Local News


Local police using force less often

Posted at 6:35 PM, Nov 16, 2015
and last updated 2015-11-16 21:35:30-05
Shocking scenes caught on camera!
Nearly every week there's new video showing cops fighting or shooting civilians and they're coming in from every corner of the country...fueling outrage, flaming racial tensions and igniting unrest.  
Are police officers going too far, too often? Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears digs into the data in a nationwide "Focus on Force" report. 
Excessive force and cops crossing the line. Those are the catalysts leading a national push for change.
We wanted to know just how often police actually use physical force, what their options are and how it's reported.
Over the past five months, our Scripps investigative team of reporters dug into use of force records from police agencies across the country.  Contact 13 discovered more than half the agencies show use of force actually going down and just a quarter with incidents on the rise.  So what's the story here in Southern Nevada? 
Every agency in the area has seen its share of action. 
On August 23 this year, Metro swat snipers shoot and kill William Snider after he fires at officers with a rifle.  
On the Fourth of July, Henderson Police fatally shoot Bryan Bauer at a hotel as he charges them with a handgun.
In October 2014, a fleeing suspect shoots at North Las Vegas Police officers. The cops return deadly fire.  
And in February 2014, Nevada Highway Patrol and BLM officers scuffle with D'Andre Berghardt near Red Rock. Shots are fired. Berghardt is killed. 
When it comes to force, police don't always get it right. That costs lives. And as a Contact 13 investigation uncovered the cases cost taxpayers millions.  
Gulf War veteran Stanley Gibson was unarmed when he was shot and killed by police in 2011 after he failed to obey officers' orders.
His family successfully sued the county for $1.5 million. 
21-year-old Trevon Cole was killed by police during a botched drug raid in June 2010. The county paid out $1.7 million to settle that case. 
And there's another cost at stake that's hard to measure--our faith in the system. 
"Right now of course our biggest mission is trying to make sure that we have public confidence," says Richard Beary with the International Chiefs of Police Association.  "And public trust in what the men and women do on the streets every single day." 
So are cops on Las Vegas streets using more muscle, more often?  Here's what contact 13 uncovered going back several years.   

So the reality in Las Vegas? All three of our major law enforcement agencies report they're using force less often.
But there's  one problem with collecting the data and making it useful.
Michael Planty is the with the U.S. Department of Justice.  
"The use of force information from law enforcement agencies is so varied because we have 18,000 decentralized agencies across America," explains Planty. "Each serving various functions and purposes, from local PD to sheriffs, constables, to state law enforcement agencies."
National experts call for standardization in reporting when cops use force. But they caution that while scenes caught on video are dramatic they're rare in day-to-day police work.  
"I am not afraid of the stats. Bring 'em on," says Richard Beary. "Because when the public sees the millions and millions and millions of citizen contacts that we have and that 99 percent of them no force is used, that is powerful. But we have to have those numbers and be able to back those numbers up."
Contact 13 also looked at LVMPD's officer involved shootings since 2013.  
We broke the data down by race and found the majority of suspects, 31, were white, 11 black, 9 Hispanic and 2 Asian.