LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Who deserves to be behind the badge?
The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department says its hiring process leaves no stone unturned when choosing its officers.
“It’s a really rigorous process,” Metro Deputy Chief Kelly McMahill said.
“I can’t really stress enough how hard it is that we work to try to get the right people to wear this uniform,” she said.
What exactly is being done to ensure there’s a respectful and diverse police force?
For every prospective police officer, Metro conducts a major background check, including a polygraph test and a psychological exam that can last up to three hours.
The department also scours social media to weed out the bad apples.
“If we see anything that is not reflective of our values, they’re not a candidate for employment,” McMahill said.
For example, a recently rejected Metro applicant appeared in online photos, holding the Confederate flag.
“How do we go about making sure we don’t have racist police officers?” McMahill asked.
That question, even more critical for Metro police now, with racial tensions reaching a boiling point in Las Vegas over the summer. Protests erupted thoughout the Las Vegas valley following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
Metro says one way to bridge the gap is to bring more diversity to the department.
The latest numbers show only 10 percent of all Metro employees are Black.
But the department has ramped up minority outreach in recent years through the sheriff’s African-American, Hispanic and Asian councils.
“Trying to increase demographics throughout the agency that mirror our own jurisdictions, that is going to be something that we’ll have to continually look at and assess going into the future,” said Metro Capt. Jim LaRochelle.
Consulting expert Christina Lorusso says Metro also needs to work on improving the diversity of its higher-ups.
“They need to be able to be heard and know that their voice matters,” Lorusso said, “because that will trickle down to people wanting to be a part of the force that are from minority communities.”
But even among the smiling faces at Metro graduations, the department knows sometimes bad apples are added to the basket.
That’s when the department’s Internal Affairs Bureau steps in with its Early Identification and Intervention program.
“We track every officer statement, complaint, every traffic accident, every time the citizen makes a complaint to get that officer to see what they’re doing — identify those patterns early on,” said Capt. Fred Haas of the Metro Internal Affairs Bureau.
“If we can identify that early on, I can get that information to a supervisor,” he said.
We’re told issues are addressed immediately.
“Just like any other workplace, you’re going to have people that don’t belong. And we have a very high set of standards,” McMahill said.
Metro said while it has made massive strides, there’s still a lot of work to do.
The goal: To have every officer who’s hired be a force for good.
“You have a duty to be unbiased and to perform your work in a way that the community can trust,” LaRochelle said.
State of Metro:
In a five-day series, 8NewsNow looks at reform in the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department, and the questions raised by Black Lives Matter protests.
Nov. 16: (overview): I-Team: Metro police face-to-face with racial tensions in Las Vegas
Nov. 16: I-Team: Examining how Metro stacks up when it comes to police reform policy changes
Nov. 16: State of Metro: By the numbers
Nov. 17: I-Team: Black police officers are in the middle as protests flare, challenges grow
Nov. 17: I-Team: Black police officers set national example for community service
Nov. 18: I-Team: Use of Force Board gives citizens an inside voice in Las Vegas police matters
Nov. 18: I-Team: 2019 death of Byron Williams brings attention to Metro policies on use of force
Nov. 19: I-Team: ‘We don’t use any virtual reality,’ Metro trains using real-life scenarios
Nov. 19: I-Team: Police hiring is crucial to building a force Las Vegas can trust
Nov. 20: I-Team: ‘There’s nobody that dislikes a bad cop more than a cop,’ sheriff says
Nov. 20: Deaths in police interactions, 2013-2020 — MAP
Nov. 20: I-Team: Metro reaction to police protests mirrors progress, willingness to change