Las Vegas police deputy chief Andy Walsh was the commanding officer during the tragic events of October 1, 2017 — the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history. For Walsh and his staff, the trauma will leave lasting scars, but he knows that they can come together to heal.

“It was a watershed event,” Walsh explains. “Something that you truly never overcome. We have to be vigilant every day to ensure that when our people are suffering, we utilize every available resource to assist them in coping with this tragedy. We have to remove titles, stigmas and barriers so they are comfortable to ask for help. We have to apply the same logic to our community, the impact on them, and be there if they need us to help them cope with what happened.”

Healing deeper wounds

Walsh has a strong sense of civic duty, and he’s committed to helping his community heal — not just by providing the resources for recovery, but by making positive and holistic changes in his city. He notes the opioid crisis and the national epidemic of mass shootings as key issues that must be tackled proactively.

“There’s a stark contrast between the amount of money that is spent on enforcement, investigations and health care related to overdoses versus how much is invested on education and treatment. Our efforts need to shift to a model that focuses on prevention. This is the clearest example of our inability to arrest our way out of our problems.”

Walsh cites homelessness as a similar issue, where law enforcement is unfortunately seen as the sole solution to the problem, with jails substituting as homeless shelters.

Looking to the future

Overcoming these issues won’t be simple, but Walsh is confident that a community-driven, transparent police force can go beyond law enforcement, and instead address the deeper issues in our society that lead to crime.

“The challenge for law enforcement is how to be the driver of solutions to this issue, and to be the head of a collaborative effort of service providers, elected officials, health care professionals and community members.”

Walsh hopes to leverage new technologies like body cameras to increase trust in police officers. But, most importantly, he wants his police force to help drive social change, not prop up a flawed system.