Seemingly progressive policing practices and support of the “Defund the Police” movement isn’t just the purview of outgoing Clark County Sheriff, and Nevada Republican gubernatorial front runner, Joe Lombardo. A variety of interviews, press conferences, and writings over the course of the latter part of his career indicate former Lombardo Undersheriff, and one of the current candidates to replace him, Kevin McMahill, has been a driving force behind Metro’s attempts at fostering greater understanding among minority communities, including making it known on at least two occasions that he too supported the idea of “defunding” law enforcement budgets.
Recently a story, by Ariana Figueroa of the States Newsroom, ran on a local Nevada website which resurfaced an interview that Sheriff Lombardo conducted with television station Channel 8 of Las Vegas on June 24, 2020. In the interview, a portion of which can be seen below with the entire clip available here, Lombardo is clear in his sentiment that defunding is something police agencies should look to cover certain areas of social well being. McMahill, whom Lombardo has officially endorsed to succeed him, echoed those sentiments himself just six days later in an interview with radio station KNPR. During his appearance on the broadcast McMahill opined that, ”this defund the police movement makes a lot of sense when it comes to funding other aspects of the social services system.”
Before the year was out, McMahill made another appearance on KNPR where, when asked directly if he still backed his position from the summer regarding his support for defunding the police, he responded in the affirmative. “Oh 100%,” the then unannounced candidate stated, before going on to give specific examples of what areas could benefit, including mental health outreach and Project Safe 417 which aims to reduce domestic violence in the Vegas Valley.
Unlike questions which have been raised about the still serving Sheriff Lombardo’s potential flip flopping on the issue of his support for defunding police budgets and reallocating the funds to other programs, McMahill’s comments, and the sincerity behind them, are buttressed by his work with community leaders in Clark County, and nationally, to address issues such as Black Lives Matter and the need to reconcile the gulf between law enforcement and communities of color.
On May 31, around 24 hours prior to a pair of tragic shootings which enraged law enforcement, outraged activists and shook the entire Las Vegas Valley, the then Undersheriff joined local and state office holders and civic leaders, including Attorney General Aaron Ford, Las Vegas City Councilman Cedric Crear, and Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman in solidarity for those gathering to protest in the memory of the George Floyd. Among his remarks at the widely covered press conference, McMahill made clear that, “We stand in solidarity with all of you in demonstrating your right to come out and protest.”
A 2018 compendium of case studies, published by the National Network For Safe Communities at John Jay College, titled ‘Reconciliation Between Police and Communities” highlighted the Las Vegas Metro Police Department’s Safe Village Initiative. Sponsored by groups including the George Soros’ funded Open Society Foundation, along with the MacArthur and Pritzker Foundations, the NNSC’s section on the LVMPD project recounted McMahill’s work on the SVI in admiring terms. After explaining the program’s history, the entry lauded the then Captain Kevin McMahill’s attempts at reform within the world of law enforcement as, “acknowledging the harm of aggressive and discriminatory policing.”
During his 2022 campaign for Sheriff, McMahill has been silent on many of these practices, and did not reply to a request for comment.
One supporter of McMahill was willing to both vouch for the longtime lawman’s bona fides in this area and speak on record as to the sincere desire by the first time political candidate to effect change if elected.
Tick Segerblom, the current Clark County Commissioner representing District E who can be found, along with Sheriff Lombardo, on Kevin McMahill’s list of endorsers ,spoke admiringly of his preferred candidate and the challenges faced with instituting reform.
When asked if McMahill was sincere in his views, Segerblom offered a succinct response, “I do.” Segerblom, who also served in the Nevada Legislature, brought up working with McMahill on a McArthur Foundation grant meant to, “improve the criminal justice process,” adding that McMahill who served 28 years with Metro was, “open to new ideas.”
Segerblom continued with his observations, pointing out that rank and file members of Metro, “can’t be dictated to, and must be part of the solution.”
He ended by stating that any lasting reform must, “come from both top and the bottom.”
While the Republican Sheriff’s primary election is still several months away, and with McMahill facing at least two announced opponents in former lawmen Tom Roberts and Stan Hyt, it remains to be seen if Sheriff Lombardo’s trusted number two can win the top post. If he does succeed, as Commissioner Segerblom pointed out, another challenge looms. McMahill will need to get the agency he would have been voted in to lead to buy into his vision in order to make it successful. Though there is no doubt as to what McMahill’s vision is and where his heart lies, whether he will be able implement such a sweeping overhaul of a notoriously conservative department remains the question.