Being Thankful

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

This issue marks the last LVPPA Vegas Beat of the year. This magazine will reach our members in November and carry us through December and into 2019. I hope when you all read this that it finds you gathered around your friends and family either eating some turkey or opening up presents.

The holidays have always been a special time to me. Ask those closest to me when I start listening to Christmas music, and the people who really know me will say, “He never stops.” I love the feeling the holidays bring. Every year, I am always so thankful for my family and friends and for all of the men and women who sacrifice their own personal safety for the betterment and protection of others. Usually, I take a moment to think about the people who spend their holidays sitting in a patrol car going call to call instead of being at home with their loved ones. I also think about the officers working the decks at the jail, trying to make a decent holiday for the inmates while their families sit at home waiting for their return. Many people in the PPA membership spend their holidays in the very ways I just described. They do it, not for the thank you or the pat on the back, but so that others can safely enjoy their holidays without worrying about evil coming to their doors.

During my time as an officer, I spent holidays pushing a car doing calls for service while my kids ate Thanksgiving or Christmas dinner without me. It would be amazing if all crime could stop for just one day to allow all people to be able to spend time with the people who mean the most to them. But we all know that will never happen. Every year, every holiday, someone must stand guard to protect our community. I know there are times when it seems like the community doesn’t support us. But trust me, the large and overwhelming majority supports and thanks you all for the work you do. They don’t go on TV or the radio and profess how much they love and appreciate you. They do it quietly, at home, while they sit with their families. They know it’s because of your hard work and sacrifice that they can enjoy the holiday season.

Law enforcement isn’t for everyone. We all know that. We know many people who didn’t make it through the training to become an officer for some reason or another. I like to think that it’s pretty simple: You don’t choose police work; it chooses you. It isn’t just about receiving a paycheck and benefits or getting to drive fast in a cop car. It’s a calling that draws you to serve others. Serving your fellow men and women in this community means more than a pension or vacation days. I think a career in law enforcement is one of the noblest careers anyone could have. And although you all do not hear it enough, our community owes you all a giant thanks. I also owe you thanks for allowing me to be your president. I hope this year, and many years to come, to continue to make you all proud of the job I am doing on your behalf. I am very grateful for this opportunity and will never take it for granted. That is my promise to you all.

On behalf of the Executive Board, the PPA staff and myself, we hope you have a wonderful Thanksgiving, a merry and happy holiday and a happy new year.

Looking Ahead

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

We find ourselves rolling into another year together as we prepare for 2018–2019. The LVPPA continues to be committed to our membership 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Our Association has had an extremely positive year in terms of membership growth. During the month of May, I had the numbers run for membership in May 2017 and May 2018. In May 2017, we had approximately 2,524 members at LVMPD. The most recent numbers show us to be at 2,884 — a gain of more than 350 new bodies to our Association. This increase in membership also has a built-in number of retirements and promotions, so the actual number of new bodies in the LVPPA has grown even more. Since last year, I believe we have had 100% of sign-ups from every new academy. These new officers put their money and faith into the PPA, and we appreciate that immensely. We continue to be active and engage with our new officers in order to ensure that we keep a 100% sign-up rate in both the corrections officer and police officer academies.

The influx of new officers to the LVPPA has allowed us to continue providing excellent service and benefits to our entire membership. It seems as if we are hosting benevolent membership events at least once per month now, and all are highly attended. I have spoken to members of our Vegas Golden Knights, and they appreciate the support the LVPPA has shown them. In turn, we appreciate all that they have done for us. When we hosted a Knights viewing party at the office, the Knights provided us with hats, T-shirts and authentic game jerseys to give away to the members in attendance. We hope to strengthen our relationship with the Knights and continue to be a part of their growth. Go Knights Go!

We continue to have our battles with the Department. While we have a good working relationship with them, there are times when we must litigate issues for the best resolution. Understand that when we win or lose a case, those outcomes can become binding and either greatly benefit or greatly hurt our membership. Whenever possible, we try to work these issues out in advance for the best possible outcomes for our folks.

We will also find ourselves involved in contract negotiations as our current contract expires June 2019. Your PPA team has been and will continue to work hard toward a contract that will satisfy all of our members. The Executive Board has some new ideas for the coming negotiations that will enhance our Department’s reputation as one of the most sought-after agencies in the country.

