In September 2017 former Arlington Police Deputy Chief Latesha Watson was named the incoming Chief of Police for the city of Henderson, Nevada. She was a 15 year veteran of Arlington PD and spent the last three years of her career over Central Investigations. Watson was hired after the former Chief of Henderson left due to sexual harassment claims.
Henderson police killed two men and injured another in three separate shootings between August and September 2018. Between the two deadly encounters, 12 officers fired their weapons. Chief Watson wanted to overhaul how the Henderson Police Department investigated police shootings.
Chief Watson was interviewed by the local news media not saying which specific policies she will alter but said the changes would affect the criminal and administrative investigations the department conducts after a shooting.
“Some minorities feel you’re a sellout for going into the profession,” she says. “If no [black person] ever does it, how are we going to improve the system? We need people who look like us.”Police Chief Latesha Watson
Part of her effort to effect change was enlisting the help of a consulting firm to perform an internal audit of policies and procedures, including use of force.
The audit was scheduled to be complete by the end of the 2018. Once finished, the consulting firm will offer policy change recommendations, Watson said.
Since publicly announcing ideas of changing how investigations would be handled, officers quickly called foul and began lobbing complaints about the chief to members of the Henderson city council.
The city last year probed at least 10 complaints that named Watson as a subject, spending more than $50,000 for a third-party firm — Littler Mendelson — to investigate. The complaints, which ranged from accepting tickets from an ambulance company to the Stanley Cup Finals to assigning lieutenants readings that were religious in nature, didn’t amount to policy violations by Watson.
However, the firm, in one of the documents, said that “it is more probable than not that there is a serious morale issue amongst supervisory personnel at (the department). Chief Watson seems to believe that individuals bringing forward complaints are a small number of disgruntled employees. At this point, that does not appear to be the case.”
Employees accuse Chief Watson of “union busting” and as of yesterday, Chief Watson was placed on administrative leave.
Watson was given choices. Agree to step down amicably, forfeiting claims against the city of Henderson while not disparaging its reputation, or be terminated with cause. She refused to sign.
By not signing the agreement Watson was presented Thursday — which included cooperation, non-disparagement and confidentiality clauses — Watson will forfeit $24,522 in severance, regular paychecks until May and health insurance, according to the document.
It appears as the Chief is being punished for wanting to change the culture within her department, where officers are rarely, if at all punished, for shooting citizens. And when you have three shootings, leaving two dead and one seriously injured, coupled with 12 officers shooting the fatal bullets, there is definitely something foul inside the Henderson Police Department.