Edmund L. Andrews: Sheriff Coverley: Retract and apologize

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Since when did Sheriff Dan Coverley get put in charge of the thought police?

And who told him he has the authority to ignore 911 emergency calls – from the Douglas County Library! – because he’s upset about a draft statement on diversity that mentioned Black Lives Matter?

On Tuesday, Coverley made statewide and national news by issuing exactly that threat in a letter to the library’s board of directors:

“Due to your support of Black Lives Matter and the obvious lack of support or trust with the Douglas County Sheriff's Office, please do not feel the need to call 911 for help,” Coverley wrote.

True, he backpedaled by Tuesday afternoon, pledging to “fairly and impartially” apply enforce the law. And true, the library board never adopted the statement.

But sorry, Sheriff: we can’t pretend this wasn’t profoundly wrong. For one thing, your thuggish threat is STILL on the official website.

More importantly, this type of threat is almost certainly illegal – even if it’s not carried out. It’s a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution’s 14th amendment, which guarantees equal protection under the law.

Coverley made himself sound like a B-movie mobster: “Nice library you got there – be a shame if anything happened to it.”

Regardless of what anyone thinks about Black Lives Matter, the job of law enforcement is law enforcement. It is NOT to decide when you will or will not protect public safety, based on whether you like someone’s political opinions.

As it happens, Douglas County law enforcement isn’t perfect on race. A recent ACLU study found that, between 2010 and 2016, Blacks in Douglas County were 21 times as likely as whites to have been arrested on marijuana charges.

Coverley has made Douglas County a state and national embarrassment. He even got us on NBC News – and not in a good way.

It’s not enough for the Sheriff to mumble contritely about applying the laws fairly and impartially. He should explicitly retract his threat, apologize for ever making it and open a real dialogue about race and law enforcement. If he can’t do that, he should resign.

Edmund L. Andrews, a former journalist, has lived in Douglas County since 2012.


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