The law enforcement profession is finally seeing some relief from the federal government, especially with the support of President Donald Trump, and it has been a welcome breath of fresh air. The passage of national legislation to enhance penalties for crimes against officers (H.R. 5698) was a huge win for all law enforcement personnel.

I hope this message finds our members happy and healthy; we look forward to a safe and prosperous year. As always, please feel free to contact me or any member of the Executive Board; we are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

Thank you and stay safe!

Don’t Hesitate to Ask for Help

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

As law enforcement officers, it is hard to ask for help. Usually someone else is asking for us to come and help them. Officers often become guidance counselors, therapists, fighters, consolers or even healers. We become guidance counselors when people have lost their way in life and are heading down a wrong path. It could be a mother who is hooked on dope, a father who can’t stay out of jail or a child who starts out as a small-time shoplifter and who we want to prevent from becoming a career criminal. We become therapists when we arrive on a domestic violence call and are tasked with solving a family argument or fight. We become fighters when a suspect doesn’t want to succumb to our authority, is emboldened by things they see on the internet and decides to fight us, or when an inmate decides not to follow orders to come out of their cell, but rather to square off and invite us to enter their cell to extract them. We become consolers when a loved one has lost a husband, wife or child in a horrific tragedy that will shape their lives forever, and we are their only shoulder to cry on or outlet to vent to. We also become healers when called to administer CPR on a citizen while their entire family looks to us to save a life because they are too frozen to act.

But what about when we are the ones who need the help? Who are you willing to talk to about your problems? We are all trained to identify the indicators of pain in citizens and suspects, but rarely do we look for those same indicators in our brothers and sisters in law enforcement. And typically, we are too proud, too macho or even too stupid to ask for someone else to help us. In my almost 20 years on this department, I have seen things that stay with me to this day. I have had my own 2-year-old daughter at home while at work I watched a little girl who was the same age die from SIDS in the hospital as all of the staff worked to save her. I have seen death and pain in other people’s lives that can’t be forgotten. Thankfully, I have a beautiful and wonderful family at home to support me, but I have never really talked about this with my brothers and sisters on the force. Maybe we all need to realize we need to talk to people a little more and look for kind and reassuring words, not only in our families at home, but also in our families at work.

There are probably hundreds of fellow officers on this department abusing prescription drugs or alcohol. And usually, one of us knows that our brother or sister is having this problem, but we don’t want to get involved because it is difficult to address. But acting now — and I am not talking about IAB or a supervisor — could save their job or their life. We owe that to one another for all we have been through and will continue to go through.

Suicide among law enforcement professionals is on the rise, but it doesn’t have to be. Soon after you receive this issue of Vegas Beat, we will find ourselves in the middle of Police Week. There is a long list of names on the memorials in D.C. and Carson City representing officers who made the ultimate sacrifice for this job. But there are also several thousand more who have taken their own lives as a result of this profession.

Don’t be too proud to reach out to a friend, a co-worker, a boss or even any of us at the PPA if you just want someone to talk to or a shoulder to cry on about things going on in your life. This may be kind of a “Debbie Downer” article, but I think it is important to highlight this issue facing all of law enforcement and to say that you’re not alone and you’re not the first to feel the way you do. Because while we honor those brave men and women who died for this profession, we also can’t ignore those who died because of this profession as well as other issues they faced. Never be too big to ask for help from anyone.

I thank each and every one of you for doing the thankless job that you do. While several may yell at you and spit on you and disrespect you, remember, we do this job to protect the innocent from the evil. And although the innocent may be silent in their support, they support you nonetheless.

The Endorsement for Sheriff

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

At the time of this writing, two candidates are running for Clark County Sheriff: Joe Lombardo and Tim Bedwell. Again, understand that this article was written around the middle of February and no other candidates were listed. Having said that, I want our membership to know what the process is for this race and my feelings on this race.

Our LVPPA bylaws, under Article 27.02, state:

Sheriff endorsement surveys:

  1. For the purposes of an election for the office of Sheriff (and only the office of Sheriff), balloting will be done in order to ascertain which candidate for Sheriff the membership is interested in endorsing. If a minimum of 51% of all those eligible to vote do so, the candidate receiving the majority of votes will be endorsed by the Association for the office of Sheriff.
  2. All dues-paying members in the bargaining unit covered by the Las Vegas Police Protective Association – Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Collective Bargaining Agreement may vote on the potential endorsement of a candidate for sheriff.

