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May 24, 2015

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Police union will try to block coroner’s inquest changes

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Steve Marcus

Clark County commissioners debate changes to the inquest system during a meeting at the Clark County Government Center Tuesday, October 5, 2010.

Updated Monday, June 20, 2011 | 4:58 p.m.

The Police Protective Association will file legal action on Tuesday to block changes to the coroner's inquest process in cases of fatal officer-involved shootings.

The police union had pushed for a bill during the legislative session to eliminate coroner's inquests, but the effort ultimately failed.

An ordinance to revise the inquest hearing process was passed on Dec. 7, 2010. Changes include the establishment of an ombudsman to represent the victim’s family, the release of key evidence and investigative files, and the restructuring of meetings before the inquest hearing.

"A Petition for Writ of Prohibition and a Petition for Writ of Mandamus in District Court will be filed on the basis that the recently adopted changes to the inquest process render it unconstitutional," the police union said in announcing a Tuesday morning news conference.

The inquest process, in use for 40 years, was scrutinized following the high-profile officer-involved killings of Erik Scott, shot last July at a Summerlin Costco, and Trevon Cole, shot in his Las Vegas apartment in June 2010. In the wake of public outcry, commissioners reviewed the inquest process and held a number of public hearings at the end of last year.

Police officers and their union representatives were opposed to the presence of an ombudsperson in the proceedings. They said the ombudsperson would make the proceedings adversarial.

A two-day coroner's inquest in the November 2010 officer-involved shooting of Benjamin Bowman is scheduled for July 12-13 and will be the first inquest to implement the new changes.

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association represents more than 2,800 rank-and-file police and corrections officers employed by Metro Police, and marshals employed by the city of Las Vegas.

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