Updated July 10, 2020 - 4:50 pm
The new unified police force overseeing security at UNLV, the College of Southern Nevada, the Desert Research Institute and Nevada State College will create citizen review and advisory boards by the start of the fall semester.
The University Police Services’ Southern Command, created through the consolidation of the four individual school police forces, will issue announcements soon seeking volunteers to serve on the citizen boards, director Adam Garcia said Thursday.
The review board will look at police administrators’ internal investigations and make a determination about whether their conclusions were appropriate.
“It’s advisory in nature, but I think it carries a lot of weight,” Garcia said. “Ultimately, the community should have a say in the transparency of the department.”
As for the citizen advisory board, it will allow local residents to understand what University Police Services does and will allow the department to solicit input, Garcia said.
The decision to create the civilian boards came after the May 25 death of George Floyd after a Minneapolis police officer kept his knee on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes despite his pleas that he couldn’t breathe. Floyd’s death sparked weeks of protests across the nation and prompted numerous police forces to change policies related to use of force during arrests and other issues.
Metropolitan Police Department, for example, announced Wednesday it updated its use of force policy to limit the use of a neck restraint technique known as the Lateral Vascular Neck Restraint.
Garcia said his department already had policies prohibiting the use of chokeholds and excessive force before Floyd’s death. The department reinforced its existing policy requiring officers to intervene if they witness another officer violating conduct standards. But the department added a sentence saying those who fail to do so will be subject to discipline, up to termination of their employment and/or prosecution.
He said the department also is working to implement an early warning system for officers whose behavior is problematic so it can be corrected through training or discipline.
Garcia cited reports that former Minneapolis police officer Derek Chauvin, who knelt on Floyd’s neck, had 18 prior complaints filed against him with the police department before Floyd’s death. Chauvin was arrested and faces second-degree murder and second-degree manslaughter charges.
University Police Services’ Northern Command, which handles security at the state’s northern colleges and universities, is also making changes in the wake of Floyd’s death. One is having social work interns in the department beginning in the fall, director Todd Renwick said at a July 2 virtual town hall organized by the Nevada System of Higher Education and the University of Nevada, Reno, student government.
Garcia, who has worked in law enforcement for about 40 years, said at the forum that “campus law enforcement has always been seen as a little different” because it doesn’t necessarily apply all of the same policing concepts as other agencies. He said his department uses a community-oriented style of policing.
Garcia called the death of Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police “callous,” “sickening” and deeply disturbing.
“This is a painful reminder that we have a lot of work ahead of us,” he said.