I would like all of our membership to be thinking about who you would like to see running our agency. Our support of a candidate is extremely strong in the political world and means a lot to the candidates. From governor to candidates for small local offices, everyone involved in politics wants the support of the PPA. When this survey goes out, it is one of the most important surveys you will ever take part in, aside from your contract.

Now that you know the way the endorsement process for this office goes, I would like to give my two cents on this topic. Let me start by saying that before joining the Executive Board, I never had many dealings with Joe Lombardo. He was my chief when I was in Narcotics. I never worked directly for him or got to know him. When he first took office, I had just come to the Executive Board and wanted to do a “get to know the Sheriff” article. I sat down with Joe and asked him about his plans for the future of the LVMPD. It was no secret that Joe and the LVPPA were not on the greatest of terms during and after the election. I have found out some of the reasons why Joe was so upset, and I would probably be a little upset, too, on some topics. But Joe did the interview with me like a professional and gave candid responses to some tough questions.

Fast-forward to my becoming president of the LVPPA in the summer of 2016. It’s no secret we probably still were not on good working terms. One of my goals was to bridge that gap between Joe and the PPA because of the advantages a good working relationship could have for our members. Joe and I pretty quickly fixed that relationship with some mutual trust and respect of each other’s positions as leaders of our organizations. Through conversations with Joe, I can tell you I have saved at least eight officers’ jobs. These cases had been recommended for termination by Labor and other executive staff members. Joe and I kept these people employed. Other cases of discipline have been reduced specifically by Joe himself. In one case, which already was rolling as an SOC, our officer would have received a suspension at minimum because of prior discipline. But Joe gave the officer a “butt chewing” and considered it settled.

Our members had issues at CCDC, including coffeepots and microwaves. Scott and I met heavy resistance from Suey and Fasulo on this topic and they refused to remove these tools. Sheriff Lombardo eventually had all of them removed. He was receptive when Scott and I asked for Chief Forbus to succeed Suey, and now Chief Forbus is running the jail. I am positive more than our conversation about Forbus went into this decision but, in the end, our members benefited from it.

I also have to give credit to Sheriff Lombardo for assisting me and standing by our officers during the horrible Michael Bennett accusation case. From the morning that allegation came forward, Sheriff Lombardo and I frequently spoke to each other about the case. Never once did Joe waver from supporting our wrongly accused officers. While Joe can’t be as direct as I can be in the media, he made it clear our officers acted appropriately and within policy and training and that no discipline would fall on the officers. I am quite certain that had Bennett himself actually filed an IAB complaint, the Sheriff would have recommended bringing charges against Bennett. And Sheriff Lombardo was largely responsible for moving to charge anyone who files a false complaint against an officer when the BWC proved it to be blatantly false.

The last example I would mention is the October 1 shooting. Sheriff Lombardo was out in front of the cameras more frequently than probably any head of any organization across the country would have been. He updated the citizens as often as possible about the heroic actions of the officers of the LVMPD and what was occurring. Sheriff Lombardo and I again were in constant contact, making sure all of our people were taken care of and doing OK. This was evident from other union members from places like NYPD, Florida PBA and other members associated with the National Association of Police Organizations. They applauded how LVMPD and Sheriff Lombardo handled this tough situation.

I wanted to give some facts about my dealings with Sheriff Lombardo. As I am sure, plenty of our officers have never really had any interactions with the Sheriff, and I feel my perspective is important on this issue. As for Tim Bedwell, I have never met him or spoken to him. I do know, at this point, no external candidate has spoken to me about the Sheriff’s race. For me, as your President, I would rather deal with the Sheriff I know rather than the one I don’t. Understand, whether it’s Joe Lombardo, Tim Bedwell or anyone else, when the Department oversteps its authority or does things not in the best interest of our membership, I’ll be the first one there launching a lawsuit or EMRB complaint, as I have done the last year and a half. Our membership deserves that type of representation and that is exactly what you all will get. We have never been more aggressive in those areas in LVPPA’s history. Even with all the cases we have filed, I still believe I have a good working relationship with Sheriff Lombardo and sometimes the legal avenue is the only way we can settle things. But we both come back to the table the next day to talk and work out the next issue.

At the end of the day, though, the choice for Sheriff is yours. If the membership comes in with a vote for any candidate or, possibly, no candidate at all, I will 100% support that decision.

