Nevada Lawmakers Pass Controversial Bill Removing Protections For Officers Under Investigation

A rally in support of law enforcement organized by the Nevada Republican Party on Thursday, July 30, 2020, outside the Legislature in Carson City. (DAVID CALVERT / NEVADA INDEPENDENT)

Lawmakers in Nevada are rolling back protections granted to law enforcement officers under investigation. The protections were just put into place last year. Law enforcement agencies and progressive groups both denounced the bill.

Last year, lawmakers expanded certain rights for officers under investigation. Now, lawmakers in the Senate have introduced SB2, a measure to roll back some of those protections.

Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro (D-Las Vegas) sponsored the 2019 law but says it needs to be reexamined with SB2.

“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,” Cannizzaro said.

There are several provisions under the new bill. It requires law enforcement agencies to launch an investigation in a reasonable amount of time, but it doesn’t clarify what that timeframe should be. The new measure also extends the statute of limitations from one year to five.

Another change is that the measure prohibits an officer’s legal representation from viewing evidence until after an investigation is complete.

But that has police unions worried.

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

Also speaking in opposition, Brandon Cassinelli, a Reno police officer for 13 years, says the changes will hurt the good guys.

“Stripping civil liberties away from good officers with this bill is not the same as holding bad ones accountable,” Cassinelli said. “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.”

Civil rights organizations and progressive groups were also opposed, but for different reasons.

Gary Peck is the former Director of the ACLU of Nevada. He said the law passed in 2019 was among the most tone-deaf policing bills in the last two decades, and lawmakers aren’t doing enough to clean up the damage from it.

“SB242 was an utter abomination, an embarrassment, and just bad policy,” Peck said.

The organization’s current Policy Director, Holly Wellborn, said SB242, the legislation passed last year, should be repealed completely.

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

Despite those pleas, the new bill, SB2, which only eliminates some protections for officers under investigation, was passed on party lines for the most part, though four Democrats in the assembly voted against it.

SB2 is now headed to Governor Steve Sisolak for his approval. If signed, it’ll go into effect immediately.