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Home > Featured > Another bill would require law enforcement agencies to have written use-of-force policies

Another bill would require law enforcement agencies to have written use-of-force policies

By Jeri Chadwell
In front of Bruce R. Thompson Courthouse and Federal Building

Republican Assembly member Lisa Krasner on Friday presented Assembly Bill 268 to the Committee on Government Affairs. The measure—dubbed “Miciah’s Law” in honor of 18-year-old Miciah Lee, who was killed by Sparks police officers in January of 2020—would require every law enforcement agency in Nevada to adopt a written use-of-force policy.

A similar measure was introduced yesterday in the Senate Judiciary Committee at the Nevada Legislature.

Lee was killed by police following a car chase through Sparks after his mother had called police and told them he was intent on committing suicide or dying via “suicide by cop.”

Krasner was with her two sons when she learned that Lee’s death had been ruled as a justified killing by police.

“Thinking about my own two sons, who are about the same age as Miciah, it had a profound impact on me. I wondered if there was a better way to handle this type of situation, and that is where I got the idea to bring this legislation,” she said.

Krasner said the goal of this bill is to accomplish four things:

  1. Ensure every law enforcement agency in the state adopts a written use-of-force policy.
  2. Require police officers to use de-escalation techniques.
  3. Alternative to use of force, send an officer who’s been trained in crisis intervention to respond to incidents in which a person has made suicidal statements, when possible.
  4. Ensure that officers not use deadly force when a person only poses a danger to themselves and not others.
Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner during the 32nd Special Session on Aug. 1, 2020 where she spoke about AB 3, also sharing her concerns about Miciah Lee's killing. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)
Assemblywoman Lisa Krasner during the 32nd Special Session on Aug. 1, 2020 where she spoke about AB 3, also sharing her concerns about Miciah Lee’s killing. (David Calvert/Nevada Independent)

During her presentation to the committee, Krasner said she wanted to stress that law enforcement agencies do good things for their communities, which she believes often go unnoticed. She cited community engagement events like the Washoe County Sheriff Department’s “shop with a cop” events, community resource fairs and education programs for inmates.

“But, nevertheless, these programs will not bring 18-year-old Miciah back,” Krasner said. “There must have been a different approach that could have been taken on the evening of Jan. 5, 2020 when law enforcement officers were aware that they were dealing with a person who was mentally disturbed and suicidal. I believe that de-escalation techniques and crisis intervention by trained officers would have yielded a different outcome.”

Krasner was joined by two others in presenting the bill—Stephanie McCurry, current president of Reno-Sparks NAACP, spoke in support of the bill; and Lonnie Feemster, lifelong Nevadan and former, five-term Reno-Sparks NAACP president.

“As you may know, individuals with mental illness are more likely to have an encounter with law enforcement officers or other first responders than the average citizen,” McCurry said. “AB 268 offers training in a different kind of force. It equips officers with the ability to communicate expertly in greater detail with both those who suffer from mental illness and with their families. How powerful.

“With proper crisis intervention training, law enforcement officers have an extraordinary opportunity. They have an extraordinary opportunity to deliver a level of persuasion that can guide persons to a facility for extended care or follow up treatment. The intention of AB 268 is to avoid loss of life.”

“To lose public trust does great harm to many citizens. To needlessly lose a life causes a great sadness to many.”

Feemster told legislators on the committee his concerns about the issue.

“I have watched too many body camera videos of young men under severe mental distress who have lost their lives because of a lack of policy and practice that would reduce the likelihood of a deadly encounter with law enforcement personnel,” he said. “Passage of AB 268 will help to provide a higher level of trust in our law enforcement. To lose public trust does great harm to many citizens. To needlessly lose a life causes a great sadness to many.”

AB 268 received testimony in support from the Washoe County Public Defenders Office, the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada, the Nevada Attorney General’s office, the Las Vegas Metro Police Department, the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office (WCSO) and others.

Andrew Barbano—long-time member and officer of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, editor of the Nevada Labor newsletter and writer for the Sparks Tribune—gave testimony in support of the bill. He decried the fact that Sparks police did not call for help from the Mobile Outreach Safety Team (MOST), which operates with the help of trained psychiatry clinicians, to respond to Miciah Lee’s incident.

“They knew that he was mentally ill,” Barbano said. “They chose not to use the rapid response system to bring in psychiatric professionals to de-escalate the situation. This is why the video that’s posted online has been carefully edited by the Sparks Police Department to cover up Miciah Lee’s execution by the Sparks cops. I’m speaking from experience. I’m speaking from what I know. Go watch it. It’s disgusting to look at even with the edited-out portions. So, it’s going to cost the City of Sparks a few million bucks. Who cares? It’s just a Black kid.”

During discussion of the bill, Republican Assembly member Jill Dickman questioned if the justified use of deadly force would become more difficult to determine were AB 268 passed. Krasner responded that both WCSO and Las Vegas Metro PD are already following the prescriptions laid out in the bill and said Dickman could ask the representatives of either agency that question, as both were on hand to provide testimony in support of the measure.

“It sometimes concerns me when legislators who aren’t experienced in law enforcement and critical snap-decision situations make laws dictating how police officers should do their jobs. But, so, if the police are good with this, then certainly I’m good with it,” Dickman said.

No testimony in opposition or in a neutral position was provided on the bill, and no action on it was taken by the committee.

In closing the hearing on AB 268, Committee Chair Edgar Flores expressed his surprise and appreciation that a Republican, Krasner, had brought forth the bill.

“I never expected to see you with all the progressive groups right behind you, so I appreciate you working with so many folks. We appreciate the spirit of the work you’re doing,” he said.

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