Public comment at today’s Reno City Council meeting was once again focused on the Reno Police Department response to the May 30 riot at Reno City Hall and related matters.
Today’s comments regarding the riot were more measured and less emotional than the week before, but pointed. Sara Richmond asked the City Council to consider models that cut funding for police activities and redirect the money to other community programs.
“I urge you to pay attention to the national conversations about defunding police and to enact a policy to defund Reno PD,” Richmond said during the electronic meeting. “With a little bit of research and reflection, I think you’ll find that it’s not as radical an idea as it may initially seem. It simply means divesting city budget funds away from policing and reinvesting in other city priorities, such as education, public health and community service.”
The 2018 City of Reno budget was $643,250,037. The Reno Police Department funding allocation for that year was $74,804,270, or roughly 12 percent of all spending.
It was revealed during today’s meeting that the City incurred some $1.8 million in police and fire overtime costs over the weekend of the riot.
After a few well-researched citizens called for expanded dialogue regarding the police budget and conduct oversight, Reno Mayor Hillary Shieve broke into the public comment agenda item to announce coming workshops and roundtable discussions yet to be specifically scheduled.
“There’s going to be extensive community engagement and input all across the board,” Mayor Shieve said. “I want everyone to know that I appreciate the last public commenters. Comments, I think, they’re extremely valuable and they’re valid.”
Shieve said considering the need to prevent large gatherings and maintain social distancing protocols, the meetings would likely be virtual.
“Much of the conversation will probably be virtual,” Shieve said. “We will come out next week with several … there’ll be town halls and roundtables and things like that with our Police Department, our leaders throughout the city, other entities and jurisdictions.
“It’s a very … there’s a lot of conversation to be had. This isn’t enough to just put policy in, it must be lifelong change. So I want people to understand that as much as you say ‘policy, policy,’ that only goes so far, if policy sits on the shelf. It doesn’t do us any good.
“So we need to make sure that we’re doing everything we can and uncovering every facet that we can work on. So I want everyone to know that there will definitely be dates. We will be promoting it. We will let you know. We want everyone at the table to have these conversations with us.”
Brian Bahouth is editor of the Sierra Nevada Ally and a career public media journalist. Support his work.