LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — They say what is on the internet will live forever, and those posts and pictures from years ago could impact an applicant attempting to join the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, hiring brass tells the I-Team.
A social media inspection is part of a rigorous application process, Deputy Chief Kelly McMahill said, one that is in the spotlight following the May death of George Floyd and reports of first responders taking part in the Capitol riot. McMahill oversees the hiring and training at the department, one of the country’s largest.
A Metro police officer posted a selfie from the grounds of the U.S. Capitol from the Jan. 6 protest, but no evidence indicates he took part in the riot that entered the building. On Friday, the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (LVPPA) came to his defense, saying no inappropriate action occurred.
Last fall, the I-Team’s George Knapp interviewed Metro leaders about their hiring practices. In most cases, officials said racist rhetoric gets caught before a person joins the force.
And, Metro’s social media surveillance does not end when someone gets hired.
“We’re going to mine through all their social media. I mean, most people don’t give this to their parents, right?” McMahill told the I-Team last year. “For example, we had one candidate that was in several photos holding a Confederate flag. At face value, we look at that and think, ‘There’s some questions that need to be asked here, right?’”
As part of the application process, all candidates must agree to allow Metro to contact any previous employers. There is also a personal history questionnaire and a psychological exam, McMahill said.
“I think that when you talk about this, the race relations, what a lot of police departments are asking themselves is, ‘How do we go about making sure we don’t have racist police officers, people who just have hate in their heart?’” McMahill said.
Metro’s social media policy bars employees from posting discriminatory content.
“Social media accounts will be reviewed for inappropriate content,” the department’s employee standards website said. “Content that ridicules, maligns, disparages, or otherwise promotes discrimination against race, ethnicity, religion, sex, natural origin, sexual orientation, age, disability, political affiliation, gender identity and expression or other explicit class of individuals may result in disqualification.”
“You’re a police officer, and you have a duty to be unbiased and to perform your work in a way that the community can trust,” Capt. James Larochelle said.
Department leaders tell the I-Team the policy and enforcement of it is a balance between the First Amendment, privacy and standards.
“From the top down, there’s not a single individual in a leadership position here that’s going to tolerate that type of behavior or that type of hatred while you’re wearing this uniform,” McMahill said.
As of Friday, there was no indication a complaint had been filed against the officer who participated in the protest outside the Capitol. Last week, Sheriff Joe Lombardo said Metro was investigating whether any of its officers participated in the riot. Lombardo promised cooperation with federal authorities in the investigation.