Clark County juvenile justice director fired for using racist terms when referring to teens

Clark County juvenile justice director fired for using racist terms when referring to teens

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LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — The former head of Clark County Juvenile Justice Services was fired last year for using racial slurs and derogatory terms when describing teens.

According to a report Clark County leaders commissioned, John “Jack” Martin created a toxic work environment during his tenure.

Kevin Eppenger, president of the Juvenile Justice Probation Officers Association, says that the environment is to blame for the 53 staff openings currently at juvenile justice, which is a quarter of the workforce. 

Those vacancies allegedly caused problems for officers, and the system, in holding teens accountable.

“We’re just trying not to compromise the community with juvenile offenders and try to work our best with the resources that we have and a limited staff,” Eppenger said.

Eppenger said former director Martin needed to go.

“I think the county did the right thing,” Martin said.

A law firm the county hired in April of 2023 to investigate the allegations issued a scathing report, detailing Martin’s bad behavior.

Martin was quoted as referring to black children as “Pookie and Ray Ray” terms that his black colleagues considered racist.

DJJS staffers told an investigator with the firm Littler Mendelson that Martin would also call incarcerated teens “black and brown boys,” which Martin denied saying when questioned.

According to the report, employees heard Martin saying “if [staffers] spent less time sleeping with each other and more time working everything would be fine.”

Martin also kept chocolate in the shape of male genitalia in the DJJS employee freezer, according to the report.

Eppenger, who brought these allegations to county commissioners in March of 2023, says things haven’t improved.

“He’s out but a lot of the ideologies, the philosophies. We’re still kind of dealing with it,” Eppenger said.

He adds that it’s impacting the ability to create a productive workplace for staff at a time when youth violence is increasing.

“The teen violence to me is out of hand. Statistically look at the guns that are found on the campuses of the school. Statistically, how it’s heading, we’re going to have a crowded population in the penitentiary if we don’t do what’s necessary soon,” Eppenger said.

From Aug. to Dec. of 2023, CCSD police officers seized a total of 34 guns both on and off campus.

According to a Clark County spokesperson, the county has launched a nationwide recruitment to fill the role of director at the Department of Juvenile Justice Services.

In the meantime, deputy county manager Abigail Frierson is serving as department head.

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