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What's Going On? Metro Shootings Are Up

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Associated Press

The 14th officer-involved shooting happened a few days ago in Las Vegas.

With five months still to go in the year, the shooting puts the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department way passed the total number of officer-involved shootings in 2016.

The question is: why? 

Metro's Undersheriff Kevin McMahill talks about that and more on State of Nevada.

On the number of officer-involved shootings this year:

We were down to 10 last year. We’re up to 14 this year, certainly a cause for concern for the sheriff and myself and the organization as a whole. I think more importantly… every one of those shootings is looked at criminally and administratively.

We’ve seen a much higher level of violence towards the police this year. They’ve shot at us numerous times in these officer-involved shootings. We dive into all that data to try to figure it out. We take what we learn from each one of these things in the administrative review and put it back into the reality based training that the officers receive.

The numbers are troubling but I think it’s a good thing for us that at this point we don’t have any of those mistake-of-fact shootings that we had in 2010. At this point, we have not an officer-involved shooting this year that has caused us that level of concern.

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On training new recruits:

When you look at the fact that we’re in the process of hiring 700 new police officers, it is absolutely important in how it is that we train our officers. I can tell you today that our officers are better trained than they’ve ever been. Not only just from an absolute training perspective but from a policy perspective. We have policies about de-escalation and sanctity of life.

When you go to the police academy, you are issued a body-worn camera. So you start to use that body-worn camera throughout your training scenarios. So, they become very well aware. Today, you actually have the ability to see what the officers are experiencing. 

On new training for new sergeants:

You have a whole different responsibility. It’s a big change from being one of the people working for a sergeant to all of the sudden being the person leading the briefings, providing the critiques and showing up on calls, and mentoring and counseling and leading men and women of this organization.

We’ve done a pretty good job on all of that, but what we didn’t do is expose them to enough scenarios where they’re now the sergeant and maybe an officer was doing something he shouldn’t have and how do you take immediate corrective actions in those times and places. And what are the best types of weapons to be used at the time. Is it appropriate for patrol officers to have four or five long rifles deployed on a house? The answer could be 'yes' and it could be 'no,' but that's the type of things we're asking sergeants to go out there and have a clear understanding. 

On the controversial shooting in Minneapolis where a woman reporting a potential assault was shot and killed by a police officer who may have been startled by a loud noise:

I don’t know if you can train fear out of an individual necessarily but you can certainly give them exposure to it. I can tell you I’ve been afraid many times. As a police officer, you’re confronted with some absolute evil sometimes. You see some things I wish no human being ever had to see. It weighs on you at different times.

It is fascinating to me to hear different people’s take on that shooting. What is fascinating to me is that nobody knows what happened – still today. The difference between what is going on Minneapolis you see these little pieces and parts get leaked out about what happened or what didn’t happen. Your police department – the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department – we give a statement from the scene about what we believe happened at the time that the shooting occurred within a couple hours of that happening.

Normally, within 72 hours – it was me, but now the assistant sheriffs – that will provide a full media briefing – good, bad, and ugly – all the things that we know at the time that we know it. If there is a body-worn camera available we play it. If there’s secondary video from another citizen’s cell phone or a business we play it.

The reality is: if it’s not good, it’s not going to get any better. The community has to come to trust whether or not you’re actually going to address the issues that you have. I think we’ve done a pretty remarkable job of that over the years here.

You won’t find another police department in the country that has that same practice. I get constant calls on how do you do that? It’s an opportunity for other agencies to see best practices. Because what you’ve seen is communities burn because no one would ever release the information. It doesn’t change the information. It’s just important to put it out so people can actually see what happened.

On comments President Trump’s made about police not “being too nice”:

It is much like the policies when it comes to immigration if the president says something we’re not going to change the way it is we approach something like that. Certainly, the Constitution matters in policing. We all know that. We’re not going to go around roughing people up that we arrested because the president said ‘don’t worry about knocking their head against the car.’ That’s just not something that we do.

He may have meant it in a joking manner I think every major police organization across the country has come out with some statements saying, ‘that’s not who we are.’

Our police officers have very clear understanding about what they can and cannot do. We make mistakes. That particular topic that he was talking about, I was kind of laughing about, because when I hired on in 1990 that was something that had been trained for years and years and years prior. They showed you how to put a suspect in the car and watch their head so they didn’t hit their head on the car.

It is something that has been in policing for a very long time. I don’t think one statement is going to change any police department in this country because we know that when a suspect is in custody and is no longer a threat we don’t use force against him. 

On the impact legalized marijuana is having on Las Vegas:

That is something we have been paying attention to in other states that have legalized marijuana before us. It is still a little bit early for me to report out to you what we have seen on our increases or decreases or whatever the data shows us. But I promise you we’ll continue to collect that.

I can tell you anecdotally we’ve seen an increase [in traffic accidents] but I don’t have anything to back that up. But I will get that information as we continue to collect that data and we’ll provide that information to you.

On real-time cameras in dispensaries:

They have state-of-the-art video in these places. We’ve seen this rash of individuals trying to burglarize it and take the product from those locations. That’s what actually led to one of the officer-involved shootings. It was at a marijuana dispensary.

It remains a concern for us. It’s a cash business and there is a significant amount of product in those locations. So, we’ll continue to monitor not only how we approach this particular issue but other jurisdictions that have the same challenges are approaching those issues. 

Guests

Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department

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