The Reno and Sparks police departments have announced changes to their officer-involved shooting policies, to include the timely release of body camera footage related to officer-involved shooting incidents.
When a police officer discharges a firearm in the line of duty and a bullet strikes a human being, no matter how severe the injury, a highly proscribed officer-involved shooting protocol is enacted.
The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office, Reno and Sparks police, and the Washoe County District Attorney work together to investigate the incident. Since September 2014, the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office has evaluated 22 officer-involved shootings. There is no other mandated oversight.
According to the Washoe County Officer-Involved Shooting (OIS) Protocol, when a Sparks police officer shoots a person, the OIS investigation team cannot be from the Sparks Police Department. The Washoe County Sheriff’s Office or Reno Police Department conducts the investigation.
A forensic investigation team assesses the shooting scene in consultation with the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.
The OIS team conducts an interview of the officer. The officer has the constitutional right to not answer questions and have an attorney present during questioning.
Investigators interview witnesses and compile physical and other evidence. A report is delivered to the Washoe County District Attorney’s Office.
Until now, no law or departmental regulation mandates the public release of police officer body camera footage related to shootings. In the past, the District Attorney released edited and redacted body camera footage when they issue a final report.
Under Nevada homicide laws and all other applicable provisions of law, the District Attorney evaluates each incident to determine if the shooting was justifiable.
Once the DA issues a final report, the case is considered closed. In the 22 officer-involved shootings since 2014, none have resulted in criminal charges being filed against a police officer. In brief, under Nevada homicide laws, if an officer fears for their life, whether an actual or perceived threat, police are authorized to use deadly force.
Police accountability activists have called for the more timely and comprehensive release of evidence related to officer-involved shootings, to include body camera footage.
Today, both the Reno and Sparks police departments released updated departmental regulations that mandate the release of body camera footage related to officer-involved shootings within 14 days of the incident.
A department may take as long as 30 days if more than one officer is involved or there are other justifiable complications.
Calls for greater police transparency have not subsided since the murder of George Floyd while in Minneapolis police custody and a riot at Reno City Hall on May 30.
Following 5 months of protests and loud, public requests to release the investigation materials, last week, Washoe County DA Chris Hicks released the report on the officer-involved shooting death of Sparks resident Miciah Lee.
In a press release, acting Reno police chief Tom Robinson said the change in the body camera policy is part of ongoing efforts to maintain good relations with the community.
Sparks Police Chief Pete Krall announced the change in body camera policy in a video released on YouTube earlier today.
“At all levels of government within the city of Sparks, we have heard the call for increased transparency, and we are working citywide to achieve that,” Krall said in the video. “Recently, the Sparks Police Department created the critical incident community briefing. You may have seen them on our Facebook page or other social media outlets. These briefings are related to officer-involved shooting incidents and are intended to increase transparency to better inform citizens of events in Sparks.
“Moving forward, the Sparks Police Department will release relevant vehicle fleet or body worn camera video of officer-involved shooting incidents within 14 days. If we are unable to meet that timeframe, we will make a public announcement detailing why and within expected timeframe for release.”
During Monday’s Sparks City Council meeting police reform activists called for greater police transparency and accountability, to include the timely release of body camera recordings related to officer-involved shooting incidents.
Monday evening, vandals defaced Sparks City Hall with red paint.
Brian Bahouth is the editor of the Ally and a career public/nonprofit media producer. Support his work in the Ally.