I-Team: School PD has Awards Ceremony as Investigation into Drin - 8 News NOW

I-Team: School PD has Awards Ceremony as Investigation into Drinking Party Begins

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Angela Peterson Angela Peterson
Lt. Robert Morales Lt. Robert Morales

LAS VEGAS -- Allegations of a cover up within the Clark County School District Police Department are now under investigation on at least two levels.

School district employees say school cops spent the night drinking with teenagers, one of whom killed a woman in a DUI crash. However, a subsequent cover up by the school police appears to be unraveling.

New sources of information have come forward and Metro is conducting its own probe of events surrounding the booze party, DUI death, and alleged cover up. A parallel investigation is also underway by lawyers for the family of Angela Peterson, the young woman who was killed.

None of this stopped the school police from having a get together Wednesday to hand out awards and accolades. From across the Chaparral High School parking lot, the turnout looked robust for the Clark County School Police awards presentation.

Although this was public employees meeting at a public school, the I-Team was barred from attending. When school police noticed the I-Team camera, some waved and laughed, as if scrutiny for the department is somehow funny.

"They should get the I just don't get it award," said attorney Marc Cook. He represents Frank and Linda Peterson whose daughter Angela was killed in 2009 by a drunk driver, 18-year-old Kevin Miranda. Miranda spent hours earlier that night drinking with nearly two dozen school-age kids, along with several employees of the school district police.

Miranda and other minors were allowed to drink their fill at the home of a police dispatcher and no school cop tried to stop them. Among those who drank with youngsters at the party was Lt. Robert Morales, who received two awards Wednesday for meritorious service.

"There is something in there that's not right. The way that goes, they think they are a law unto themselves," said Penny Higgins, a former school police dispatcher. Higgins, who is now living in Utah, was at the party, saw the kids drinking with cops, and was told by her bosses to keep quiet about it. She said she would not lie if asked, but she wasn't asked.

Higgins and another dispatcher at the party were the only two employees who were not interviewed.

"We were not called in. We were never talked to. We were never asked anything. We were just told it was taken care of and in essence to butt out," she said.

In an email to the I-Team, CCSD Police Chief Phil Arroyo said the subject of the party was strictly a personnel matter, so he was unable to comment. In the same email though, he said it had been investigated by Metro. Both statements appear to be incorrect.

More than five sources within school police say that its own internal affairs team conducted the investigation but found no evidence that any employees saw kids drinking. That report was examined by Metro, but according to Metro sources, the police did no outside investigation, but they are now.

Sources say Metro detectives are viewing not only the circumstances surrounding the party, but also allegations of an ongoing cover up, as alleged by Higgins and other school employees.

"School district employees, school cop employees, ex-school cop employees, have all contacted me," said Cook.

He said he has been getting an earful about the school cops. He understands that providing alcohol to a minor is only a misdemeanor but that the act of a cover up is more serious. Telling a potential witness like Penny Higgins to keep quiet, he says, is witness intimidation. Ordering the flyers for the party to be destroyed amounts to obstruction. And if higher ups plotted to keep a lid on the mess, that's conspiracy.

Like Watergate, Cook says, the cover up might be worse than the initial crime. He says what started as a misdemeanor has turned into a potential felony.

Cook says current employees are thrilled by the attention now focused on department honchos, but potential witnesses are worried about repercussions if they come forward, a fear that is magnified when they see events like this week's awards ceremony.

"A lot of them are still scratching their heads, saying this is as bad as we thought, in some cases, it's even worse, and these guys are still here. They are afraid to talk because the people involved are still the people in charge," said Cook.

Clark County School Superintendent Dwight Jones has said that no employee will be punished for providing information about the party or the cover up, but several sources who contacted the I-Team say they don't believe it. They say that the current school police bosses have assured fellow officers that the stories about the party will all blow over soon and no one will be punished.

Metro declines to say anything about its investigation but the I-Team has confirmed that one is underway.

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