One simple phone call.
That’s all it would have taken to prevent a flap involving the presence of North Las Vegas motorcycle police Tuesday evening at a UNLV poetry competition partly sponsored by a Black Lives Matter group.
But instead, the seven officers showed up unannounced and proceeded to ride on the Student Union’s patio area, sparking concern among the event participants that the police were trying to intimidate the attendees.
Given the lack of notice and the vacuum of information, those concerns were justifiable. Why in the world would a group of North Las Vegas officers have had reason to be on campus, miles away from the North Las Vegas city limits, at the exact time of the competition?
City officials responded by saying the officers were conducting routine training and had no idea the event was taking place. As for the timing, officials said it was the city’s practice to conduct training during evening hours so as to limit disruptions.
But that explanation didn’t satisfy participants or university officials, and reasonably so. Questions remain, including why, in a city as big as North Las Vegas, the department apparently can’t find one single place to practice riding motorcycles in tight spaces.
Worse, the city contended it had an informal agreement with UNLV to use the campus as a training site, but the university said no such agreement existed.
Amid the confusion and lack of information, Black Lives Matter and the university’s NAACP chapter requested an apology from North Las Vegas and a face-to-face meeting with city officials.
It’s a fair request. The city should apologize.
That’s not to suggest the officers did anything wrong. There’s been no indication that their intention was to bully the crowd — in fact, a video of the patio area shows it to be empty as officers ride around tables. So the officers should be given the benefit of any doubt.
This is also not a show of disrespect for law enforcement. Regardless of where they serve, officers richly deserve the community’s cooperation and support.
But respect goes both ways, and the city should acknowledge that the unannounced presence of the officers was hurtful. There’s nothing ignoble about apologizing for an inadvertent mistake — in this case, not notifying the university.
City officials have already acknowledged that the lack of notice was a failure on their part. And although it hadn’t been the city’s policy to give notification, Police Chief Alexander Perez has indicated through a city spokeswoman that he believes it’s a good practice to follow.
So taking the next step and apologizing would help ease the hurt feelings and shore up trust that might have been strained. It’s the right thing to do.