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Council heaps praise onto police, mayor calls for five new police ‘centers’

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on

The Reno City Council yesterday heard budget presentations from the public works, fire and police departments. Both fire and police are up for a slate of new positions after falling behind for years in the ability to hire due to economic conditions and community growth.

Police Chief Jason Soto said the department has made great strides to improve and streamline services. He said the department has hired three clinicians to work with those experiencing homelessness, improved its dispatch standards and has developed its own forensic team, a service previously sent to the Washoe County Sheriff’s Office. He also touted the new public safety center, the old Reno Gazette Journal building.

He said the department has also taken aim at gangs by adding a new gang detective.

Soto expressed frustration by the volume of public records requests to the department. He said the city’s change in 2018 to an online public records portal increased the number of public records requests.

“It has a lot of good aspects to it because we simplified the process to get what it is they were looking for, but what it did was it doubled the amount of public records requests that we received,” he said. “It went up right around 100%, which created a huge workload.”

The department is seeking more than two dozen new positions. 

“We’re looking at identifying different types of revenue or revenue possibilities in the future to address more cops,” Soto said. “We need 50 to 100 police officers for a city of this size, in addition to what we already have.”

The mayor and most of the city council praised Soto and other RPD officials at the meeting.

“I think you are doing a tremendous job,” Mayor Hillary Schieve said. “I feel so strongly that we’ve got to keep funding and expanding on the services. 

“One of the things I would like to see is sort of community, sort of police centers in neighborhoods. I really think that should be our goal, so that when we talk about community policing that the residents in those wards know exactly their police officers and those relationships and who they’re dealing with, right? It creates a lot of confidence.”

She said each of Reno’s five wards should have its own community police station. 

“The next sort of vision is community policing in those wards and realing making sure that the fabric of this community is knowing everyone inside the neighborhoods they live in,” Schieve added.

Auditors found the lack of cameras in areas of the Reno Police headquarters on Second Street was a major security risk for the gun evidence area in the building. Image: Bob Conrad / This Is Reno

Audit finds numerous deficiencies

Council member Jenny Brekhus raised the issue of the $70,000 police audit, announced a year ago, that Brekhus said was never presented to the public. Read it here

That audit found RPD “provides quality law enforcement services” but called out the department for numerous deficiencies auditors said were primarily because of a lack of staffing and resources.

Auditors said the department has deficient processes for managing evidence, it lacks the ability to isolate data related to calls for mental health issues and “excessively long response times to high-priority calls.” Internal communications were cited as “a major organizational impediment.”

“There are a number of department functions that are understaffed; this is the case for both sworn and civilian positions,” auditors said. 

Lack of security at evidence locations was cited as risky – though the auditors noted RPD’s new public safety center will house evidence in the future.

“There is no camera at the door location, and essentially anyone who has access to the gym could forcibly gain access to the gun evidence area by forcing open the door,” auditors said of RPD’s evidence storage on Second Street. “This problem needs to be addressed immediately through the installation of a camera at the door and a solid core door with additional security.”

A burglary at RPD’s Commercial Road evidence location, where RPD stores vehicles used in crimes, prompted the auditors to say the location was insecure.

“In light of the recent burglary of the location, CPSM recommends that cameras, door card readers, and additional alarm systems must be installed at the warehouse,” auditors wrote. “Also, the building must be examined for areas that potentially allow for easy illegal entry by using little or no force. These security measures must be addressed immediately to avoid further burglaries.”

RPD’s Keystone Avenue location was also noted for not having basic security precautions.

The auditors said RPD has failed to abide by Nevada’s Public Records Act. 

“On occasion, some PRAs fall outside of the legal mandate for response,” they said.

Soto said some of what is in the audit “did sting in certain areas.”

“They work hard, all day,” he said of the department’s records division. “It’s important for me, for my executive team to recognize that, to recognize them – so now we have semi-annual awards ceremonies where we recognize our personnel for things that they’ve done.”

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