ACLU of Nevada Sends Deficiency Letter to U.S. Dept. of Justice in Response to COPS/CNA Report

LAS VEGAS, NV - The ACLU of Nevada last week sent a formal Deficiency Letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (PDF) in response to the report issued by the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) report, prepared by management consultants CNA, on the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The letter, which the Justice Department will receive today, follows a less formal position statement that the ACLU of Nevada prepared and distributed in the weeks after the COPS/CNA report was released in mid-November.

“The COPS/CNA report has a lot of helpful recommendations in it, but it does not go far enough to truly make cultural changes at Metro,” said ACLU of Nevada Executive Director Dane S. Claussen. “And the other primary problem is that the COPS/CNA report’s recommendations are completely voluntary, plus there is no mechanism to monitor implementation or effectiveness of any reforms that are made.”

Staci Pratt, Legal Director of the ACLU of Nevada, said, “The CNA report’s limitations, which we predicted from the beginning, make it more urgent that the Department of Justice act affirmatively on our patterns-and-practices petition of January 2012. Moreover, that petition called for an independent monitor of Metro, and the County Commission’s destruction of the coroner’s inquest process makes an independent monitor all the more important.”

The Deficiency Letter emphasizes that COPS is not an investigatory body; that CNA is merely a management consultant group; that the DOJ has substantial responsibility to address civil rights issues in police departments through investigations (and possible litigation) and not only through voluntary reforms suggested by management consultants; and that there are demonstrable major deficiencies in how the Report itself was prepared. These included lacking neutrality, interviewing a narrow and small segment of the community (including almost no Latinos), minimizing Metro’s problems, not outlining a mechanism for implementation or measurement of results, going beyond CNA’s areas of expertise, and a lack of transparency in how the report was prepared.

The Justice Department has taken no action on the January 2012 petition by the ACLU of Nevada and the NAACP of Las Vegas demanding a civil rights-based patterns-and-practices investigation of Metro by the department’s Special Litigation Section. Justice Department officials essentially asked the ACLU of Nevada, the NAACP of Las Vegas, and the entire Clark County community to be patient while the COPS hired CNA to do its study and released its results.

“Let’s not forget that the Justice Department decided to treat Clark County as a guinea pig so that it could experiment with an expanded version of traditional Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) assistance,” Claussen said. “Why should Clark County be the site of a real-time field experiment by the public relations-wing of the Justice Department and its management consultants while dozens of other metro police departments are investigated by Washington-based civil rights lawyers?”

Additional Resources

ACLU of Nevada's formal Deficiency Letter to the U.S. Department of Justice (PDF)