New chief looks to rebuild trust in police department (2024)

New chief looks to rebuild trust in police department (1)

After nearly five months serving as acting chief of police for the Las Vegas Police Department, in March, Mayor David Romero and the Las Vegas City Council appointed Caleb Marquez to the spot permanently.

Marquez beat out three other finalists for the role, Mayor Romero said, in a process designed to give qualified candidates a chance at the role, and to give the mayor and the council a chance to choose the next chief.

“What was important was that the whole governing body had input into the decision. It wasn’t just the mayor coming in and saying, ‘This is who I want’ and kind of forcing it on the governing body,” Romero said. “We wanted to make sure that we got this right, and that it was a joint, united effort.”

Marquez assumed the role of chief on Oct. 17, after Antonio Salazar was placed on paid administrative leave following a domestic disturbance call at his home.

Salazar resigned from LVPD on Nov. 16 after being charged with one count of misdemeanor battery on a household member. Prosecutors dropped the criminal charge against Salazar on April 19 because he completed an anger management program, according to documents filed in San Miguel Magistrate Court.

However, that is not the end of Salazar’s court proceedings because, on March 28, the city filed a lawsuit against him alleging breach of contract.

The lawsuit is related to a $4,500 retention bonus. According to a complaint filed in Las Vegas District Court, Salazar received the payment in May of 2023 and, under the terms of his employment agreement, he was required to repay the money if he quit or was fired before May 2024. The city also alleges that it offered Salazar an opportunity to enter a reimbursem*nt plan, but he refused.

The complaint stated that the city is seeking repayment of the $4,500, along with interest and attorney’s fees. Mayor Romero said he was aware of the lawsuit but could not comment on pending litigation.

Salazar’s departure came just two days after Louie Trujillo resigned as mayor, citing consideration of his “physical, mental and spiritual well being” in his letter of resignation. Romero, who had been the Ward 4 city councilor and mayor pro tem, was named acting mayor upon Trujillo’s departure. He was sworn in as mayor in December.

These shake ups were the latest in years of turmoil within city hall and the police department. Trujillo replaced Tonita Gurule-Giron as mayor after she resigned in January 2020 after being criminally charged in an illegal kickback scheme in which she was ultimately convicted of two felony charges and sentenced to 18 months probation.

Filling the role of chief of police has been a tumultuous endeavor for the city as well. Salazar’s resignation came just two months after city councilors approved a raise for him.

Salazar was appointed to the role in the summer of 2021 to replace Adrian Crespin following his resignation after about a year. Crespin replaced David Bibb, who’d served just 19 months. Bibb had been appointed by Gurule-Giron in November 2017 to replace Jerry Delgado who resigned less than two weeks after accepting the job.

Despite past turbulence within the department, Romero said he’s confident that Marquez is the right choice, and the city council have specific expectations for him as chief of police.

“Moving forward — as a governing body — we’ll make sure that we’ll hold Caleb Marquez accountable. We are looking at those specific goals, and we want to make sure there’s progress within the department,” Romero said. “We’re not just happy with the status quo.”

Both Romero and Marquez seem to be focusing on the future and not the past. Marquez said he wants to focus on building relationships between the department and the community, and to take care of the men and women who work for LVPD.

“There’s a lot of good people that work here,” he said. “And we want to make sure we provide the best service to the community.”

Marquez plans to hold events centered around National Night Out, an annual effort aimed at improving relationships between law enforcement and members of the communities they serve.

During the nationwide event, which takes place in August each year, Marquez would like community members to hold block parties, and he plans to have the police department hold one near the police station near the Plaza. He also hopes to have officers host a bike ride through town, and to have officers visit other block parties throughout the city.

The idea is part of a broader vision for the future of the department that focuses on community policing initiatives. Marquez also hopes to increase the number of the department’s school-based partnerships, like offering drug prevention and anti-bullying programs.

Another key focus will be crime, specifically arresting people who bring fentanyl into the area and those who sell it, a growing nationwide problem that both Marquez and Romero want to address in Vegas.

“I know that the chief is working with the DA’s office and the sheriff’s office, trying to see if we can target those that are bringing in and those that are distributing the fentanyl,” Romero said. “It’s taking a toll on a lot of our young population. We’ve got to make sure we protect them as much as we can.”

Marquez said that addiction drives much of the crime in Vegas and that he’d like to see more help provided to those struggling with substance use disorder, like opening an outpatient drug treatment center in town. But he also shares Romero’s vision of going after anyone who brings narcotics into town and those who sell them.

Marquez, who was born in Las Vegas and has lived in town his entire life, joined LVPD about nine years ago. Prior to his law enforcement career, he worked as a firefighter for the Las Vegas Fire Department.

After nearly five years with the fire department, Marquez said he made the move to the police department as another way to serve a community he loves.

“It’s a very tightknit community and I think it’s a very unique city. Anybody who comes here can see how caring people are to one another, and I think it’s a great place to raise your kids,” he said. “I truly do care. I love this department, and I love this community.”

New chief looks to rebuild trust in police department (2024)
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