Six Month Review of Metro’s Use of Force Policy Brings Historic Changes

Aimed at reducing deadly incidents,

Metro’s  New “Use of Force” Policy Emphasizes Cops

“Respect the Value of Every Human Life”

For the first time since Charles Corkhill was sworn in as Clark County’s first sheriff, more than a century ago, a Clark County sheriff is demanding his officers “respect the value of every human life.” The monumental shift in policy was announced during a press conference held Monday by Clark County’s 15th Sheriff, Doug Gillespie.

The new policy,  outlined in a 23-page memo signed by Gillespie, also advises officers to de-escalate potentially dangerous situations. This change was also a first for a department mired in deadly shootings where witness claim Metro’s involvement actually took a peaceful and innocuous situation and turned it into a violent, often deadly confrontations.

The most recent example was the December, 2011 shooting death of Stanley Gibson. Gibson was killed after police saw him driving slowly through Alondra Apartments on N. Rainbow Blvd just after 9:30 p.m.  Although, the officers had not witnessed Gibson commit  a single crime, they attempted to detain him as part of an unrelated burglary investigation. Unfortunately Gibson’s mental state was spiralling out of control after weeks of not receiving medication to treat PTSD, and he mistook the officers’ interest in him as threatening.

Aftermath of Gibson’s Fatal Shooting

The resulting 30-minute stand-off came to an end when nine-year Metro Veteran, Jesus Arevalo, fired seven shots into the back the unarmed Gibson while he sat motionless in the front seat of his vehicle. Not a single witness has indicated that Gibson made any threatening actions before being killed.

Gibson’s death of the 12th deadly encounter between Metro and the public in 2011, a record for the department. So far in 2012 Metro officers have only fired their weapons at Clark County citizens five times. This is a record low for any six month period in Metro’s history.

While the new language demanding officers show a basic respect for human life is revolutionary for the LVMPD, such verbiage has been considered essential by the U.S. Department of Justice which has  considered it a “key factor” in limiting the use of deadly force for nearly a decade.

Gillespie said he hoped the new policy will reduce shootings by his officers and improve the department’s relationship with the community.

“We will strive to reduce deadly incidents.” Gillespie said at a the news conference posted on the Department’s YouTube channel. “We will continue to make our jobs safer and to make your community the safest in America.”

The new policy brings Metro in line with most agencies of its sizes and is not intended to put officers’ lives at risk and asks something never before asked of the more than 2,700 officers working for the LVMPD, patience. Taking the time to adequately evaluate the situation is sometimes enough to distinguish between a person actively threatening officers and suspects reacting to threatening officers.

The policy also places new restrictions on when officers may deploy certain other weapons, like beanbag rounds, pepper spray and, most importantly, Tasers. These devices will no longer be used by officers simply to gain compliance. Only when faced with an imminent threat, can an officer deploy these weapons. Earlier this year Gillespie  announced anther change in the department’s Taser Policy, which limited the number of times officers may use the device on a subject.

Tasers, which have been hailed by the manufacturer as responsible for not a single death, were found to have been the cause of several deaths, according to a recent report by the  American Heart Association.

Many of these changes were part of a 62-page report sent to Gillespie earlier this year by the ACLU compared the  LVMPD’s policies to those of agencies in six other cities,  including those in Los Angeles, Denver and Washington, D.C., as well “best practices” nationwide, and are being praised by many.

PPA Executive Director Chris Collins doesn’t think officers should value human life

However, the executive director of the Police Protective Association, Chris rollings, called some of the changes unnecessary. The PPA represents the department’s rank-and-file officers had long been an opponent of any policy that calls for officer accountability. PPA lawsuits have stalled attempts to reform the Coroner’s Inquest system. The PPA recently rewarded former Clark County District Attorney David Roger for his years of refusing to criminally charge officers with a six figure salary for a part-time job defending the PPA.

Collins is sure to face further disappointment later in the year as a result of an ongoing review of Metro’s policies by the Justice Department’s office of Community Oriented Policing Services.

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One thought on “Six Month Review of Metro’s Use of Force Policy Brings Historic Changes

  1. Pingback: The Miracle at Shelter Island | clarkcountycriminalcops

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