When police use potentially lethal force, a department investigates to make sure everything was done correctly. Officers are almost always immediately placed on administrative leave. But they still get paid, even though they're not working. And taxpayers are footing the bill. Contact 13 hears from some officers who say there's got to be a better way.
The dramatic scene from just a couple weeks ago: July 11th at about 9:30am as Metro officers chase a suspect's vehicle near downtown. A police pursuit turns into a rolling shootout.
For the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, this was the 10th time a police officer was involved in a shooting in 2018.
A life-threatening event that could affect officers psychologically even if they're not physically injured. That's partly why they're put on paid administrative leave. How long it lasts will vary. And costs you money even when it's justified.
"A lot of it depends upon the officer's frame of mind when they come back to work." Steve Grammas is President of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association. "You don't want to put an officer out there who's 90 percent sure they can," he explains, "and 10 percent maybe hesitant."
Remember this was the 10th officer-involved shooting this year, and many of those incidents involve more than one officer.
We asked Metro just how many cops and correction officers are getting paid, but not working.
Metro data for the pay period ending May 4th shows the department paid out $72,127.24 in just two weeks for 23 officers who weren't working. More recently, for the pay period ending June 15th, taxpayers spent than $72,190.17 for 33 officers on paid leave.
"Every two weeks?" asks Mike Rauth. "I'm not going to condemn a police organization but I think that's ridiculous."
Rauth is a retired officer and former military. "Why be put on paid admin leave when they could be doing desk work?"
Our Contact 13 Investigation found three officers on paid leave for six months or more. One of those, a corrections officer, hasn't been working since July 11, 2017. This officer makes $3825.46 every 2 weeks in base pay. Metro confirms the officer was still on paid leave as of June 15, 2018. That adds up to about $84,000 and not a day worked in nearly a year.
"Have them do something," says Rauth. "Not stay at home and collect a paycheck and do nothing, go on vacation."
In addition to officer-involved shootings, Metro also puts those under internal investigation on paid leave.
That wasn't the case for Rauth. When he was a corrections officer in Colorado, he made a big mistake: Taking his eyes off the road in a department vehicle and crashing into a parking lot utility pole.
"They told me, 'ok you're gonna be suspended 5 days without pay. You got to pay the $250 deductable and get a letter of reprimand,' Rauth recalls.
"I did not get any paid vacation for 5 days or two weeks or a month."
Rauth explains all officers are trained following the same Peace Officer Basic Training (POST) standards so they should know "...when they are doing something wrong and should pay the consequences, WITHOUT pay."
But according to Metro's contract with the Union, "An employee may be relieved of duty without pay when the employee has been criminally indicted or arrested and approved for prosecution for a felony offense under state or federal law."
"Our officers don't consider it a vacation when they get paid time off to stay at home," Grammas explains. "Quite the contrary."
As union president, Grammas agrees officers could be used in other areas. "Whether it be at the fusion center, the cameras taking reports things like that, they'd prefer it. We'd probably prefer it."
But Grammas understands the department is concerned about liability.
"If you have an officer that has done something that is egregious and you allow them to stay out patrolling and another incident of the same nature pops up. And you did nothing on the first one?"
Grammas says, like any members of the community, cops are innocent until proven guilty and Metro needs time to investigate whether anything was done wrong. He says no one takes paid leave time lightly.
"They got to be taking into account what it takes when you take one officer off of the street. Because even one can make an impact somewhere."
We wanted to know from Metro why officers can't be put on other duties but they would not talk to us on camera citing personnel confidentiality. They won't tell us which officers are on leave following an OIS versus those out due to a discipline issue.
We can tell you 13 officers went on the paid leave list in June, including seven from a single incident.