Please feel free to call me with questions or concerns on this or any other topic. Stay safe!

Campaign Promises

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

First, I hope the new year finds you happy and healthy. I also want to personally thank my Executive Board, Scott Nicholas, Bryan Yant, Mike Ramirez, Tyler Todd, Kirk Hooten and Myron Hamm, for their amazing work over the last year and a half. Another huge thank-you goes to our incredible staff, David Roger, Kelly Sweeney, Laura Paletta, Roy Hoernke and our amazing event coordinator Adella Solano. It is very important for our membership to know how crucial each one of these people is to the success of the LVPPA. I have tasked them all with things this Association has never done before, and they have risen to the occasion time and time again. We would not be in the position that we are in now if it weren’t for these people. So, from me to my staff, we thank you.

Toward the end of summer last year, Scott and I decided that things needed to change at the PPA. That’s not to say I think Mark Chaparian, Chris Collins and David Kallas did not do things right. They put us in the position to be able to do the things we do today, and my hat is off to them for their commitment to this Association while they were here. However, our goal for the future of this Association was to enhance the benefits we offer our members. With the help of Bryan Yant, Scott and I created a flyer that contained some campaign promises, and I would like to update you all on those.

  1. Assist members 24/7. This is by far the most important part of our campaign. We know that our members need to be able to reach the Executive Board at all hours of the day. We have been extremely successful in this arena — so much so that LVMPD felt compelled to remove us from the Department-wide communicator to prevent us from arriving too quickly at critical incidents. Not only do we still arrive quickly, but we also now have the involvement of the entire membership calling and texting us about incidents to make sure we are the first to arrive. I also ensured that this Executive Board is composed of officers that understand the need to be accessible to our folks 24/7, no matter how small a situation may seem. A simple situation to one of us may no doubt feel like the world is crashing down on your shoulders, and when you feel that way, you need a representative to be there to answer the phone and spend time talking to you.
  2. Fight to increase pay and benefits. At the beginning of my time as president, we finalized negotiations on a three-year contract. In that contract, we built in COLAs and significantly increased our clothing allowance. But one of the biggest victories was due to us looking to the future regarding body-worn cameras (BWCs). During the end of negotiations, Mike Ramirez came to me and said that legislation was going to be passing in the coming session about a mandate for BWCs. With this in mind, and knowing the Department wanted BWCs on officers, Scott and I made a push with LVMPD to bring a 1% COLA addition to the current package we were negotiating. LVMPD agreed, and the new CBA was born. We had our share of officers opposing the BWCs, but we asked that you all trust our decision. To this day, our CBA is a model that other police associations have used, as it relates to a pay increase for equipment. The media even did a story on how the LVPPA “tricked” the taxpayers into compensation for cameras when, as we predicted, it turned out to be mandated by law at the 2017 session.
  3. Lobby for enhanced punishment for crimes against officers. Mike Ramirez spends the entire legislative session, from February until almost the end of June, living in Carson City. One of the topics I had Mike try to push through was some form of added punishment to crimes against officers. Mike worked day in and day out with different senators during the session, continually pushing for this type of legislation. In the end, Senator Ford brought forth and passed Senate Bill 541, which “adds prison time of one year to 20 years for felonies committed against police officers, firefighters or emergency medical personnel acting in their normal course of duty.” We still have some work to do in this forum, but it is a great start and holds a very promising future.
  4. Give back to the membership. This was the promise that I feel we have exceeded. One of our first steps in this area was to gain a dues freeze for our members, ensuring for the time being (back in 2016) that the rate a member paid did not go up with the new COLA. Never before had a dues freeze been done, as far as we are aware of, as the Bylaws were never built with the ability to do such a thing. Then came the summer of 2017. Scott and I not only asked for a freeze once more, but we also asked for a groundbreaking reduction. While the amount was small, it was a way to touch every member in some small fashion. This also had never been done in the history of the PPA. We were able to do this because of men like Chaparian, Collins and Kallas, who worked to bring our assets up to a point that now allows us to roll out the reduction. But we didn’t stop there! We have incorporated Golden Knights Hockey games, UNLV football tailgates, UNLV basketball events, nights at Gravady and the LV 51s. We also run our annual Trunk or Treat, which saw over 500 attendees this year, and our always popular Santa Day. We push out tickets to concerts, Lakers basketball, NASCAR and one of our most supportive groups, the UFC. Our general membership events have us giving out dinners, golf outings, handguns, flashlights and anything else we can get our hands on. We purchased the OIS RV, which has been worth its weight in gold, as our officers involved in critical incidents have had a nice, comfortable place to decompress after a high-stress situation. It is for all of the above reasons that our membership rate is at an all-time high.

