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Clark County Commission:

Speakers urge quick turnaround on changes to coroner’s inquest system

Updated Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2012 | 4:53 p.m.

Despite pleas from the public to act sooner rather than later, Clark County commissioners indicated they would make no changes to the coroner's inquest process for at least another month.

During the public address portion of Wednesday morning's commission meeting, Richard Bouleware, head of the NAACP, said the time for action was now.

"On behalf of 21 people killed in officer-involved shootings, and another one this morning in Henderson, let's get this done," Boulware said.

Las month, the Nevada Supreme Court threw out Clark County’s coroner’s inquest system for investigating deaths in which law enforcement officers are involved. At the same time, the court rejected Nevada Highway Patrol officers' contention that the process violated their constitutional rights.

Since the ruling came down, commissioners have said it could take months to rework the inquest process.

The ruling said the process did not violate the due process of officers, but that justices of the peace could not oversee an inquest. That means commissioners could decide that hearing masters or others could oversee an inquest.

The police union, meanwhile, says it won't have its officers appear at inquests, no matter what the county decides.

Another woman who spoke at this morning’s meeting said, "I need to know why my police department ... felt that deadly force was necessary in a situation. The public deserves to know that."

The woman, who said she lived in Commissioner Susan Brager’s district, noted there have been three fatal officer-involved shootings since the Supreme Court decision.

"I'm begging you as a citizen who does National Night Out and works with the police department and cares very deeply ... we just want the truth, that's all we want," the woman told Brager

A potential change proposed by Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani did not come up for a vote, however.

The amended code deletes references to a justice of the peace. It just says a “presiding officer” oversees the hearings. It does not define “presiding officer.”

Last week, the proposal ran into some problems as soon as it was proposed.

Commissioner Steve Sisolak forged the committee last year that came up with several changes to the inquest system. The biggest change was creation of an ombudsman position to represent the families of people killed by police.

It took months for commissioners to create criteria and a definition for the ombudsman. Sisolak sees it taking just as long, if not longer, to figure out the qualifications of someone who would oversee an inquest.

“I don’t see how this will be any faster,” Sisolak said.

After emerging from behind closed doors at today's meeting, commissioners indicated they would take up Giunchigliani's proposal sometime in December.

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