Attorney General offers possible police reforms to lawmakers | NevadaAppeal.com
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Attorney General offers possible police reforms to lawmakers

By Sam Metz AP/Report for America
FILE - In this June 2, 2020, file photo, Las Vegas police block off a road at the Circus Circus hotel-casino after an officer was shot during a Black Lives Matter protest in Las Vegas. Officer Shay Mikalonis, 29, was shot during protests over the death of Floyd at the hands of police. Mikalonis is paralyzed from the neck down, on a ventilator and unable to speak, his family said in a statement released by police.
Christopher DeVargas/Las Vegas Sun via AP

Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford has sent state lawmakers an ambitious list of police reform proposals that, if passed, could ban practices like chokeholds and give the attorney general’s office power to investigate police department practices.

The “Legislative Options for Policing Reform List,” written by Ford’s staff, offers an idea of the policies being put in front of lawmakers for consideration.

In the list, which The Associated Press obtained through a Nevada Public Records Act request, Ford outlines 73 policy options that state lawmakers could take up when the Legislature next convenes — either in 2021 or a yet-to-be-announced special session.

As lawmakers throughout the country attempt to respond to calls for police reform, the list hones in on specific policies Nevada’s Legislature could consider, providing additional detail weeks after Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislative leaders said they intended to pursue additional reform, but didn’t go into detail about particular policies they’d back.

In an interview with the AP, Ford said the list is merely ideas, many of which have yet to be examined thoroughly.

“These are nothing but a delineation of ideas uncovered by research from folks in my office, in anticipation of leading a conversation on tangible outcomes that can be considered,” Ford said.

Ford emphasized that he didn’t endorse all of the document’s policy options and hoped, in addition to considering new bills, police departments and lawmakers would review whether policies in place were implemented fully. In a June 5 press conference, Nevada Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson said his 2019 bill to require law enforcement officers participate in annual de-escalation training hadn’t been fully implemented.

Although he has yet to vet all the ideas, Ford said he would support some of the document’s proposals, particularly those that would provide his office additional oversight power.

“I’m interested in some level of jurisdiction being appointed directly to my office in these types of circumstances, when we’re looking at excessive force by police officers,” Ford said.

The list includes several ideas to expand the attorney general’s oversight capacity, including establishing a new “Law Enforcement and Public Safety Accountability Unit” in his office that has jurisdiction over allegations of officer misconduct. In most Nevada police departments, misconduct allegations are investigated internally or by neighboring departments.

Ford also said he hoped for a “robust conversation” about tactics like chokeholds and knee holds. The list proposes establishing a statewide statute that would ban both.

The list contains ideas to reform training protocols, expand civilian oversight commissions, create a criminal statute for misconduct that results in injury or death, and implement a statewide riot-response policy.

The proposals to expand civilian oversight include allowing commissions to recommend how to prosecute officer misconduct and adding civilian members to the Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission — the agency that oversees law enforcement training and standards in Nevada.

Nevada’s biennial Legislature is next scheduled to convene in 2021, however criminal justice could be on the agenda in a possible special session.

Frierson, the Assembly speaker, said he had not had time to review the document sent to lawmakers by the attorney general’s office, but in a June 8 virtual discussion with Ford and other lawmakers, he said he wants police reform to be on the agenda in an upcoming special session.

“If there is a special session, I would be advocating for addressing timely issues in a special session,” Frierson said.

Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.