Police reform to take center stage during Nevada's 2021 session

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Members of the Nevada Assembly set the stage for police reform to be a hot-button issue during the 2021 session on Monday.

The Committee on Judiciary met with representatives from the Second and Eighth Judicial District Courts, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD), and Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association.

Lawmakers largely focused on police training and records management within LVMPD. In contrast, the department said past reforms are already doing the trick.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers passed Senate Bill 287, legislation that made it cheaper and easier for the public to obtain and view public documents. However, Assemblywoman Shondra Summers-Armstrong, D–Las Vegas, says it still takes too long, costs too much, and it’s still too complicated for the public to obtain body camera footage.

Chuck Callaway, director of LVMPD’s lobbying division, described the bill as “robust” and said it forced the department to create a Public Records Division to focus solely on providing records. A records requestor can also view body camera footage at a local police department.

Callaway said releasing body camera footage is predicated on the department’s ability to quickly redact video clips. He added the department also receives a large number of requests from lawyers asking for footage of car accidents, which clogs the system.

“The laws and technology we have requires us to go through the film frame by frame and redact anything of a privacy nature. Obviously, that’s time consuming,” he said.

Lawmakers also took umbrage with LVMPD using a privately-funded training facility for its officers. Callaway said budgetary constraints wrought by the COVID-19 pandemic made it necessary.

“We could not fund a facility like this through the normal budget process,” Callaway said. “Especially, with the budgetary constraints placed on us by COVID-19.”

LVMPD cut nearly $20 million from its 2020-2021 budget because of the pandemic, Callaway added. This caused the department to eliminate part-time positions and mounted patrol units that often attend special events.

Others focused on LVMPD’s use of force policies. Assemblywoman Cecelia Gonzalez, D–Las Vegas, asked how the department is tracking protesters after the George Floyd protests last summer that left over 80 LVMPD officers injured.

LVMD began its reform process in 2011 after a series of investigations by the Las Vegas Review-Journal depicted that the police force had run amuck. Following the reports, LVMPD received 75 recommendations for reform.

Implemented reforms include establishing the Office of Internal Oversight and Constitutional Policing, which is responsible for “[providing] a continual review process for all issues surrounding the use of deadly force by police officers,” according to the agency’s website.

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