LETTER: Let’s have citizen oversight of PD

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By Joe Whiteman

I’d like to support the proposal made in the letter by Paul Skotchdopole regarding the creation of a citizens police oversight committee. Such an entity makes only good sense and is the only fiscally responsible action possible given our society and human nature.

Independent, transparent, and empowered citizen oversight would make police more responsive to all segments of society, more humane, and ultimately more respected, appreciated, and compensated for a difficult and dangerous job.

The power equation between the police and the individual is, by necessity, severely one-sided. The system invites bad apples, or at least apples who occasionally abuse their power. We have seen the sad outcome and I hope everyone remembers Abe Montoya after whom our rec center was named. This outstanding young man died at the hands of a city police officer out of control. Now we have other cases where “out of control” seems to apply. Of course, we rely on our police leadership to ensure that the officers are selected, trained and supervised. The city government is responsible for compensation. I feel it’s every citizen’s job to provide a share of the resources and demand performance of our leaders, and then to feel a part of the results.

The powerful tool of citizen oversight can reduce the level of violence, improve trust and promote professionalism. What many want is to be heard in safety and with respect. We are repeatedly hearing of suits against police and we all pay both the insurance costs and the other legal and award expenses. Each lawsuit represents a failure.

By defusing many situations, weeding out problem officers, and encouraging a spirit of cooperation, we will realize both long-term money savings and a safer and more humane community.

Our U.S. Constitution allows for proper and safe police practices. There is no need to bend the rules and there is no need for secrecy. Except in the case of active investigations or where safety would be compromised, police reports and procedures are public documents.

I wish to caution Las Vegas about the expense of Department of Justice oversight. If a federal probe should uncover a pattern of abuse, the city could be sued by the DOJ and be subject to both penalties and rigorous examination of procedures and all uses of force for years. I understand this process entails lots of legal expenses, lots of practical and bureaucratic expenses, and is to be avoided by doing the job ourselves.

We have way better use for our money, like better pay for city employees and lower utilities expenses.

I urge our city officials to act promptly on creation of an independent and empowered citizens police oversight commission.

Joe Whiteman

Las Vegas