Looking back, I feel that Scott and I have made good on every promise we’ve made. I’m not sure anyone who has ever run for office can say that, but I am very happy to say that we can. These are just a few things that we have been able to accomplish over the last year and a half, and what is great is that we know there is still more that we can do. We continue to explore the idea of building a more centrally located PPA building, complete with a members-only gym, lounge, locker rooms, sleep area and banquet hall for our members to rent. We won’t stop until we have one of the best associations in the country, and we are definitely on our way.

Thank you all for being a part of this Association and for allowing me to be your president. I have never had a more honorable and personally satisfying position in my life. I will never lose sight of why I do what I do and who I am doing it for. Thank you, and stay safe.

We Are Vegas Strong

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

As this issue goes to press, we are all still reeling from the October 1 shooting at the Route 91 Festival. As we continue to deal with the fallout and move forward together as a community, we also reflect on our lives, our choices and the things that are most important to us — friends, family and knowing that what we do professionally matters. No one on the Department needs to doubt that their service to the city of Las Vegas is worthwhile and that they, personally, have made a difference after this tragedy. As our Sheriff said in a press conference, without the fast action of our brave officers —those on the ground as well as those racing to the 32nd floor — hundreds more could have been killed.

I talk more about your Association’s response to this terrible incident on page 16. But as we head into the holiday season with heavy hearts over the loss of our brother, Charlie Hartfield, I encourage you to take comfort in your loved ones and know that thousands of the concert attendees will be spending time with their families this year because of your courage under fire.

Please know that the LVPPA is here to help you in any way we can, and don’t hesitate to reach out to any of us. As you enjoy the holidays, continue to pray for the victims, their families and the recovery of the injured. Above all, stay safe.

Don’t Hesitate

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

After the string of officer-involved shootings we have had over the last few months, I wanted to focus my article on the topic of hesitation. I want every member of the LVPPA to know one thing: I would rather spend $1 million defending an officer in a court of law than show up to a funeral. In my career here at LVMPD, I have attended far more funerals than I ever thought I would. I hope to God I never have to attend one more in the time I have left with this agency. One way to make sure of that is to make sure our officers don’t hesitate when it comes to lethal force.

Across the country, we have all seen the videos of officers waiting and waiting and waiting to use lethal force. These officers ultimately got lucky and never fell victim to the suspect, but I believe it is because those suspects were not committed to doing violence. However, if those same officers came across a suspect who was committed, we would be burying those officers. And because the officer didn’t pull the trigger, although it was 100% justified at the time, the media and police departments around the country praise those officers for “restraint”! That is not restraint! That is bad police work. That is fear of what will be said in the media or by their own departments. That is the potential to put other officers in harm’s way. That is flat out wrong.

If someone is standing over you telling you to kill them, and is reaching in their pocket and saying they have a firearm, and you don’t use lethal force, when will you? And if you won’t use lethal force when it is needed to protect yourself, what if the life you need to save is someone else’s? What if that same suspect is standing over your partner doing the same thing, and you don’t use lethal force until the suspect has already drawn and fired?

I truly hope a police officer is more worried about leaving their children without a parent or their spouse without their other half than worried about public scrutiny or internal questioning that may result in discipline. That is what should be at the forefront of your mind when encountering a potentially dangerous situation.

The hierarchy of importance for any officer should be as follows: 1. Family; 2. Partner’s family; 3. Everything else. I really want that to sink in! Go home at the end of the shift and make sure your partner does the same. What is going to come of a FIT investigation or a CIRT investigation or a Use of Force Board should be far removed from your thought process, and the thought of going home to your family should be at the very front. And when it comes time to face that CIRT interview or that Use of Force Board, you have the PPA standing by your side to get you through that process. I will commit, and have committed, large amounts of money to the legal aid of officers in the discharge of their duties. Our officers are highly trained. LVMPD puts all of us through the wringer when it comes to use of force, firearms qualifications, defensive tactics and vehicle maneuvers. We are given so much of this training to make it second nature when a violent encounter happens.

