When I drove into Vegas in 2013, the notion of making a documentary about police corruption was the furthest thing from my mind. I’d come to Vegas to relax after finishing up work on a grueling television show. The program I’d just finished editing was a true crime show about cops tracking down bad guys. I’d spent most of my career editing shows like this and the notion that cops could be the bad guys was not something I’d spent much time thinking about.
That all changed when my friend Rhett Nielson and I were walking through a parking lot in Las Vegas and saw a group of police officers torturing a stranger. The man was handcuffed in front of a police car and was not a threat, so I couldn’t understand why the officers were swearing at him and tugging on his handcuffs and making him scream. Frankly, they seemed to be enjoying it and my friend Rhett was as horrified as I was. Rhett was a former videographer for the Las Vegas SWAT team and had videotaped dozens of arrests, but I could tell from the look on his face that he’d never seen anything quite like this and he was as appalled by these cops behavior as I was. I called 911 and reported the incident. A couple minutes later, I got beat up, arrested, and thrown in jail by the same cops who tortured the stranger!
Needless to say, I was shocked! I was even more surprised when I reported officers Mark Belanger, Kyle Frett, and Jared Casper to LVMPD’s Internal Affairs department and they decided to do absolutely nothing about it and when I obtained a copy of my police report, I quickly understood why: Officer Cole Erskine’s police report was full of fiction. Many of the things he said happened in the report flat out did not happen and were written to justify beating me up and arresting me. The club where my arrest occurred had video cameras all over the parking lot, so I contacted them to try and obtain a copy of the video and was told no footage exists because the cameras weren’t recording that night. I told the employee I didn’t believe him, but it didn’t matter. He was under no obligation to give me anything unless I brought a lawsuit against the LVMPD and I knew without video, it was 3 police officers words against mine and Rhett’s. In a town where you can get beaten up, arrested, and thrown in jail simply for making a phone call to report police brutality against a stranger, I couldn’t help but wonder what else LVMPD has done. I discovered that behind the glittering lights, the real Las Vegas is a rigged game of corrupt policing and institutional cover ups.