I-Team: Taxicab Authority Private Patrol - 8 News NOW

Chief Investigative Reporter George Knapp and Photojournalist Matt Adams

I-Team: Taxicab Authority Private Patrol

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LAS VEGAS -- In an otherwise quiet neighborhood in the southwest part of the valley, cars cruise down a dark street as if by clockwork. The procession begins just after sunset and continues through the night, often every hour, on the hour. The vehicles belong to the Nevada Taxicab Authority. The drivers are all state taxi officers, though there isn't a taxi in sight.

Purple Shadow Lane is where Taxicab Authority administrator Gordon Walker lives. The officers are making their nightly, sometimes hourly, rounds, because Walker told them to do it. Mr. Walker's state-sponsored security patrol started at the beginning of April.

Scott Lewis is a former Taxicab Authority officer who's been fighting for two years to get his job back. He says he learned about the Walker patrol from current Authority employees who resent the assignment. "We have teachers and firefighters and everybody else being laid off for budget cuts, while the T.A. is utilizing its budget for obviously personal reasons. There are no cabs around," Lewis said. "Gordon Walker is using the T.A. as his private police agency, from what we can tell, and if that is not a case of wanton waste and purposeful destroying of police property, then I don't know what is."

The I-Team asked the T.A. for a copy of the memo which ordered the nightly patrols. The agency said it had no such order or memo. Gordon Walker declined to appear on camera. But, he told the I-Team he "verbally" authorized the patrols past his house only when T.A. officers are in the neighborhood for other official business. His neighborhood near Russell and Rainbow is many miles from the Strip or the airport, which are the hubs of the taxi business.

The I-Team obtained dispatch logs for a three-day period in mid-April that shows the drive-bys are regularly scheduled events. They start just after sundown and continue into the night.

On April 15th, the first run came 46 minutes after midnight. A second run occurred an hour later followed by a third 45 minutes after that. The type of call was listed as "administrative". The patrols resumed that night just before 8 p.m. This time, it was listed as a "special assignment". More runs occurred at 9 p.m., 10:30 p.m., and 11:15 p.m.

The patrols continued on the morning of April 16th at 1:16 a.m. and 2:45 a.m. Just after 8 p.m. on the night of the 16th, they started up again. The I-Team watched and recorded as they rolled past. The I-Team tallied 15 patrols in a 72-hour period.

During a recent ride-along with the Taxicab Authority, investigator Rico Constanino said the agency is stretched very thin and can barely handle its primary function. "We have only four investigators and a supervisor for each shift to cover 8,000 square miles," he said.

"If you want to quantify this occurring for the last three to four weeks and occurring on the hour after sundown, that takes about one and a half officers off the street every night," Lewis said.

So what taxi-related business do the T.A. officers have in Gordon Walker's neighborhood? According to a court document filed by Walker, they are there to protect his state-owned vehicle, which had its tires vandalized eight months ago. The patrols didn't actually start back then, though. They began April 1st, one day after Walker's wife received a letter allegedly from Mr. Walker's mistress. The woman whose phone number was listed on the confessional letter flatly denies having written it, and Walker says he doesn't fool around on his wife. He thinks someone was messing with him by writing it. He ordered the patrols so he and his wife would have some peace of mind. 

But, are patrolling Walker's neighborhood and keeping his family safe in the job description of T.A. investigators? "No, not at all," Lewis said. "That would be Metro, Las Vegas Metro."

T.A. officers are peace officers who carry badges and guns, but they aren't cops. Their job is to regulate taxis. They can exercise police powers when lives are at risk, but patrolling neighborhoods isn't something they do. At a legislative hearing last year, Gordon Walker testified that his officers need to be "solely focused on the taxi side of the equation."

Gordon Walker would not allow the I-Team to interview him on camera, because of concern for his personal safety. He agreed to answer questions submitted in writing but has yet to respond. He believes Scott Lewis, who was fired by the T.A. two years ago, is responsible for vandalizing Walker's car and for writing the letter to Walker's wife.

Once Walker found out Lewis had also been in Walker's neighborhood documenting the nightly patrols, Walker got a warrant and had Lewis arrested.

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