Many times, when I am with our officers involved in a deadly force situation, they tell me “as soon as the incident took place, my training just kicked in and I applied lethal force almost without knowing I was doing it.” That is the exact goal LVMPD is trying to achieve when you spend countless hours shooting at the range or drawing and holstering your weapon. It is so when your tunnel vision kicks in, your body goes into training mode and you do things subconsciously. Trust that training and all the hours spent making your mind and body go into autopilot. It won’t fail you!

Lastly, I want to say keep fighting the good fight out there. So many people want to talk badly about the profession of law enforcement. I say “so many,” but that really isn’t an accurate depiction of who is running their mouths. The small group of vocal people running their mouths about law enforcement have another agenda or reason for not liking the police. The good, hardworking, honest citizens of Clark County don’t go screaming to the media about how great their encounter was with the police, or how thankful they were that an officer recovered their stolen car or jewelry. But they do appreciate you. The leaders of our community appreciate you. The families who can play safely outside their front doors appreciate you. I wish our community, which is on your side, would start being more vocal in the media. Then maybe that narrative would change and all the good that police officers do will finally be put in the spotlight.

Positive Contact Reports

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

When I hired on the Department in 1998, we had a document called a “commendable.” This piece of paper with Department letterhead meant a lot to a lot of people. It said, “Job well done!” and “Thanks for going above and beyond!” While no one on this agency took the position for praise and a pat on the back, it doesn’t mean that we don’t still appreciate it when a supervisor does it. Deep down in all of us, we enjoy hearing that our hard work has been noticed and appreciated. The current form of documentation is the contact report. The Department says that it can be used for positive and negative conversations about incidents that have taken place. I ask all of our members this question: How many of you have received a positive contact report? I am going to go out on a limb and say that the percentage of positive contact reports is equal to the percentage of officers who think that I look like Brad Pitt.

I am not sure what is taught to new supervisors on our Department, but I hope that they are being taught how a positive working environment with positive recognition fosters a hardworking and productive work force. Something as simple as dropping a contact report in someone’s file that outlines the good that officer did goes a long way. It also shows the officer that a supervisor has identified their hard work and commended them for it. Sadly, all I ever hear about contact reports from our officers is the negative ones that they get. Officers don’t contact us at the PPA and talk about the good things their bosses have said about them; rather, they explain to us the negative contact report and ask for assistance in a rebuttal statement. Since I have been at the union, I have heard time and again that “a contact isn’t discipline” and “a contact is just a documentation of a conversation.” If that were the case, you would not have so many people pissed off over getting them. The perception from our members is that these negative contact reports will lead to progressive and future discipline, which it does. Good supervisors should be combating these negative contact reports with plenty of positive ones. If you want your officers to buy into your being a good boss who doesn’t just come down on them for the negative stuff, start utilizing positive contact reports.

At the time of writing this article, we are going through a sergeant testing process. I am speaking to you officers who are going to promote. Please remember the type of boss you absolutely hated to come work for. Remember all of the times that supervisor made you feel like crap or that all you did wasn’t enough. Take all of that and mold yourself into being the boss you wished that person would have been. Care about your troops and praise them for their hard work. Acknowledge them in both the public and private setting, and let people know you have their back. Be the sergeant who has their squad fill up first at the bump, because no matter how crappy your shift or RDOs are, troops will follow a good boss. To quote one of my favorite movies, Braveheart, when William Wallace is talking to the leader of Scotland: “The people of this country know you. Noble and common, they respect you. And if you would just lead them to freedom, they would follow you. And so would I.” Never has a more accurate statement been made. Build yourself a good reputation and the men and women of LVMPD will follow you, and so would I! 

Labor Pains

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

To be clear, I am not talking about the process of bringing a new life into this world. This article is going to focus on the issues that we are experiencing related to our current Labor Relations Department. I would like to start by saying that I do like the folks who work in that office. If you ever have the chance to stop in and chat with them, they are quite nice. I have had conversations with them in the past and have worked on some issues with them that have turned out to help some of our members. What we are currently having issues with is the apparent control over discipline that Labor Relations has or has been given.

