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Two schools of thought when finding a new sheriff

Reported by: John Treanor
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Updated: 9/12/2013 10:27 pm
LAS VEGAS (KSNV & MyNews3) -- In one year there will be a new man or woman heading up the Las Vegas Metro police department -- a department with its share of controversy.

Las Vegas will pick a new sheriff in the voting booth, but tonight News 3's John Treanor explores a different idea that's already popular in other cities.

It’s an extremely important election. Clark County will soon choose a new sheriff. But, while we change sheriffs we ask should we change the way we elect them

There are two new ideas. One idea would take the decision out of the voters’ hands. And another, introduced by the American Civil Liberties Union, would make the voters more involved.

News 3 asked Clark County commissioners about their reaction.

We are roughly one year away from the most important law enforcement decision of the past four.

Clark county will soon have a new sheriff amid controversy over shootings, firings, taxes, and spending.

And if this year is anything like countless past years the decision will be made in large part within metro

“Clearly there’s a sense that there’s someone anointed and it goes right down the list and that’s how we get the next sheriff,” said commission Steve Sisolak.

With public questions and protests over the sheriff's department and a sense that candidates might be anointed from within, should there be an election at all or should we follow a common practice in big cities to the east?

Perhaps a board of commissioners can appoint a chief of police. One who answers to them and can be removed without an election if things aren't working.

“One advantage of a chief position is often it’s easier to attract candidates from outside the jurisdiction,” said UNLV Professor William Sousa.

There are pros and cons to that decision. It would make the police department much more transparent immediately and hold the chief accountable immediately but it invites nepotism and makes the job more political.

Still, there is another idea introduced to us by general counsel for the ACLU.

If transparency is the problem, maybe appointing isn't the answer.
What about creating an advisory board that would have public meetings with the sheriff and make him justify every decision to the voters?

“Really play that role for the public as opposed to the sheriff as the last stop because the sheriff is not in a position to be neutral,” said Allen Lichtenstein, General Counsel to the ACLU.

News 3 asked commissioners about both ideas. Steve Sisolak and Todd Collins agree the advisory board probably wouldn't work but that’s just about all they agreed on.

Sisolak seemed interested in the idea of appointing a chief.
“It’s something to look at. I don’t know which has worked better,” Sisolak said.

Todd Collins, however, doesn't want to see any changes.

In his mind it’s not broken and it doesn't need to be fixed

“The sheriff needs to be allowed to do his job, we need to fund him adequately to do his job. That’s been critical,” Collins said.

The general election for sheriff is scheduled for June of 2014.


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