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Criminal Justice | Economy & Business | Legislature

Assembly passes bills reversing police misconduct protections, addressing unemployment delays

The Assembly on Tuesday, Aug. 4, 2020 during the fifth day of the 32nd Special Session of the Legislature in Carson City. (David Calvert/The Nevada Independent)

Members of the Nevada Assembly voted 25-17 on Tuesday in favor of SB2, a measure that repeals some elements of a 2019 bill that critics say make it difficult to hold police accountable for misconduct.

Democrats Richard Carrillo, Skip Daly, Edgar Flores and Dina Neal joined Republicans in opposing the bill.

The measure, which passed the Senate Monday on a 13-8 vote, unravels some elements of SB242 — a bill sponsored by Democratic Senate Majority Leader Nicole Cannizzaro in 2019. That bill expanded a “Peace Officers Bill of Rights” intended to “provide much needed protections for members of law enforcement to successfully do their jobs.”

She said in a presentation to the Assembly that such provisions started emerging in various states’ laws in the 1980s and are "an acknowledgement of our appreciation and gratitude for the wonderful work of our first responders. They also shield our peace officers from unreasonable treatment and accusations by their employer."

SB242 passed unanimously in the Senate in 2019 and 36-3 in the Assembly in 2019, but has come under significant fire in recent months, especially amid Black Lives Matter protests in the wake of George Floyd’s death at the hands of Minneapolis police.

Cannizzaro added that "just because this was overwhelmingly supported by the Legislature does not mean that we cannot still be willing to revisit those policies when concerns arise."

Nobody spoke in favor of the bill on Tuesday, with many activists opposing because they said people affected by police shootings were not involved in its creation and arguing that the measure should fully repeal SB242. Some opponents said the language that remains in the law and grants authority to police unions means officers are still insulated from consequences.

"Essentially, in codifying the [police protective associations] collective bargaining agreement, you have delegated legislative authority to a police union and made it impossible for our elected representatives to hold police accountable for misconduct,” said Sarah Hawkins for the Nevada Attorneys for Criminal Justice.

Police interests, however, pushed back against the measure and urged lawmakers not to paint them with the same brush as the Minneapolis police.

“What has changed in the 12 months to necessitate amending this legislation [SB242]? Are there specific cases that have resulted in unjust results because of this bill?" said Ron Dreher of the Reno Police Protective Association.

Democratic Assemblywoman Daniele Monroe-Moreno said that while she voted for SB242 in the past, she realized the legislation had unintended consequences and said the Legislature needed to realize when it made a mistake.

“For those of you that say we didn’t go far enough and say that you were not listened to, that we didn’t hear Black and brown people, I’m a Black woman that worked in law enforcement and was proud of it,” she said. “But I’m also the mother of Black and brown children, and I know that as a community, as a nation, as a state, we can do better.”

Unemployment bill advances

Members of the Assembly voted 41-1 on Tuesday for a bill that gives the state more flexibility in addressing backlogged unemployment claims, with Republican Chris Edwards the lone opposition.

Edwards said the bill doesn’t address a litany of complaints that Nevadans have brought to legislators, including website glitches, not enough adjudicators and not enough knowledgeable customer service staffers.

“It’s not effective, and it will solve nothing. It simply doesn’t go far enough. It doesn’t do right by our people who have been hurting for all these months,” he said. “I simply cannot support a bill that would be this derelict in what we should be doing for our constituents.”

Democratic Assemblywoman Maggie Carlton, however, pushed back, highlighting the bill’s provision to secure seven more weeks of federally funded benefits for claimants and restructuring eligibility so those who are going back to work part-time in the hard-hit hospitality industry can keep drawing benefits. That way, she said, going back to work won’t hurt them more than it helps them.

“I believe that’s an extremely important part of this bill and I thoroughly disagree with the gentleman that just spoke,” she said. “These are good steps forward. It’s not perfect. We have more to do, but the flexibility that we have given the administration, with oversight from the Legislature … will make sure that we are part of the discussion and our constituents’ voices will be heard.”

The bill, which passed unanimously in the Senate, awaits consideration by the governor.

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