From the LVPPA standpoint, it appears that commissioned supervisors are no longer allowed to make decisions related to discipline. It appears from our side that no one is allowed to go against what Labor decides. This fact becomes even more painfully obvious when we file a grievance on a case for an officer. During the meetings with either the captains or the chiefs, we are routinely told that they need to check with Labor before they make their decision. This is a whole other issue, as we believe it violates your CBA regarding the grievance process. We believe the CBA gives the person hearing the grievance the sole authority to make the decision to overturn discipline or whatever matter gave rise to the grievance.

There should always be some mitigating factors associated with these cases when they are warranted. Sometimes, officers screw up. It happens. We all know it. Sometimes we go into an IAB interview and have our officers “fall on the sword” because they know they messed up. However, all we have recently observed is aggravating factors to increase discipline on our officers. I have rarely observed a mitigating factor of “Officer has several commendations for X, Y and Z. Officer has volunteered several hours in the community. Officer has received employee of the quarter for their area. Officer has no discipline in their file.” But we sure see plenty of “Officer has been on the Department for X years and should know better. Officer has received training in this area. Officer has acknowledged POs and GOs about this topic. Officer is responsible for knowing policy.” These are factors that apply to everyone every day, yet when they want to justify bumping your Written to a Suspension, they use these vague factors to increase punishment. I am hard-pressed to find a situation where an AOC has said, “While the Matrix says this offense starts at a Written Reprimand, we have applied some mitigating factors to reduce to a Supervisory Intervention.”

Now, I can’t put it all in the lap of Labor. Although it is a challenging process to go against Labor’s decision, supervisors need to step up and say, “I appreciate the decision of Labor; however, I am going to make my decision on discipline, and I will justify that decision to anyone on the Department.” I don’t feel this happens often. It does happen on occasion, and I wish I could commend those supervisors who have done it, but I do not want to put anyone’s name in this article. You know who you are, and we greatly appreciate you. Most of the time, however, it appears easier to just go with Labor’s recommendation and let the officer fight the case through their grievance process. Kelly Sweeney was hired by the PPA and serves as our labor director. She used to be the director of Labor Relations for LVMPD for many years. She absolutely cannot believe how often Major suspensions are being used currently. When she ran Labor, those cases were saved for the worst-of-the-worst discipline. We now have an officer getting their duty belt stolen from their car, without their firearm, and getting 40 hours with no option! A victim of a crime gets the same discipline as an officer who actually commits a crime? I don’t care what realm of “progressive discipline” they are trying to apply. Full disclosure: This officer has two documented levels of discipline in their file. But neither of them is even remotely related to being a victim of a crime. If I have two conduct issues and then I am a victim of a crime, how can anyone say I should keep progressing in discipline for being a victim of a crime? We believe the punishment should fit the crime. If you want progressive discipline for conduct issues, or even continual performance issues, as long as they are similar, feel free. At least we could understand that progression. But a conduct, a performance and then a victim of a crime? I can’t find the nexus of those three incidents. Yet these are the decisions and offers coming out of Labor these days.

What about accountability? When officers show accountability for things, they still get the full force of Labor. The loose interpretation of the Discipline Matrix and where things can fall is also being abused. If say you have an excessive use of force, the Matrix puts you in a certain line item. However, they can slide you out of that line item into another because the first offense for use of force is a Written, but line item 6 can allow me to give you a Suspension. It is disheartening to me how discipline gets decided, and also the fact that supervisors are not free to make their own decision when hearing a grievance, but rather they, a captain or a chief, have to check with Labor to see if it is OK. That, to us, is not OK.

The positive side is that, while I have had issues with disciplinary decisions being made, Sheriff Lombardo and Undersheriff McMahill have been extremely open to conversation and have helped me try to get a better outcome in some of the serious issues we have. I wasn’t sure I would ever be saying this back when I took over as president, but those two have been far more helpful than hurtful. I don’t expect them to have their thumbs on every single issue going on at LVMPD, nor could I be expected to know every little thing the rest of the staff at the PPA does. But when I have needed help, I have received it — and, in turn, our officers have benefited from it. This was my hope when I took over: that we could open up communication with 100 and 101 and get matters resolved. And that is exactly what we have done.

The direction in which Labor is steering discipline, however, is very tough for me to sit back and watch. To be clear, my issue is not with IAB. IAB does the investigation and presents their findings. I may have some issue with the IAB process, but in the end, they do their best to simply provide the facts of the case and submit them to Labor and the Chain of Command for what discipline is to be administered. It is the process of deciding and administering the discipline that I have the issue with.

