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Sheriff creates review board, refuses to answer questions about it

By Bob Conrad
Washoe County Sheriff's Office. Image: Bob Conrad.

Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam recently announced a review board to examine “major cases involving Sheriff’s Office personnel,” but when pressed for details, Sheriff’s Office Public Information Officer Sarah Johns supplied few details about the board.

The board, according to a news release issued by the sheriff, was stated to be about improving relationships with the public.

“We always want to examine what we are doing and how we can do things better,” Balaam said in the press statement. “Reinstating this board will help the Sheriff’s Office ensure we have the forum to reassess and evaluate major interactions Deputy Sheriffs have with the general public on a regular basis.”

Johns, however, was light on details and would not say if the public would have the opportunity to provide input on the cases being reviewed — specifically, whether the results of the board’s review would be made public, whether its meetings would be publicly agendized and whether the board’s findings would be made public.

This Is Reno asked whether Deputy Sheriff Zach Malizia’s Facebook comments supporting insurrectionists who attacked the U.S. Capitol Jan. 6, 2021 would be part of the review, or whether the new board was prompted by the recent arrest of former Sheriff’s Sergeant Dennis Carry. 

Johns did not answer the question.

“The review process shall be completed through an administrative review at the division captain level, directed to the Major Case Review Board, or directed to the Office of Professional Integrity (commonly called Internal Affairs),” she said. “The purpose of the Major Case Review Board is not to discipline an employee, it is to audit and improve our training methods and policies and procedures.”

The board will also comprise, primarily, people in law enforcement.

“The review board is an internal working group whose primary intent is to continuously review current training, tactics, policies, procedures, equipment, etc. to ensure we are implementing best practices,” Johns said. “Typically the [subject matter experts] will be the most experienced training division expert. Many of these individuals are not only experienced, but have been certified in their area of expertise by outside entities (example: Taser certified ‘Master Instructors’).”

There could come a time when external subject matter experts may be called upon i.e. DA’s Office, etc.,” Johns added.

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