Attorney general candidate wants to tackle Nevada’s safety issues
RENO — Republican Wes Duncan says if elected attorney general he would focus on the causes of dangers to safety and security.
“I want to tackle the big issues that cause our communities to be less safe,” he said.
He said he believes the state’s chief law enforcement officer should be proactive in dealing with public safety issues, not reactive.
“As the top law enforcement officer, I’ve got to be focused on safety and security,” he said, “trying to be ahead of some of the trends we’re seeing instead of being reactive.”
Duncan served as first assistant attorney general to Adam Laxalt until announcing his candidacy late last year. In that role, he said, he was instrumental in crafting the policies to eliminate the backlog of 8,000 rape evidence kits and was vice chairman of the AG’s Substance Abuse Working Group.
To “hit the ground running,” he said, he has been holding a series of round-table discussions with law enforcement around the state to discuss public safety issues and challenges.
He said he recognizes the challenges of one part of Nevada may be different than other parts but there are common issues.
“The common theme coming out of most of these round tables is the need to address mental health,” he said.
Duncan said when people see someone with mental health issues causing problems they typically pick up the phone and call 911.
The deputy or police officer who responds, he said, normally has just two choices: “take them to jail, which isn’t the right place, or take them to a regular ER (emergency room) which also isn’t the right place.”
He said he’s discovering Carson City’s Mallory Center is a much better solution. The Mallory Center functions as an ER for those with mental health issues, providing social workers, psychologists and psychiatric professionals.
“It’s a model we should pilot throughout the rest of the state,” he said adding there should be similar centers in Elko, Reno and the south.
Duncan said he believes the AG’s office could use settlement funds to help create those centers as well as the Mobile Outreach Safety Teams that go out and fund the people who are constantly being caught in the legal system because of mental health and substance abuse issues.
“The key as I’m seeing it as early intervention,” he said. “In mental health and substance abuse, I think early intervention is the key to getting ahead of this violent crime in our communities.”
Key to that early intervention, he said, is fixing the information sharing problems among law enforcement agencies.
In addition, he said the AG is the state’s top legal adviser with a duty to state agencies and other constitutional officers including the governor. As such, he said he would work cooperatively with other state officials to provide them the best possible legal advice and assistance.
“I think people understand the importance of a strong AG,” he said.
Duncan has lived in Southern Nevada for more than a dozen years. He was elected to the Nevada Assembly in 2012 and again in 2014 but resigned the seat that year to accept the job as Laxalt’s top deputy.
Since leaving the AG’s office, he has been a partner at Hutchison & Steffen Law in Las Vegas.
Prior to that, he served more than four years as a lawyer in the Air Force Judge Advocate General Corps including prosecuting extremists in Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
He has been endorsed by 14 of Nevada’s 17 District Attorneys as well as Nevada sheriff’s and police chiefs.