Replacement for coroner's inquest process leaves many displeased
Clark County commissioners replaced the old coroner's inquest process with a new review system called the "Police Fatality Review Process" in a 4-2 vote on Monday. Video by ktnv.comvideo
Las Vegas, NV (KTNV) -- Clark County commissioners replaced the old coroner's inquest process with a new review system called the "Police Fatality Review Process" in a 4-2 vote on Monday.
It's a public review of officer-involved shootings that don't undergo criminal investigations.
The new procedure will use a presiding officer and will be called upon by the District Attorney's office.
The public review of officer-involved shootings will be held at a venue like the Commission Chambers (or equivalent) instead of a courtroom-like setting. Hearing officers will preside, with prosecutors and an ombudsman also able to ask witnesses questions.
The ombudsman would represent the family of shooting victims.
However, the recently approved process has a lot of people unhappy; namely, the family members of victims who think the new process will still not be transparent enough.
"Major disappointment; I'm really unhappy right now," comments Rhonda Gibson, widow of an unarmed veteran killed by police in December of 2011.
Stanley Gibson's death, Rhonda's husband, will be the first shooting death to be reviewed using this new process, according to a Clark County spokesperson.
Opponents of the new process wanted another proposal to be voted through: one that would use a fact-finding panel and would allow independent witnesses to be called forward in the review process.
Opponents of the new process argue it's not enough & families will not have the closure they seek.
"Now ultimately what they end up with is a glorified press conference," comments Allen Lichtenstein, attorney for the ACLU of Nevada.
Meanwhile, the police union (a group that was adamantly opposed to the coroner's inquest process) has said they'll participate in the option approved today. A major shift in attitude & one that many hope will allow this new process to move forward.
"I think this ordinance [adopted today], allows for the public to get the facts and circumstances in police related deaths without being adversarial", says Chris Collins, president of the Police Protective Association.
The old system was put on hold when concerns about constitutionality were taken to the State Supreme Court. It created a backlog in the system which the district attorney has tried to mitigate in the meantime by issuing written statements on officer-involved deaths. It's the district attorney's office that determines which cases have evidence to be taken to a criminal trial.
District Attorney Steve Wolfson has said he will continue to issue written statements about police shootings but will fully cooperate in the new process.
Also slated to undergo this new process are the shooting deaths of: Ronald Morrison (10/29/12), Daniel Hathorne (11/02/12) and Justin Hoey (11-07-12). The aforementioned never had a coroner's inquest nor have received a District-Attorney-written review.