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Nevada lawmakers ask CCSD police to change force policies

Updated March 22, 2023 - 6:28 pm

CARSON CITY — Lawmakers called on the Clark County School District School Police on Wednesday to alter its use-of-force procedures following an altercation between a student and police officer last month.

Superintendent Jesus Jara and school district Chief of Police Henry Blackeye fielded questions from lawmakers about the department’s procedures and use-of-force policies for more than two hours Wednesday afternoon.

Some of the lawmakers, including Sen. Dallas Harris, D-Las Vegas, called on the police department to change its policies.

“We’ve got to treat children a bit differently. I think your policies could easily be (the Metropolitan Police Department)’s policy and I believe that’s a problem,” Harris said. “I don’t see where we’ve taken into account that you all are dealing with children in the school environment.”

The joint meeting of the Senate Education and Judiciary committees focused largely on a video captured in February that showed a Clark County school police officer throwing a student to the ground.

The video, which was posted to social media, shows an officer — later identified as Lt. Jason Elfberg — grabbing a Black student and pulling him to the ground next to a police vehicle and placing a knee on his back. The incident occurred near Durango High School on Feb. 9.

Despite playing the video of the incident at the beginning of the meeting, state Sen. Roberta Lange, D-Las Vegas, asked lawmakers to refrain from asking Jara and Blackeye about the incident, citing the district’s ongoing investigation.

The Clark County School District Police Department said it was investigating the February incident after the video was posted to social media. The department said the incident was part of an investigation into a report of a firearm near a school.

Following the incident, Jara said the school district would investigate and directed school police to conduct a complete review of their use-of-force policy and protocols.

The video drew outcry from several members of the community and groups, including the NAACP, National Action Network and the American Civil Liberties Union of Nevada. The group is representing students involved in the altercation.

The Las Vegas Review-Journal requested a copy of the incident report, body camera footage and any prior complaints made against Elfberg, but Clark County School District refused to produce the records, citing the ongoing investigation.

During a news conference Tuesday, Jara declined to comment on the district’s refusal. The ACLU of Nevada has threatened to sue the school district if the records aren’t released within 30 days.

School district Chief Communications Officer Tod Story said the district was “in process of looking at what we can release” of the body camera footage because the video shows juveniles.

During a presentation on the department’s procedures, Blackeye shared data on use-of-force incidents that have occurred since the 2019 school year. According to Blackeye, there were 58 total use-of-force incidents during the 2019-2020 school year and 90 incidents in the 2021-2022 school year. There were no records for the 2020-2021 school year because in-person instruction was limited by COVID-19 restrictions.

There have been 38 incidents so far during the current school year. Eight of those involved pepper spray, two involved a taser and 28 involved “open hand” incidents, according to Blackeye.

Blackeye estimated that there have been five officers investigated for use of force over the last three years. He declined to say whether those officers were suspended or terminated, saying the outcome of those investigation wasn’t public information.

Contact Taylor R. Avery at TAvery@reviewjournal.com. Follow @travery98 on Twitter.

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