Commissioners pleased with new public process for police-involved shootings

After five months and three public reviews of police-related fatalities, Clark County commissioners are generally pleased with how the county’s new public fatality fact-finding review process works.

Commissioners on Tuesday heard a planned, routine report on the process, which offers the public a window into the decisions tied to cases in which police officers use deadly force.

Commissioner Chris Guinchigliani said the reviews serve a crucial function in getting information to the public, including the playing of 911 calls.

“I do think valuable information has come out,” she said.

But Guinchigliani said she is disappointed that the police won’t participate in the review.

Drew Christensen, director of the Clark County Office of Appointed Counsel, gave the brief presentation.

Each of the three reviews took place within one day, with testimony from the lead homicide detective of the investigating agency, he said. The reviews were streamed online and broadcast on Clark County Television, he said.

The commission in January adopted the review process, replacing the coroner’s inquest. Under the process, when an officer-involved fatality happens, the review is held if the district attorney makes a preliminary finding that there will be no criminal prosecution of the involved officers.

Each review has a presiding officer and an ombudsman. The ombudsman represents the dead person’s family and the public.

Unlike an inquest, the reviews have no firsthand witness testimony. The hearing officer accepts written questions from the public and has the authority to ask them or decline if they are “redundant, irrelevant, or an abuse of the review process” under the county’s ordinance.

Commissioner Lawrence Weekly thanked District Attorney Steven Wolfson, noting that he has worked with him to schedule town hall meetings about the issue. Weekly said those meetings are a good way for people to learn more about the process if they are uncomfortable with attending the fact-finding reviews.

Commission Chairman Steve Sisolak said he has attended and received good feedback about the reviews.

Commissioners made a minor change to the process, noting that the reviews end abruptly. They directed staff to have the hearing officer read a statement at the end of future reviews that outlines the purpose of the meeting, states that the investigation report is public and reminds people that the proceeding can be watched in full at www.clarkcountynv.gov.

Contact reporter Ben Botkin at bbotkin@reviewjournal.com or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.