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Home > News > Senate reverses parts of 2019 police reform bill, removes protections for officers under investigation

Senate reverses parts of 2019 police reform bill, removes protections for officers under investigation

By Lucia Starbuck
Published: Last Updated on

Lawmakers in Nevada’s Senate and Assembly this week passed a controversial measure to remove protections for law enforcement officers.

For context, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, (D-Clark County), sponsored Senate Bill 242, which passed and went into law. SB242 provides certain rights to law enforcement officers under investigation, during the regular legislative session in 2019. SB2 will repeal some of the rights granted to police officers.

“Senate Bill 242 passed out of the Senate with unanimous support and nearly unanimous bipartisan support in the Assembly, as well,” Cannizzaro said. “However, I would note that just because this was overwhelmingly supported by the legislature does not mean, and should not mean, that we cannot still be willing to revisit those policies when concerns arise or when we hear more information from our constituents in our community, and Senate Bill 2 is an example of just that. It is an effort to balance legitimate worker protections and to ensure accountability and transparency for our law enforcement officers, so that we may build the trust with the communities that they serve.”

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, right, speaks with Secretary of the Senate Claire Clift on Sunday, Aug. 2, 2020 during the third day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (Pool Photo by David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

SB242 prohibits the statements officers make to be used in a civil case against the officer without their consent. SB2 would repeal that.

Currently, if an officer is under investigation, their representation can inspect any piece of the evidence. The new measure states the evidence can only be inspected after the investigation is done.

The bill has police unions worried.

Troyce Krumme is the Vice Chairman for the Las Vegas Police Managers and Supervisors Association, a union that represents Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) police and corrections sergeants, lieutenants and captains.

“The ability for an officer or a representative to inspect the evidence is key. Providing [access] offers the ability to be well-informed, prior to an interview, only gives them the ability to provide more informed answers,” Krumme said. “Officers are compelled to provide a statement, and they are required to tell the truth, or they are terminated, and rightfully so.”

SB2 also requires law enforcement agencies to launch an investigation within a reasonable amount of time. SB2 sets a five-year statutory limit to launch an investigation, whereas SB242 had a one-year limit. But, Krumme argues that the bill opens the window for investigations to be launched far after the incident itself.

“A five-year statute of limitations is unreasonable because asking an employee to remember something that occurred either in the workplace or in a police-related call without documentation to memorialize what occurred, would be too difficult to say in years three or four,” Krumme said.

Investigations also can’t be reopened without “new material evidence.” 

Under SB242, a case against an officer is automatically dismissed if the evidence was collected in a manner that violated the officer’s rights. SB2 states that a judge can only dismiss the case if the evidence is obtained in bad faith.

Law enforcement officers said SB2 would ultimately lead to unfair investigations.

Brandon Cassinelli has been an officer with the Reno Police Department for 13 years.

“Stripping civil liberties away from good officers with this bill is not the same as holding bad ones accountable. If you choose to pass legislation that is ill-informed and an obvious response to identity politics generated by an angry mob, I would ask you who you hope to continue to rely upon to defend you from that very angry mob.”

Cassinelli said the bill will harm law enforcement officers.

“Make no mistake, your passing [of] this bill means the mass exodus in staffing of police, lowering of quality applicants to begin with, an outright loss of officers due to their being murdered, alongside the consistently rising levels of first responder suicide,” Cassinelli said.

Community members say throw SB242 away

SB2 was bashed in public comment by advocates in the community as well, who felt the bill didn’t do enough to reverse SB242.

Holly Wellborn, the policy director for the ACLU of Nevada, said SB242 should be completely repealed.

“This is not what the community has asked for,” she said. “The actions that occurred in May in Minneapolis have shocked the country. We have uprisings all across the nation and our own community. The repeal of 242 was something that the community had asked for because there was much pain by affected family members.”

Others are still outraged at the passing of SB242 in the first place, including Gary Peck, the former director of the ACLU of Nevada.

“[SB242 is] the most tone deaf policing bill I have seen enacted in Nevada in 25 years,” he said. “It is time to stop with the, ‘This is a worker protection bill.’ I worked for a public employee union. I get what union representation means. Officers have Garrity rights; they have the police officer’s Bill of Rights; they have qualified immunity; they have collectively bargained contracts; they have a level of rights, due process and substantive that no one else has in this country. This bill, 242, was an utter abomination, and embarrassment and just bad policy. The suggestion that somehow all we’re trying to do is quote, ‘Balance things here,’ I think is ridiculous, and out of touch with reality.”

Leslie Turner leads the Mass Liberation project in Las Vegas. She said lawmakers failed to talk to communities impacted by police violence before introducing the bill.

“Our communities need time to be educated on what exactly our experience is going to look like when this legislation passes,” Turner said. “So, a lot of people keep saying, ‘The public doesn’t understand that this is not a bill to protect a bad cop ‘ Well, how do we know that, and how do you know the impact that it’s going to have on our communities when you’re not talking to us?”

A party line vote in Senate

Assemblywoman Alexis Hansen and her husband Senator Ira Hansen on Monday, Aug. 3, 2020 on the third day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

SB2 passed on party line votes.

Senator Ira Hansen (R-Esmeralda, Humboldt, Lander, Mineral, Nye, Pershing, Washoe counties) opposed the bill for similar reasons as to why he was against the three mining bills put before lawmakers during this special session.

“I’m just voting no because, again, it doesn’t belong in special session,” Hansen said.

Senator James A. Settelmeyer (R-Churchill, Douglas, Lyon, Storey counties) opposed the bill because it doesn’t address problems with law enforcement in his jurisdiction.

“The issue that I run into in my counties, which tend to be smaller, is actually that the sheriffs need far more latitude in getting rid of problem officers, and I feel that this bill does not give any significant reform in that respect,” Settelmeyer said.

But, Senator Melanie Scheible (D-Clark County) argued that the bill does help get rid of bad police officers.

“I think that it does give police organizations, law enforcement agencies, the latitude that they need to get rid of bad officers, and it also protects those good officers who do serve our community,” Scheible said.

The Assembly, after hearing public comment similar to that which was heard by the Senate, passed SB2 Tuesday 25-17, not on party lines.

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