HENDERSON, Nev. (KLAS) — A former police chief fired by the City of Henderson is breaking her silence only to the I-Team.
LaTesha Watson filed a lawsuit this week against the city, its managers, members of the city’s legal team and police union leaders.
Watson started working as the chief of the Henderson Police Department in November 2017, but she says she was pushed out due to racism and discrimination.
“I don’t know how long it’s gonna take me to get over it,” Watson lamented.
She says she was recruited by the former city manager to make changes but describes a “good ol’ boy network” and alleges in this lawsuit, her civil rights were violated.
Attorney Marc Cook represents Watson.
“If they don’t have any consequences for what they did to her, why won’t they do it to the next person?” he questioned.
Watson says she made changes at the department, including adding an administrative investigation into officer-involved shootings and establishing use of force as a last resort.
She says she noticed some officers were held accountable, while others were not.
When an unnamed officer, who was arrested for domestic violence, revealed this had happened before, Watson was surprised it wasn’t in his file. She says she didn’t give him his job back.
“The current administration is afraid of the union because the union plays this passive-aggressive behavior,” Watson explained.
While union leaders accused the former police chief of union busting and filed a complaint with the employee management relations board, she says what followed was retaliation.
The lawsuit alleges officers posted on a racist website. While the I-Team did find two posts about Watson, we cannot confirm who posted them, and the City of Henderson says it investigated her allegation and found no proof that officers made the posts.
The lawsuit also alleges one union leader was overheard stating, “I want that Black b***h out,” and that the assistant city manager warned her there was an effort to target her family.
Several complaints were filed against the chief. After several investigations by an outside firm, according to the City of Henderson, the recommendation was that the city should consider firing Watson, which happened in April 2019.
Today, she is Sacramento’s director of public safety.
Her replacement as chief is a man she had brought on, who is Black.
“You can’t separate the gender from the race. Being a Black woman is clearly a unique separate entity from being a white woman or a Black man,” said Cook. “So, the fact that they did this to a Black woman does not allow them to recover from by being nice to a Black man, who, by the way, she hired, she trained and had the same level of complaints. So, it really undermines that argument, as well.”
Despite what Watson says unfolded, her passion for police leadership hasn’t wavered:
“Regardless of how difficult it is for women, how unfair it is, how much systematic racism it is, even wearing the same uniform, how they treat you just because your skin is darker, or you are not a man, I love it.”
The I-Team reached out to the City of Henderson. A spokeswoman said the city already addressed Watson’s claims in a 455-page response after she filed a complaint to the Nevada Equal Rights Commission.
The city claims Watson created a toxic work environment, a dictator-style leadership and was unprofessional.
Rick McCann of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers, who is named in the lawsuit, said Wednesday afternoon he had not yet seen a copy of the lawsuit. He categorically denies Watson’s claims of being targeted due to discrimination and racism.