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Sheriff pulls controversial fee proposal after community outcry

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
Washoe County Sheriff's Office during a peaceful protest against ICE, July 11, 2020. Image: Trevor Bexon

The Washoe County Sheriff’s proposal to charge $200 an hour for bodycam footage was met with stiff opposition in recent days after it was scheduled to be heard by the Washoe County Board of Commissioners at tomorrow’s commission meeting.

Today, Sheriff Darin Balaam announced he was pulling the item after receiving community feedback.

“I have heard the concerns of our community members since the Board of County Commissioners agenda was published,” Balaam said. “The public’s worries have not fallen upon deaf ears. It is not the intent of my Office to reduce or deteriorate the transparency, trust and accountability the Sheriff’s Office has built with the community we serve.

“We realize our office may have situations that occur within our community that are of significant public interest. We will strive to make these videos available to the community in a timely fashion – and offer the community the opportunity to review footage and help us improve where and how we can.”

Balaam said citizens can review bodycam footage at no cost at the Sheriff’s Office.

“For individuals involved in an encounter or for members of the public involved in any incident, there is no charge to view Body Worn Camera, in-car or detention facility footage in the viewing room at 911 Parr Boulevard,” he said.

The Nevada Open Government Coalition strongly protested the proposal, as did the Black Caucus of the Democratic Party of Washoe County.

“This comes on the heels of reports since 2017 of increasing deaths in the WCSO’s prisons and at a time when there are calls for more accountability, and transparency, and a failure by the WCSO to implement the minimal oversight guidelines proposed by the Guinn Report, which stressed increased accountability and one which the WCSO consented to participate in and implement its guidelines,” the Black Caucus posted yesterday on Facebook. “The Black Caucus of Washoe County stands in opposition to this request from the Washoe County Sheriffs Office and we encourage all people of good faith to oppose this measure as well.”

Holly Welborn of the Nevada ACLU said today law enforcement agencies should not be redacting officer images from bodycam footage at all. One of the reasons cited for the proposed fee increase was the amount of redactions the Sheriff’s Office said it had to make to video footage. During the 2019 legislative session, however, Senate Bill 242 originally included a provision to keep officer faces confidential, but that was later removed.

“They shouldn’t be blurring images,” Welborn said.

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