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May 24, 2015

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Commissioners discuss appointment of coroner’s inquest ombudspersons

Sheriff Doug Gillespie

Sheriff Doug Gillespie

Steve Sisolak

Steve Sisolak

The new coroner’s inquest process continued to take shape on Tuesday as the Clark County Commission discussed details of the most controversial of the changes — an ombudsperson to represent the families of those killed by police.

At the commission’s last meeting, Commissioners Steve Sisolak and Larry Brown opposed the changes, citing the ombudsperson as their main objection, although the measure still passed 4-2.

On Tuesday, Sisolak and Brown appeared more at ease with the idea, and Sheriff Doug Gillespie offered some recommendations about the requirements for potential ombudspersons.

As proposed by a review panel appointed to oversee the inquest process, the county would establish a group of ombudspersons that a family could request to have represent the deceased.

Although a representative from the police union objected to the presence of an ombudsperson at the commission’s last meeting, saying it would make the process “adversarial,” Gillespie said on Tuesday such a representative was “a key to the success” of a revised inquest process.

He then outlined suggested requirements for potential ombudspersons:

• They and their law firm should not engage in any litigation involving police officers and use of force for five years before and five years after an inquest.

• They should be paid.

• The county should conduct an oral interview before an applicant is included in the pool.

The review panel had recommended an ombudsperson be paid no more than $5,000 per inquest. Commissioner Lawrence Weekly also asked that there be minority representation.

Other previously discussed changes included using the term “inquest panel” instead of “jury,” eliminating a verdict and defining under what circumstances an inquest should be convened.

An initial list of ombudsperson candidates is expected to come before the commissioners, who must approve the final pool, in January.

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