Acting Nevada police chief’s assignment: Stability and calm

May 3, 2019
In this Monday, April 29, 2019 photo, Henderson Police Department Acting Chief Thedrick Andres speaks during an interview at the Henderson Police headquarters in Henderson, Nev. Andres is preaching collaboration and inclusion after stepping in as acting police chief in Henderson in March. He takes the helm during a turbulent time at an agency that for the second time in less than two years lost a chief amid controversy. His ousted predecessor, LaTesha Watson, recruited him from Arlington, Texas, where they both used to work. Now Andres is assigned to bring calmness and civility to his suburban Las Vegas-area department. (Caroline Brehman/Las Vegas Review-Journal via AP)

HENDERSON, Nev. (AP) — Thedrick Andres is preaching a culture of collaboration and inclusion after stepping in as acting Henderson police chief in March.

He takes the helm during a turbulent time for the police department in Nevada’s second-largest city, rising to become the top after the chief who recruited him from Texas, LaTesha Watson, was placed on paid leave and then fired.

It was the second time in less than two years that Henderson dismissed its police chief amid controversy.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal reports that Deputy City Manager Bristol Ellington has tasked Andres with repairing police unions relationships, firming up department policies, collaborating with other city departments and regional law enforcement agencies, and bringing calmness and civility to the police department.

So far, Andres has delivered, Ellington told the newspaper, and there are no immediate plans to recruit a permanent chief.

“I understand that when you work together, it takes time,” Andres said in an interview. “And time and all relationships are done through good faith.”

“What I bring to move our organization forward is just that,” he said. “I bring my commitment, my energy every day to the workforce to continue to ensure that we have a premier police department for a premier community.”

Suburban Henderson, southeast of Las Vegas, is Nevada’s second-largest city. It has 300,000 residents and about 390 police officers.

Watson became police chief in November 2017, after her predecessor, Patrick Moers, was ousted in May 2017 amid a sexual harassment investigation. The Review-Journal reported in January 2018 that city leaders had concealed the reason for Moers’ ouster.

Watson’s departure came after complaints by police unions and findings by an outside investigator that Watson engaged in “inappropriate and ineffective decisions and behaviors,” disregarded supervisors’ orders, and allowed mistrust and division among employees, the Review-Journal reported in April.

Watson’s attorney said “false and defamatory comments and (a) hostile work environment” affected her ability to do her job.

Andres said that since Watson left, he has asked for monthly meetings with the unions.

Rick McCann of the Nevada Association of Public Safety Officers said members are willing to work with Andres but expressed concerns about unclear department policies, a sluggish departmental disciplinary process and what he called a lack of meaningful collaboration.

Ellington said policies are still being revised to address union concerns.

Andres’ relationship with the labor groups has been contentious at times. In November, two police unions jointly filed a complaint against Watson and Andres, alleging union-busting. Watson was recently dropped from the complaint.

The acting chief would not discuss the complaint, which is pending with the Local Government Employee-Management Relations Board.

“I believe in what I’ve done at the organization and that process will have to take care of itself,” Andres said.

Watson recruited Andres as deputy chief in Henderson early last year from the Arlington Police Department, where Watson also served before moving to Henderson in late 2017.

Those close ties make McCann wary of how much Andres can do to move the department forward, and Ellington acknowledged Andres’ challenge.

“He has baggage because he was hand-picked by the last chief, but I think he’s doing a great job,” Ellington said.

Andres also came to southern Nevada after being involved in a fatal off-duty shooting in 2014 in Texas.

The Review-Journal reported last year that a lawsuit filed recounted the death of a man after a fight that began on a party bus.

Andres said he was cleared in 2015 after investigations by an independent law enforcement agency and a grand jury. The lawsuit, filed in 2016, was dismissed in March.

Andres told the Review-Journal that someone insulted him on the bus and he was beaten unconscious when he exited the bus. He said he regained consciousness and ran to his car where he was attacked again and a man tried to take his gun. He said talking about the shooting made him feel victimized again.

“There’s not many law enforcement officers that become a victim,” he said in the interview. “And I got to look through the eyes of a victim.”

In a statement, Javier Trujillo, Henderson city director of government and public affairs, called the shooting “a non-issue.” He said Andres acted in self-defense and was cleared of wrongdoing, and Henderson officials were fully aware of the shooting when Andres was hired.

Andres said he began his law enforcement career in the early 1990s at the Louisiana State Penitentiary, and served on the New Orleans Police Department during Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

He said the response to the storm and flooding that killed more than 1,800 people taught him the importance of building relationships and being a leader who cares.

“I think that is the most important thing,” he said.