On April 12, 2015, officers arrested Freddie Gray, who sustained injuries during the arrest and transport that would lead to his death. That incident sparked a debate in this nation in regards to race, power, restraint and how we handle/treat the men and women we give additional power to in hopes they will protect us.
From this debate you see two different images of the men and women in blue. On one hand, you have the heroes who risk life and limb to protect our lives and our way of life. And on the other hand, there is a person who has excessive power, who can use the badge to get away with anything, including personal gain and enforcing personal viewpoints.
While the national debate rages on, it is worth taking a look at our local police department. I think we all appreciate that we have a responsive and helpful police presence in town that you simply cannot experience elsewhere, but we are not immune to all problems.
Tom Finn, former Boulder City police chief, was fired back in 2013, an action he claims was based on the fact that he was not Mormon. But the union voted 15-7 to oust Finn, citing his instructions to destroy emails, a clear act against the transparent government we all seek. This continues in the courts over four years later.
Then there was the incident in October 2016 where officer Jeffrey Grasso went into a resident’s backyard when no one answered the front door. He began looking into windows, and the resident felt their privacy had been violated.
More recently, there was a questionable arrest of a pedestrian who said he was in the act of protesting a crosswalk sting near Pizza Hut.
And lastly, Grasso has just been accused of stealing money from his disabled son.
There hasn’t been any riot in the streets of Boulder City. In fact, the only event I have seen is good citizens holding signs in support of our officers. But I think it would be wise for the city and department to take more proactive measures to ensure it stays that way.
The department should review its policies to see how it could be more transparent in its dealings, beginning with expanded use of body cameras. And through a sincere public relations campaign, it should explain these measures, as well as measures it may already be doing. The department needs to be open and very clear about actions it is taking when an officer is found to abuse power.
Citizens need to know that, if an officer crosses the line, the department will do exactly what it was set up to do: enforce the law.
A good example is the arrest of John Hunt for allegedly protesting the crosswalk sting near Pizza Hut. When Mr. Hunt’s attorney, Stephen Stubbs, claimed that video had been tampered with, I got a sick feeling to my stomach. The thought that an officer would tamper with a video and even could tamper with a video is scary and should make every reasonable person worried. I was relieved to hear that court review of the video determined that it might not have been tampered with. I hope the court is right.
The department should make very public how it currently ensures that video cannot be tampered with and, if there is any possible way an officer could tamper with the video, how it will adjust its policies to make such an action nearly impossible.
It should also be very clear that, if an officer is proven to tamper with evidence in any way, it will not hesitate in taking quick and decisive action.
I support our men and women who get up every day and put their lives on the line to enforce the laws that protect the rights I hold dear. In order for them to be successful, they need to trust us as citizens, and we need to trust them. Trust is built and maintained by many small actions over time.
I think some small actions taken by the department at this time to improve transparency and accountability will help us better trust them as the great men and women they are.
Nathaniel Kaey Gee resides in Boulder City with his wife and six kids. He is a civil engineer by day and enjoys writing any chance he gets. You can follow his work on his blog www.thegeebrothers.com.