Local law enforcement embraces greater transparency

Published: Jul. 15, 2020 at 6:56 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - Local law enforcement agencies are announcing a new policy promising greater and quicker transparency in officer-involved shooting cases.

It is--for all intents and purposes--a proactive move at a difficult time for law enforcement and just ahead of an expected special session of the legislature where criminal justice reform figures to be on the agenda.

“The way I look at it is I don’t need somebody down at the legislature to pass a law,” says Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam. “I listen to my community. I serve our community and so for us it was the right thing to do.”

And the right thing to do, says Balaam, is a new policy regarding the release of information and--critically-- body cam video concerning officer-involved shootings.

“Within 14 days after a shooting or sooner, if we can get it out, we will release a basic overview of that situation, the facts and circumstances, any 9-1-1 audio that may be pertinent, and any video which may not be just the body cam. There may be surveillance footage from businesses or residences.”

Sparks and Reno police are joining in the policy. Balaam says the issue has been under discussion for some time, but with the debate and protests following the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis, it has come into sharp focus.

The previous policy has been to withhold some information including bodycam footage while the investigation is ongoing. That has meant long waits for answers for victims’ families and others.

But--Balaam says--facts and footage won’t change over time and transparency are essential to building trust.

“We’ve heard the calls and we’re not trying to dig in and not be transparent. We want to be transparent and build that trust with the community we serve.”

He indicates other changes including the sharing of data is also coming.

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