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Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack

Here's a pretty old post from the blog archives of Geekery Today; it was written about 16 years ago, in 2008, on the World Wide Web.

The Las Vegas Metro police department has a new mobile gang of cops devoted to a saturation strategy in targeted inner city neighborhoods:

Before setting out, the team goes for dinner, and that’s where Palmer explains the mission of the Metropolitan Police Department’s saturation teams, or sat teams for short.

It’s an innovative, proactive approach to policing. Don’t handle calls for service. Leave that to the regular patrol cops. Talk to as many citizens as possible to find out who the bad guys are. Get people off the street who don’t belong, [sic] and maybe prevent a robbery or burglary, or worse, from happening.

We’re not worried about turning in tickets, he says. We’re trying to get the bad guys off the street.

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city

Here are three things that you ought to know about how Metro decides who doesn’t belong, and how they get the bad guys off the street.

First, cops in the saturation team gangs pick and choose whether or not to come down on any given person who is breaking the law. They openly state that they make these decisions based on who they want to hassle and bust and pull off the street, and they openly state that they decide that based on where you’re from, how much money you make, and other proxies for racial and socio-economic status.

Sat team officers have to make constant judgment calls. They won’t pull over and arrest someone in Summerlin, for example, who doesn’t have bike reflectors. But if the area has seen a rash of burglaries, and the person on the bike has prior burglary convictions and doesn’t live there, they will. [Summerlin is a rich suburb of Las Vegas. –R.G.]

If you see a guy who jaywalks, and he’s a 42-year-old man who works at the Fremont casino and is heading home … shake his hand and let him go, Dixon said. If you stop a guy who jaywalks, and he’s a thug and he’s got a history of burglaries and he’s got a crack pipe in his pocket, you take him into jail.

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city

Second, as you may have already guessed, if one of Metro’s sat gangs decides that you’re the sort of person they want to lock in a cage, rather than the sort of person they’ll shake hands with and let go, they will use any chickenshit charge they can make up in order to justify getting in your face, demanding that you explain yourself and justify your existence to them, and, if they aren’t satisfied, grabbing you off the street and throwing you in jail.

They use whatever laws are at their disposal: jaywalking, riding a bicycle without reflectors, outstanding warrants. They work together, swarming hot spots around the valley.

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city

They use whatever laws are at their disposal because, of course, they don’t actually give a damn about the law. This is outcome-driven policing, and the law is just an excuse to bust the people that they’ve already decided don’t belong. That’s because the purpose of these teams is not to stop or respond to crimes; it’s to control people, and in particular to force the the socio-economic cleansing of undesirable people from the cop-occupied neighborhoods. For exmple:

It’s past 9 p.m., and officer Robert Boehm turns down a street near the Cheyenne Pointe apartments. He sees an 18-year-old on a bicycle rolling through a stop sign on a residential street.

The young man looks familiar. It’s because Boehm and other sat team members busted him the week before for stealing a BB gun from a Kmart.

Boehm says that BB guns have been the weapon of choice for making drug-related robberies right now.

He was released from jail just a few days ago.

This is the perfect example, Boehm says. What is he doing out here?

The man says he lives near Washington Avenue and Nellis Boulevard, about four miles away. His uncle lives at the Cheyenne Pointe apartments. He isn’t heading there or to his home, however, and can’t explain where he’s going.

Boehm searches him. No drugs. No weapons. But he is a person that is probably up to trouble, Boehm says.

He handcuffs him, stuffs his bike in the trunk of his patrol car and takes him down to the Clark County Detention Center. The charges are failing to obey a traffic control device and not having lights on a bicycle.

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city

This kind of arbitrary rousting of someone, based on absolutely nothing other than a paper-thin pretext and the cop’s conviction that somebody’s probably up to trouble, is dignified by Las Vegas Metro cops and their sycophants at the Review-Journal as old-school policing with professionalism and an innovative, proactive approach to policing.

