Second Las Vegas Metro Police SWAT commander since October 1 Massacre with no SWAT experience - Baltimore Post-ExaminerBaltimore Post-Examiner

Second Las Vegas Metro Police SWAT commander since October 1 Massacre with no SWAT experience

LAS VEGAS — Clark County Sheriff Joe Lombardo has struck again with a brainstorm, or not.

Baltimore Post-Examiner’s article, Lombardo’s After-Action Review confirms incompetence, negligence led to October 1 Las Vegas Massacre,criticized Lombardo for failing to learn from events prior to the Massacre.

Once again, learning nothing from the night of the October 1, 2017, Las Vegas Massacre that left 58 people dead and almost 500 others injured by gunfire, Lombardo’s new SWAT commander, Lt. Melanie O’Daniel, has no prior SWAT experience.

LVMPD SWAT Lt. O’Daniel (Screenshot)

At a July 24 luncheon, Lombardo told the media that O’Daniel is the first female in the history of the LVMPD to head the SWAT Team and described it as a “big deal”.

One could make the case that it is a big deal as Lombardo said, because once again since the worst mass shooting in modern American history, the LVMPD’s SWAT Team is commanded by a lieutenant who has no tactical SWAT experience.

O’Daniel follows in the footsteps of Lt. William Huddler who commanded the LVMPD’s SWAT Team on October 1, 2017 until May of this year when O’Daniel took over.

Huddler also had no prior SWAT experience and was criticized by police officers who spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner last year, after Huddler ordered SWAT to respond to the South Central Area Command and not directly to the Mandalay Bay Hotel on the night of the Massacre.

The full SWAT Team never made entry into Stephen Paddock’s Mandalay Bay Hotel suite on the night of the Massacre as Lombardo told the public it had and entry wasn’t made into the suite until one hour and five minutes after Paddock stopped firing and then only with an ad-hoc team of patrol officers led by SWAT Officer Levi Hancock.

Lt. William Huddler who was commanding the SWAT Team on the night of the Massacre had just taken charge of the team in September 2017, according to his LinkedIn profile, and he too had no prior SWAT experience.

LVMPD Lt. William Huddler (LinkedIn)

Lt. James Melton, who would have been commanding the SWAT Team on the night of the Las Vegas Massacre had been on paid administrative leave since July of 2017, as the department was investigating allegations of elder abuse and fraud against Melton and several other persons.

Melton before taking command of the SWAT Team was a former SWAT Team member himself and therefore had prior SWAT experience.

Melton was indicted on multiple felony counts in February of 2018 and was relieved of duty.   According to court records his trial is scheduled for September 2019.

Retired LVMPD Capt. Larry Burns who passed away earlier this month, was the longest assigned SWAT commander in the history of the LVMPD, holding that title from 2002 through 2009.

Burns also had prior SWAT experience before being promoted to lieutenant and commanding the Team. From December 1990 through August 1996 Burns was a tactical operator and assistant SWAT Team leader, who had participated in more than 1000 tactical operations.

Lt. James Melton (LVMPD photo)

One Metro officer who spoke to the Baltimore Post-Examiner said that it was another Lombardo political correctness move that has finally made it to the SWAT Team, with no regard to the impact on the Team by having another inexperienced commander.

The ideal commander should be someone who has moved up within the ranks of a SWAT Team and who has extensive knowledge, skills, experience, and exceptional leadership skills because they are the tactical commander in charge of an entire life and death event.

I wish Lt. O’Daniel well in her new assignment, however, I believe commanding tactical operations should be the only assignment in a police department where you should not learn by on-the-job training.

As we learned on the night of the Las Vegas Massacre, having an inexperienced SWAT Team commander can lead to a bad command decision and that could very well have an impact on the safety of the public, if not the Team itself.

About the author

Doug Poppa

Doug Poppa is a US Army Military Police Veteran, former law enforcement officer, criminal investigator and private sector security and investigations management professional with 40 years of experience. In 1986 Mr. Poppa was awarded “Criminal Investigator of the Year” by the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office in Virginia for his undercover work in narcotics enforcement. He was also re-assigned to the Northern Virginia Regional Narcotics Enforcement Task Force for 18 months. In 1991 and again in 1992 Mr. Poppa’s testimony under oath in court led to the discovery that exculpatory evidence was withheld from the defense by the prosecutor and sheriff’s office officials during the 1988 trial of a man accused of attempted murder of his wife that led to his conviction. As a result of his testimony the man was ordered released from prison, given a new trial in 1992 and found not guilty. Mr. Poppa became the subject of local and national news media attention as a result of his testimony which led to the demise of his 12-year police career. After losing his job, at the request of the FBI, Mr. Poppa infiltrated in an undercover capacity a group of men who were plotting the kidnapping of a Dupont Chemical fortune heir and his wife in 1992. His stories have been featured on Inside Edition, A Current Affair, and CBS News’ Street Stories with Ed Bradley. Contact the author.

Leave a Comment

Comment Policy