The second special legislative session of the summer was slated to begin Thursday, July 30, but yesterday Nevada Governor Steve Sisolak announced the special session would not begin until at least Friday. The Nevada GOP had organized a rally on the steps of the Legislature to protest the possibility of enacting police reforms during a special session and held the rally today regardless.
Beginning at 8 a.m., pro-police supporters and supporters of President Trump arrived at the Legislature with flags and signs that read Defend Police, Support our LEO and God Bless the Police, among many Trump 2020 signs.
In addition to discussions on COVID-19-related issues, election reform, and unemployment benefit problems, the special session could potentially dig into police reform, a possibility that inspired today’s rally.
In a July 6 letter sent to Gov. Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford, Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro and Speaker of the Assembly Jason Frierson, local leaders of the ACLU, NAACP and PLAN, asked the Governor to call a special session to address police reform.
Requested reforms include greater access to officer body camera footage, independent oversight of police conduct, ending qualified immunity, and more.
Attorney General Ford has been holding weekly round table discussions with both union leaders and police reform advocates since the killing of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody.
Nevada police union leaders are on record in support of some requested reforms, including enlisting social workers to respond to calls regarding mental illness instead of, or along with police, and additional training.
One bill, SB 242 which passed both the Nevada State Senate and the Assembly by wide margins during the 2019 Legislative Session, is criticized by police unions as “protecting bad cops.” Police reform advocates also criticize the law.
The bill sets limits on how police officers may be questioned by their superiors when they are suspected of wrongdoing, allows officers to “cool-off” for 48 hours before being questioned regarding an alleged crime committed, and can only be questioned for up to four hours, allowing as many breaks as the officer requests during that time.
The law also allows officers to look into the complaints against them, which includes personal information of the civilian or fellow officer who filed a report against them, prior to being questioned by superior officers.
The bill provides a one-year statute of limitations, so an officer cannot be investigated for wrongdoing one year after the crime allegedly took place.
Multiple police unions and associations criticize the law, including Eric Spratley who is the president of the Nevada Sheriffs and Chiefs Association, as protecting bad cops and limiting the ability to investigate them.
“This only protects bad cops, and we don’t want bad cops,” said Spratley during one such round table. “You want police reform in the special session? Reform that bill. That was a bad bill.”
The Nevada Police Union tweeted on June 7 that they support police reforms that “protect people of all ethnicities and backgrounds, our vulnerable communities, and our peace officers in harm’s way.”
They further stated that they “stand with peaceful protesters in this fight for social justice, and we ask they stand with us and condemn violence against police.”
Several Republican representatives added their support for law enforcement during brief speeches made this morning on the Legislature steps.
Assemblywoman Robin Titus, Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy, Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen, Nevada state Senator Ira Hansen, former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, and a retired U.S. Marshal spoke during the rally.
Titus, whose husband is a retired Lyon County Sheriff’s Office deputy, stated that “We’re here to defend the police.”
Assemblywoman Melissa Hardy said, “I fully respect law enforcement and their sacrifice, and their families’ sacrifice every day. We’re going to fight for them and fight for their rights.”
Most speakers agreed that there are a “few bad apples” in law enforcement, but that it’s not right to judge all law enforcement officers based on the actions of a few.
The only speaker to touch on race was Senator Ira Hansen, who stated that the police have saved “tens of thousands of black lives” and “go into neighborhoods some of us would never go in.”
“Let’s face the facts, there was a 29-year-old officer who was shot in the back of the head at a protest,” continued Senator Hansen. “People all across the country are familiar with George Floyd, but do you hear about that officer?”
He went on to say that, “Black people are buying firearms, because Black people know if you take the police out of their neighborhoods and defund the police, they’re going to need them.”
Former Assemblyman Jim Marchant, who was defeated in the general election in 2018, is running for Congressional District 4, stated that this upcoming election is the “most important election in our country’s history.”
“Can you imagine we would have ever come to the point any legislator would be thinking of defunding our law enforcement?” Marchant asked the crowd. “We need to get people elected that think like we do. Three out of four seats are Democrats. Voting is critical to get our country turned around.”
Gov. Sisolak said that the special session will not begin until Friday, or possibly into the upcoming weekend. He said he will issue notice for the special session once he feels confident it is ready to begin.
Kelsey Penrose is a native Nevadan journalist covering everything from hostage crises to dog parades in the Northern Nevadan region. Support her work in the Ally.