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Sisolak signs pair of police reform bills into law

Updated May 25, 2021 - 8:36 pm

CARSON CITY — Gov. Steve Sisolak on Tuesday signed a pair of police reform bills that passed the Legislature with unanimous support that will limit no-knock warrants and give the attorney general’s office the power to investigate patterns of civil rights violations by police departments.

The signing of the two bills, which were championed by Attorney General Aaron Ford, came a year after the day of the death of George Floyd, who was killed by a Minnesota police officer.

“Today we took one more step toward justice,” Ford said at a news conference to highlight the signing of Assembly Bill 58 and Senate Bill 50.

SB50 puts new restrictions on when a court could approve a no-knock warrant.

AB58 gives the attorney general’s office the authority to conduct “pattern and practice” investigations to probe civil rights complaints made against police departments and make recommendations on changes for the departments.

The legislation came as a direct result of the killings of Floyd and Breonna Taylor, who was shot to death by police during a raid at her home in Louisville, Kentucky, in March 2020.

Ford said he hopes the bills can help rebuild some trust between communities of color and law enforcement.

“The level of perpetual anxiety,” an emotional Ford said before pausing a long moment to compose himself, “that we have to exist with is just an unfair burden.”

He said his personal experiences as a Black man and as the state’s top law enforcement officer give him a unique perspective on relationships between police departments and the Black community.

“I’m a Black man married to a Black woman, raising three Black sons and a Black nephew. I was that before I was attorney general. I’m that as attorney general. And I will be that when I am no longer attorney general,” Ford said. “So this seat that I sit in is one that is unique, and one that I must speak to.”

The pattern and practice investigations would allow the attorney general’s office to look into and identify systemic issues within police agencies, including the use of excessive force, biased or discriminatory policing and violations of constitutional rights.

AB58 drew support from civil rights advocates as well as law enforcement groups, although open government advocates raised concerns about a part of the bill that will keep the investigative documents confidential.

“Supporting communities of color and lawful policing is not the antithesis of supporting law enforcement. Recognizing police violence does not make someone anti-police,” Ford said.

Sisolak said in a statement that the bills represent a step forward in honoring Floyd’s and Taylor’s memories by addressing “long-stemming injustices in our country.”

“Nevadans deserve to feel safe in their own homes and communities, and it’s critical that they trust that those charged with protecting them do so with integrity,” he added.

Contact Capital Bureau Chief Colton Lochhead at clochhead@reviewjournal.com. Follow @ColtonLochhead on Twitter.

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