Nevada passes policing bills, including a ban on chokeholds
CARSON CITY, Nev. (AP) — Nevada took its first steps toward joining the growing number of state Legislatures throughout the United States that have revisited laws governing police conduct in light of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, who died after an officer pressed a knee to his neck.
The state Senate and Assembly passed bills Saturday that, if signed into law, will ban the use of chokeholds and roll back protections afforded to officers during misconduct investigations in an effort to foster accountability.
After thousands of demonstrators flooded the streets of Las Vegas, Reno and other Nevada cities in late May and early June, Gov. Steve Sisolak and legislative leaders vowed to address protesters’ demands for reform.
Reform advocates, in particular, have demanded the repeal of a 2019 bill that strengthened protections for officers facing misconduct allegations, complicating statehouse Democrats’ efforts to position themselves alongside reform advocates and protesters.
The bill passed with near-unanimous support, with Democrats lining up behind its author, Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro, D-Las Vegas, despite opposition from criminal justice reform advocates.
Based on concerns raised since its passage, Cannizzaro said there was a clear need to revisit provisions both for the sake of officers and the communities they serve.
A bill she introduced Saturday to roll back certain provisions of the bill passed through its first committee hearing in the state Senate on a party-line vote, over objections from Republicans and police officer advocates who argued it would deny officers needed protections.
Progressive advocates also voiced opposition to the bill during public comment, arguing anything short of a complete repeal was insufficient action and concluding their remarks by saying “Black Lives Matter.”
Gary Peck, the former leader of the ACLU of Nevada, called the 2019 law “an utter abomination, embarrassment and just bad policy” and said Cannizzaro’s claim that its intent was to ensure labor protections didn’t make sense given the unrivaled protections already afforded to officers.
The proposal would remove limits on the use of officer testimony in civil cases, strip officers of the right to review evidence against them before testifying in departmental misconduct investigations and give victims more time to file complaints with police agencies.
If the bill passes through further Senate hearings, it will move to the Assembly and then to the Governor’s desk to be signed.
The state Assembly passed a separate bill Saturday that, if signed into law, will limit the use of chokeholds and other deadly force. It would also enshrine into law a “duty to intervene” for officers who observe unjustified uses of force and allow “only the amount of reasonable force necessary” during arrests.
The bill won bipartisan support in both chambers and will be considered on the Senate floor in the coming days.
Unlike the misconduct investigation bill, Assembly Bill 3 struck enough of a balance to win support from groups ranging from the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department to the ACLU of Nevada.
The bill arrives weeks after departments in Reno and Las Vegas enacted new policies to limit the use of neck restraints. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department does not consider carotid restraints to be chokeholds, but limited their use to life-threatening situations in July.
Nevada considers carotid restraints to be chokeholds.
Retired Reno police detective Ron Dreher, speaking on behalf of the Nevada Public Safety Officers Alliance, called the bill was “anti-police and pro-criminal,” and would strip officers of tactics needed to protect and serve.
“Please do not paint the professional police officers of Nevada with the same brush as what occurred in Minneapolis,” he said.
Sam Metz is a corps member for the Associated Press/Report for America Statehouse News Initiative. Report for America is a nonprofit national service program that places journalists in local newsrooms to report on undercovered issues.