Sheriff Reacts to Union's Challenge of Inquest Changes - 8 News NOW

Sheriff Reacts to Union's Challenge of Inquest Changes

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Trevon Cole Trevon Cole
Erik Scott Erik Scott

LAS VEGAS - In June 2010, police shot and killed an unarmed Trevon Cole during a drug raid. One month later, police shot and killed Erik Scott outside a busy Summerlin Costco. Both cases put the coroner's inquest process under a microscope.

"The focus has always been on transparency. That's the key here. We want a transparent process," Metro Police Sheriff Doug Gillespie said.

The Nevada Legislature recently adopted new rules regarding the coroner's inquest process. The new rules allow an ombudsman to represent the family of the deceased and cross-examine officers on the stand.

The Las Vegas Police Protective Association, southern Nevada's largest police union, opposes the changes and is issuing a legal challenge against them.

"We have advised our officers - after talking to legal counsel - that they should take the Fifth," said LVPPA President Chris Collins. "The process has become severely adversarial to the officers."

The LVPPA called out Sheriff Gillespie, who supported the revamped inquest.

"I believe Doug Gillespie to be a fair man, and if he believes this to be a fair process, I'm not going to hold issues with him," Collins said. "It's not a fair issue, and the truth is Doug Gillespie will not be involved in an officer-involved shooting. So, it's easy to change the rules when they are not going to be applied to you."

"The reality of it is I've been a police officer in this valley for over 30 years," Gillespie countered. "I've had very close friends of mine involved in officer-involved shootings. I've been a supervisor of people that have been involved in officer-involved shootings. What I saw (take) place at the Trevon Cole inquest - as well as the Erik Scott inquest - in regards to the questioning of my officers on the stand caused me concern. I believe that process had become very adversarial."

The coroner's inquest panel is scheduled next month to examine the actions of three Metro officers who shot and killed 22-year-old Benjamin Bowman. He held a knife to the throat of a bartender at the P.T.'s Pub near Sahara Avenue and Nellis Boulevard in November.

The inquest will be the first under the new rules unless a judge rules the process is unconstitutional.

The union doesn't believe its legal challenge will cost it public support. Union leaders say they've participated for years in the coroner's inquest. Now, the process, they say, is not fair to the officers.

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