (one fatal) already this year as well.
“This is a proactive step that our department initiated to properly address community concerns about police use of force,” Gillespie said.
But a civil rights activist who’d called for a review of the department said the proposal doesn’t go far enough.
The review is unique both for the Metropolitan Police Department and the COPS office and could lead to a unique national clearinghouse of “best practices” for officer-involved shootings, related policies and investigative procedures, according to the COPS Director Bernard Melekian, his office already has people in Las Vegas working with the department to learn what, specifically, the department wants them to study.
Cops investigators well be limited by what the department will let them see and so far the department has made public how extensive they will allow the COPS researchers’ access will be.
The Las Vegas study will employ academic experts, former officers and COPS staff and could lst from six months to over a year.