Inquest plan awaits panel, public review


Changes that would get the inquest process back on track probably won't come until December - at the earliest - Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said Wednesday.

Giunchigliani, who during Wednesday's commission meeting proposed changing the county code on the investigations of police-involved deaths to comply with a Nevada Supreme Court decision, said she is waiting until next month out of respect for other commissioners and the community, who might want to make other changes.

She will hold a discussion about the subject during the board's Dec. 4 meeting, she said.

After that, she will reintroduce her proposed ordinance, which could be heard as early as Dec. 18.

Giunchigliani proposed revising the code to give hearing masters, instead of justices of the peace, oversight of inquests. Supreme Court justices, ruling last month on a lawsuit filed by police, found that inquests did not violate officers' rights but that the county couldn't require that justices of the peace conduct the quasi-legal proceedings.

There are 20 police-involved deaths, including three fatal shootings by officers in the past week, awaiting an inquest hearing.

Officers have said they won't participate in the process.

Giunchigliani said she wants to get inquests back on track, even if they lack officers' participation.

"That's their right not to show up," she said. "That shouldn't be why we make public policy."

Several people voiced their support for changing the code and getting the process back on track during Wednesday's meeting, including representatives from the Las Vegas NAACP and American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada.

"The purpose of the inquest is not to assign blame," said Richard Boulware, first vice president of the Las Vegas chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. "It is not to point at the police. It is to give relief to the families to understand what happened to their loved ones. The time is now to act."

Gina Greisen, a local advocate, begged commissioners to move ahead with the process.

"I'm a fifth-generation Nevadan," she said. "I have a right to know why my police department felt that deadly force was necessary. The public deserves to know that."

Clark County has held inquests - quasi-legal hearings in front of a panel of citizens - into police-involved deaths for more than four decades.

But they stopped in 2010 after two controversial Las Vegas police shootings prompted commissioners to overhaul the process.

The board's changes included allowing a county-appointed lawyer to represent the family of the deceased and ask questions of the involved officers, in addition to a county prosecutor. Those changes prompted officers to sue.

Contact reporter Lawrence Mower at lmower@reviewjournal.com or 702-383-0440.

 

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