I-Team: Former Undersheriff Rejects Calls for Inquest Changes - 8 News NOW

Investigative Reporter Colleen McCarty

I-Team: Former Undersheriff Rejects Calls for Inquest Changes

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LAS VEGAS -- Retired Metro Undersheriff Eric Cooper lives in northern Nevada now. But he still follows the top stories in the city he once served -- particularly those related to law enforcement.

Lately, of course, that includes the coroner's inquest process and what Cooper considers ill-conceived calls for change.

In a recent letter to the editor that was never published, Cooper writes "get real Las Vegas." He explains the existing coroner's inquest system is more open and advanced than most nationwide. Reno, for example, does not have a public process.

Like the officers in the Scott hearing, Cooper himself faced a coroner's inquest. It determined the shooting justified.

Cooper describes his testimony as a gut-wrenching experience and argues any move toward an adversarial system would simply silence the police.

"Officers are not going to put themselves in jeopardy by answering candidly. As I said in my letter, they're going to lawyer up and refuse to answer any questions, because once the defense attorneys get at them, all they're doing is building their case for the wrongful death suit which will be sure to follow," he said.

Though he doesn't know of any Nevada cases, Cooper says he is aware of police officers in other jurisdictions who've been held personally, financially liable in wrongful death suits.

Cooper acknowledges police officers make mistakes, but that those mistakes are not a crime and the officers should not be treated like criminals. Yet another perspective as this debate about the process continues.

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