Hopefully, this didn’t sound like a segment of “The Rant” from Fox 5. But I feel you all need to be informed about how some of the discipline coming out is being decided. Too much power and authority is being given to Labor Relations, as opposed to the commissioned supervisors of our Department.

As always, if there is anything you all need from me or the rest of the PPA team, please just reach out to us.

Prepare for Your Interview

Steven Grammas
Steven Grammas

As your PPA representatives, we attend several hundred IAB interviews a year. Prior to all interviews, you should have a conversation with your representative about the case. At this pre-interview meeting, your rep should discuss with you some of the things that will occur during the interview. The rep should tell you about your rights as a peace officer and explain how the interview questioning should go. A subject officer is different from a witness officer. As a witness officer, everything being asked of you will be based around the accusation against the subject officer. No questions should be asked of you that would lend to you making statements about yourself that could result in you being a subject. As a subject officer, you are the one whom the investigation is focusing on. This case is either going to end with you being sustained or not sustained. If sustained, you will receive some form of discipline. As a subject officer, it is very important to have the pre-interview meeting with your rep. You need to understand your rights as a peace officer as well as understand how the interview is supposed to go. You should not be asked questions that are outside the scope of the notice.

We at the PPA have seen an alarming new trend with the Internal Affairs section. More and more, the investigators are asking officers “opinion” questions. First and foremost, we have a huge issue with this type of questioning. Detectives and supervisors in IA are trying to use witness officers to cement their case by asking questions like, “In your opinion, would you have done this?” or “If you were in this officer’s position, would you have used that same tactic?” What this in turn does is puts you, the witness officer, on the front page of their summary, alluding to the fact that you would not have done what this officer did — and then they use that to sustain your fellow officer. It puts you in a position, if and when the subject officer grieves the case, where you basically sustained them for the IA team with your “opinion.”

It becomes even worse for the subject officer. I have personally sat in an interview where the subject officer was asked, “Do you think your actions were appropriate?” Other reps have had similar questioning to include, “Do you feel you lived up to the ICARE values?” or “Were your actions conduct unbecoming of an officer?” As this style of questioning has happened more and more, I don’t even know why they have a standard interview anymore. Why doesn’t IA just start the tape, give their preliminary statements and ask the following: “Should you be sustained for ______ ?” (Input whatever section of the matrix you like.) That is basically what they are doing with their current line of questioning; I don’t know where this type of questioning came from. Maybe it’s just easier for the IA team to do their sustainment because they got you to admit on the record that you did indeed violate a Department policy. First and foremost, every notice for a subject officer includes the specific allegation being investigated. It also says, “You will be questioned about your knowledge, actions and conversations related to the above-listed allegation.” Nowhere does it say, “You will be questioned about your opinions, beliefs and moral position of the above-listed allegations.”

I referenced “moral position” above. That’s also a problem we are seeing. When there was no policy, SOP or law you violated, IA starts to turn into the morality police and will sustain you for how they “feel” about what occurred. No fact basis, other than asking other witnesses, “Would you have done this?” or your own statement to the question, “While you violated no specific policy, do you think you should have done this?” This is another disturbing issue with how interviews are being done in IA.

Because of NRS 289, IA has rules that they are supposed to follow. It is the nature of the beast in regard to an interview of a police officer. IA should be asking specific, fact-based questions in their interviews and then putting all of the facts together — not opinions — and then either sustaining or not sustaining an officer, not asking you those opinion questions when they see that their investigation hasn’t yielded much. It is for these reasons that you must meet with your rep before an interview, whether you’re a subject or a witness. Ultimately, no matter what is asked of you, or how much your rep objects to a line of questioning, if ordered to do so during the interview, you must answer. It is our job to fight those issues for you later on in the process. However, if you prepare before the interview, you will be better suited to respond to questions. Not preparing for an IA interview is like taking an oral board and doing no studying and then expecting to rank No. 1 on the board. It just won’t happen.

The first step in knowing what is going to happen in your interview is to know who is doing your interview. There are teams in IA that ask these opinion questions, and there are some teams that stick to just the factual questions of the allegations at hand and don’t veer off the notice. Either way, you need to prepare and prepare correctly. Your rep will help prep you for possible questions they feel may be asked of you. Talk to your rep, understand the process and get ready for your interview.