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City needs Old West-style lawman

Back in the days of the Old West, our nation had real lawmen. Men such as Pat Garrett, Wyatt Earp, Bat Masterson and Bill Tilghman.

These were men who took the law seriously and brought the bad guys to justice, even if that meant coming face to face with them in a gunfight.

Most of us know that Earp survived countless gunfights — most notably at the O.K. Corral — and that Garrett killed Billy the Kid. And Tilghman was dedicated to his job, serving from 1875 when he was 21 to 1924 when he was 70, having never retired from his work in law enforcement.

Long before the electronic age, wanted posters were used to help catch criminals. Maybe it’s time the city turned the tables on the posters — say using a wanted poster to find someone suitable to help fight crime. More modern methods don’t appear to be working well.

For the past several years, the city’s police department seems to have been at the center of several scandals that have rocked the community.

In 2013, former police chief Thomas Finn was ousted from his position after the police officers’ union voted it had no confidence it his ability to lead. And that followed a nasty feud with city officials after he filed a lawsuit in District Court in Clark County alleging they conspired to have him fired.

Much of the controversy surrounding Finn stemmed from a department-wide email he sent requesting that officers delete public-record emails regarding how they planned to handle an upcoming visiting by the Mongols motorcycle club.

Additionally, there was an audit of the department by the International City/County Management Association’s Center for Public Safety Management that presented a list of staffing, organizational, communication and policy troubles. It criticized department leadership and confirmed that a department-issued Bushmaster AR-15-style rifle was missing.

There also were allegations and various lawsuits about how city officials wanted Finn out of office because of differences in their religion, as well as of Finn claiming ethics violations by city officials.

Most recently the scandal revolves around Bill Conger, the chief of police administration, who abruptly left his position amid accusations about when he was made aware of the situation with the former supervisor at the animal shelter, and why he chose not to file charges of animal cruelty against her.

He claims to have taken action immediately after learning about how the former supervisor, Mary Jo Frazier, was needlessly killing animals. However, a source with knowledge of the district attorney’s investigation into the case, says he was alerted to the situation at least one year earlier.

Then, there’s the issue about why no charges were filed in the first place. Why was public outcry necessary for the city/police department to reverse its course? Had a person been needlessly killed, the case would most certainly be investigated and charges filed. In fact, murder is one of those crimes that has no statute of limitations, meaning a person can be held accountable for that crime no matter how long after it was committed. Anyone remember the television show “Cold Case”?

Conger also claims that he spoke with City Attorney Dave Olsen about the issue and that he didn’t feel the case was strong enough to prosecute, but the Olsen has no recollection of the conversation.

The city is currently on the hunt for a new chief of police, this time seeking a certified peace officer with at least four years of command-level experience and eight years of experience in law enforcement.

The ideal candidate also should have a bachelor’s degree in a field related to the occupation, such as police science, criminal justice or public or business administration, and a master’s degree is preferred. Beyond the basic requirements, is the need for proven public relations and customer service skills.

In this city, that would be essential.

Lets hope they can find the caliber of lawman who exhibits the spirit and dedication to his job that those in the Old West did.

Hali Bernstein Saylor is editor of the Boulder City Review. She can be reached at hsaylor@bouldercityreview.com or at 702-586-9523. Follow @HalisComment on Twitter.


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