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Metro Police Getting Shot -- But Is It A Trend?

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John Locher/Associated Press

Las Vegas police officers stand in front of the University Medical Center Trauma Center where a fellow officer is in stable condition Friday, Sept. 4, 2015, in Las Vegas. A police officer was wounded in the leg by a high-powered rifle and two men were arrested after a neighborhood search following a shootout in the backyard of a Las Vegas home.

Four Las Vegas Metropolitan Police officers have been shot this year.

And police have been involved in nine shootings so far.

And there are other issues facing the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department -- a jail that is dangerously overcrowded. More body cameras for police, and a new, pricey policy for those who want to view the video footage.

Then Metro is about to hire and train some 200 new officers. Will that change the dynamic of the 2,400-officer force in any way?

Assistant Sheriff Todd Fasulo joined KNPR's State of Nevada to talk about  issues related to the police department.

Interview Highlights

The last time Metro was on our program, we talked about the relatively few shootings by Las Vegas police this year. Undersheriff McMahill credited the low number to new training – that officers weren’t turning to their weapons as quickly as in the past.


But the very next day, Metro was involved in another shooting. Then another a short time later. By the end of August, officer-involved shootings happened nine times.

So, did we speak too soon?

 “When you look at our overall numbers and where we come from just in 2010, we have drastically reduced the number of officer-involved shootings we have been in. But when you’re dealing with the police profession and when you’re dealing with society it is a fact of life that there will be times when unfortunately an officer is going to have pull his gun and use deadly force”

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"Our robust training program right now with reality-based training and our officer-involved advanced training courses that we put them through on a yearly basis has proved dividends far beyond what we probably what we imagined in 2010."

The two additional shootings in late July came after an officer was shot July 10, during a traffic stop. When something like that happens, is there a heightened sense of fear or nervousness by police on the street?

“I expect our officers when they go out to work every day that they do have a heightened sense of awareness, that’s what keeps them safe. When they’re not at a heightened level of awareness that’s when things can possibly get them hurt. Is there a little angst because of the things that have gone on around the country and the conversations that occur in our briefing rooms? Sure! I’m sure there is a lot of conversation about that. We talk about it every day. There is nothing more important to our sheriff or to our department than... to provide officers an opportunity to go to work every day and come home to their families at night”  

“A lot of people in the public don’t realize how critical we are of ourselves. We’re extremely critical we evaluate every single time we pull the trigger. Every single time we strike someone with a baton. All the way down to if we use capstan or pepper spray, we evaluate that. At some level of our agency someone has got eyes on that incident to ensure that it is within policy.”

Is there a war on cops going out there, or as Undersheriff Kevin McMahill said in an interview is that a 'false narrative?'

“When you look at the national numbers across the country, the actual statistics don’t bare out that there is a true ‘war on cops or the police.’ Is there a very, very heightened interest in the media in what police do? Absolutely! Does that fuel maybe some people’s opinions on how police do their job within their community? Probably. “

About two weeks ago, the Clark County Commission approved a .05 sales tax increase for Metro. This will eventually lead to the hiring of about 200 new officers. You’ve got to feel good about that?

“It does help our department and more important it helps the community that we serve. We do need some more officers we’re down 450 officers since the recession. And that does hurt. It effects how many people are sitting in a police car on any given shift. And it's important to the sheriff as it to the staff that we get cops out there not only for their safety but also to increase our service level to the community.”

“In the long run, when these officers do hit the street, they’re going to be divided up amongst the eight area commands based upon the biggest need for the manpower that those area commands need at the time based on the call volume and the community programs that they have going” 

Is there concern about the new cops going out into the field with older officers who trained and worked under the whole way of doing things?

“It’s always a challenge when you’re trying to change the culture of police department. I think it’s a challenge when you try to change culture in any profession let alone a policing. I think we’ve done a pretty good job over the last several years. When you change not only our training, you also change your in-service training for incumbent officers that are already on the job. When you change the focus and the philosophy that comes from the sheriff on down.  When we have the ability to go back to the work force and say here’s what you’ve accomplished by doing A,B and C with the changes, partnering with the community, that’s self-discovery moments that help change an agency, change the culture on how they do business”

 

Guests

Todd Fasulo, Asst. Sheriff, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

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