Chris Collins, executive director of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association (police union), last night said a coroner's inquest "jury" that is as diverse as the population of Clark County is not fair to law enforcement officers, suggesting that somehow diversity and fairness are mutually exclusive.
I attended the final meeting of the Coroner's Inquest Review Panel Monday night, where a panel brainstormed to come up with solutions to a process of investigating officer involved fatal shootings that is widely criticized by the public for being ineffective. I went partly to support friends on the panel but mostly to support a friend who has been a relentless advocate against the inquest process which sees officers walk free and the county using tax payer money to settle with victims.
From my seat in the Clark County Government Center commission chambers gallery I saw some news cameras and a few reporters scattered about. My hopes for good coverage disappeared when it was apparent that most of them weren't paying attention.
A cameraman sat in a chair and scrolled through his blackberry. A reporter who sat a few rows down from me was scrolling through his iPhone and giggling. Another reporter had her coat draped over her, slumped down in her seat and seemed to be dozing off (Ironically, during her evening news report, sleeping beauty said the meeting was "exhaustive").
So it's no surprise that there were no reports of Mr. Collin's offensive comments. There was also no report that the community members in the gallery erupted in applause after Mr. Collins was rebuked by Las Vegas NAACP representative Richard Boulware.
What was reported is interestingly the only bit of news Clark County tweeted: recently re-elected District Attorney David Rogers made a motion to remove his office from the entire coroner inquest process.
The purpose of the inquest is fact-finding in the occasion a police officer murders someone. The inquest brings out all facts and details leading to the murder for the public. A "jury" then decides if the use of force was justified, negligent or criminal. No punishments are made. Witnesses are not cross examined. Officers involved don't even have to participate. The last time an officer was found criminally negligent through this process was 1976.
Erick Scott was murdered leaving a Costco. Three Las Vegas police officers shot him in the chest and the leg. They then shot him five more times as he lay dying on the ground. He had a permit for the weapon he was carrying, but it was never removed from its holster.
Trevon Cole was murdered on his knees, in his bathroom, by Detective Bryan Yant (who has murdered a robbery suspect in 2001). Detective Yant claimed Mr Cole was dealing small amounts of marijuana to serviceman at the nearby Air Force base. But it turns out, Detective Yant had been targeting the wrong guy.
Erik and Trevon are just two of the six officer involved fatal shootings. Diversity isn't what we have to worry about when it comes to fairness. What isn't fair is for 36 years law enforcement officers in Clark County have gotten away with murder. In recent cases, these officers are cleared of all negligence despite mountains of evidence to the contrary.
Let's hope Mr. Collins can put aside his issues with "diversity", the Nevada press will wake up and the Coroner's Inquest Panel can come to a consensus on a solution that is not only fair, but just.
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