Third, here is how members of the saturation gangs talk about themselves to a sympathetic press:

The first week, the criminals were like deer caught in the headlights, he said.

Eyes opened, he said. Criminals said, Oh my god, what is this?

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city


Twenty people were booked this night during the shift. Nine were for felony crimes, including one for a stolen moped.

Honestly, best job in the world, Boehm says. I’m living the dream.

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city


We’re like wolves, officer Justin Gauker says. We travel in a pack.

— Lawrence Mower, Las Vegas Review-Journal (2008-11-30): Las Vegas police use saturation strategy to cool hot spots of crime; A bright light in a big city

Well. I feel safer already.

I should say that when I refer to cops as a street gang or Gangsters in Blue or what have you, I’m not indulging in metaphor. I don’t mean that cops act kinda like gangsters (as if this were just a matter of personal vices or institutional failures); I mean that they are gangsters — that is the policing system operating according successfully to its normal function — that they are the organized hired muscle of the State, and that the outfit operates just like any other street gang in terms of their commitments, their attitudes, their practices, and their idea of professional ethics.

— GT 2008-11-26: Professional courtesy, part 2: thugs on patrol

And let’s just say that Metro’s new roving wolfpacks have not done very much to make me reconsider that analysis.

See also:

8 replies to Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack Use a feed to Follow replies to this article · TrackBack URI

  1. Gabriel

    I’m not sure what’s more amazing, their openness about their depraved actions and intent, or the blind sympathy and adoration of the press and public.

  2. TGGP

    I actually think they came off looking better than average in this story. Usually when I read stories about the cops I don’t see a plausible rationale for their actions making an area more livable.

    For more of my libertarian heresy on law enforcement see I’m with Stevens against Scalia for less restrictions on cops.

— 2009 —

  1. Discussed at radgeek.com

    Rad Geek People’s Daily 2009-06-02 – The Police Beat:

    […] GT 2008-12-05: Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack […]

  2. Discussed at realitysbitch.com

    BeatDown CrackUp – Reality’s bitch:

    […] GT 2008-12-05: Don’t turn your back on the Wolfpack […]

— 2012 —

  1. Discussed at nvcopblock.org

    LVMPD Budget Cuts: Finally Minorities Benefit from the Recession | Nevada CopBlock:

    […] Jim Dixon and Gillespie (prior to him becoming the sheriff) back in 2005, are actually glorified harassment squads that descend upon designated areas looking for any excuse to stop, search, and arrest the people […]

— 2017 —

  1. Discussed at nvcopblock.org

    Update: Demonstration and Courtroom Support for Silk Galloway; LVMPD Racial Profiling, False Arrest Victim | Nevada CopBlock:

    […] Racial profiling is pretty much what saturation teams were created to do, so that kinda goes without saying. When Galloway refused to cooperate with their unlawful orders to present ID, even though he as the passenger of the vehicle was under no obligation to do so, they decided they would arrest him and “find something” later. Unfortunately, they were never actually able to “find something.” There were no drugs or anything else illegal on him or within the car. […]

  2. Discussed at nvcopblock.org

    Las Vegas Metro Police Illegally Search; Sexually Assault Innocent Man to Justify Bullshit Arrest | Nevada CopBlock:

    […] saturation patrols are invariably neighborhoods inhabited by minorities and poor people. In fact, the LVMPD has explicitly stated that they won’t carry out these sort of attacks in Summerlin, which is a wealthier suburb of […]

  3. Discussed at nvcopblock.org

    Update: Racial Profiling Case by LVMPD Saturation Team Body Cam Videos Show No Original Cause for Stop | Nevada CopBlock:

    […] The other side of that equation is that the areas that the LVMPD targets for their saturation teams are invariably those inhabited predominantly by poor and minority residents. In fact, some years ago a Metro spokesperson went so far as to explicitly state to the Las Vegas Review Journal that they wo…. […]

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