AAS faculty calls on UNLV to cut ties with LVMPD

UNLV empty campus
An empty UNLV campus in April. (Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Photo Services)
UNLV empty campus
UNLV campus on April 18. (Photo by Lonnie Timmons III/UNLV Photo Services)

UNLV’s African American and African Diaspora Studies Program is calling on the university to sever ties with Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

The call, which came via a statement posted on the department’s website, follows an announcement last week from the University of Minnesota that it would drastically reduce its contracts with the Minneapolis Police Department following the killing of George Floyd by one of its officers.

“It is easy to assume that racist violence only occurs elsewhere, or is a relic of a distant past, but we must not forget that the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) has a robust (and recent) history of misconduct and officer-involved shootings,” reads part of the AAS faculty statement.

The statement references the murders of Trevon Cole and Stanley Gibson. Cole was an unarmed 21-year-old who was shot and killed by Metro officers in 2010 after they raided his home using an arrest warrant for a different man with the same name. Gibson was an unarmed Gulf War veteran suffering from PTSD who was shot and killed in 2011 by a Metro officer who initially engaged with him because his car resembled one used in an attempted burglary.

The faculty criticize LVMPD and Sheriff Joe Lombardo for their official response to the murder of George Floyd, calling it “disappointingly tepid.”

“LVMPD is very much steeped in a history of racial and racist violence,” reads the statement. “Moreover, our university, one whose mascot is a ‘Rebel’ that is tied to the Confederate States of America, is not without fault. Since 2016 this campus annually experienced acts of anti-Black sentiments which, we should note, are always ‘discussed’ but left unchecked.”

UNLV regularly contracts with LVMPD for its events, concerts, ceremonies and other large gatherings.

“We are asking that a portion of the resources spent on LVMPD be redirected to the AAS program so that we are able to work with UNLV and surrounding communities towards a truly ‘daring, diverse and different’ university,” reads the statement, referencing a marketing slogan used by the university.

UNLV’s English Department through its Facebook page expressed solidarity and support of the AAS statement: “We are listening to our colleagues’ call, examining our own complicity in perpetuating systemic racism and anti-Blackness, and identifying ways that we as a department can be better anti-racist allies.”

The Asian and Asian American Studies Program issued a statement of solidarity with AAS. In it, faculty express their support for ending university contracts with LVMPD and vowing to cover anti-Black sentiments within their courses. “Above all, we can work to build power and continue to forge solidarities outside the confines of the university by supporting and honoring activists, groups, and movements in Las Vegas and around the country fighting to end police violence against Black people.”

Through a spokesperson, UNLV issued this statement in response: “University Police Services handles public safety and law enforcement issues at UNLV, as well as other Southern Nevada NSHE campuses. University Police Services has agreements with all other law enforcement agencies in the valley for critical or technical support when requested, including the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department. While there are cooperative agreements in place to ensure critical public resources can be shared between law enforcement agencies in the event of an emergency, there are no monetary aspects to those agreements.”

EDITOR’S NOTE: This blog has been updated to reflect additional support from the Asian and Asian American Studies Program and with a response from UNLV.

April Corbin Girnus
April Corbin Girnus is an award-winning journalist with a decade of media experience. She has been a beat writer at Las Vegas Sun, a staff writer at LEO Weekly, web editor of Las Vegas Weekly and a blogger documenting North American bike share systems’ efforts to increase ridership in underserved communities. An occasional adjunct journalism professor, April steadfastly rejects the notion that journalism is a worthless major. Amid the Great Recession, she earned a B.A. in journalism from the University of Nevada Las Vegas, where she served as editor-in-chief of the student newspaper. She later earned an M.A. in media studies and a graduate certificate in media management from The New School for Public Engagement. April currently serves on the board of the Society of Professional Journalists Las Vegas pro chapter. A stickler about municipal boundary lines, April enjoys teaching people about unincorporated Clark County. She grew up in Sunrise Manor and currently resides in Paradise with her husband, two children and three mutts.