Tuesday, June 18, 2013 | 3:29 p.m.
The decision to replace the controversial coroner’s inquests into officer-involved shootings with a new hearing format split the Clark County Commission in January. But six months and three hearings later, commissioners had few complaints when the new process was brought up for review.
The issue: Commissioners held a scheduled review of the Police Fatality Public Fact Finding Review process to discuss any needed changes.
The decision: Commissioners advised staff to add a formal closing statement to the proceedings but otherwise left the process untouched.
What it means: The fact-finding review process into fatal officer-involved shootings will remain unchanged except for the addition of the closing statement.
Commissioners approved the new system, which moves the hearings out of the courtroom and relies heavily on testimony from Metro Police, in a split vote in January after the previous coroner’s inquest system had been derailed by legal challenges.
So far, three fatal officer-involved shootings have been reviewed, and commissioners seem to think the process is accomplishing its goal of spreading information and increasing transparency about the events that led up to the shootings. The hearings are open to the public and are also streamed live online.
One complaint shared by several commissioners is that the hearings end abruptly once all the testimony has been heard. This will be remedied by a closing statement that will be read by the hearing officer that explains the purpose of the hearing and that archived recordings of the proceedings can be found on the county’s website.
“I’ve sat through two out of the three and it did so abruptly end. There was no closure. I think something along this line makes sense,” Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said. “If somebody tunes in later, at least they’ll see some conclusion and why things were done.”
Giunchigliani, who opposed the new system in favor of smaller changes to the existing coroner’s inquest process, said she’s still disappointed that the hearings don’t include testimony from officers involved in the shootings. Instead, the three hearings held so far have relied almost exclusively on testimony from the Metro Police detective responsible for internally investigating the shooting.
“Even though I didn’t support the (police fatality review), I still think a publicly vetted procedure makes sense,” she said. “I do think valuable information has come out. … I think my biggest disappointment still is that police won’t participate.”