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Washoe County Sheriff highlights increased transparency efforts

Published: Sep. 24, 2020 at 9:54 PM PDT|Updated: Sep. 25, 2020 at 1:42 PM PDT
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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - The Silver State is no stranger to the calls for an end to racism. It’s been almost four months since violence broke out not related to the peaceful protest at the end of May in Downtown Reno.

KOLO 8 hosted a series of Race Relations Town Halls this summer, the first of which featured Washoe County Sheriff Darin Balaam. He promised another sit down to check in on his department’s progress.

“Tensions are extremely high throughout our nation,” Sheriff Balaam states.

And on so many fronts, from financial stress and a global pandemic to continued instances of America watching unarmed Black and Brown people being shot or killed by police.

The Sheriff tells us, “Express your frustrations, your mistrust and let’s have a conversation. If that means I need to get out of this office and come to wherever in that community they want to meet, I will be there.”

After being a guest on our first Improving Race Relations Town Hall back in June, he’s updating us on behind the scenes efforts. “We’re in the process I believe by November 1st, we will have a whole new web page, the county is helping us. At that point we will have statistics out there hopefully that are going to break down our arrests, our citations, our use of forces, our citizens complaints.”

The Sheriff also planning to increase education as he details, “We’ve gone and hired an outside consultant. They will be coming hopefully the next month or the month after and they will be doing an entire cultural competence, implicit biased type training for all employees at the Sheriff’s office.”

George Floyd’s death catapulted calls for police reform and an end to systemic racism, coupled with the shooting death of Breonna Taylor in Louisville, Kentucky back in March. After a Grand Jury decided not to charge officers for causing Taylor’s death, Balaam adds, “I think he gave a very fair explanation of why charges were not presented, why charges were presented in this way. So I think moving forward as a nation we truly have to start talking to each other and not past each other. We’ve looked at our hiring practices and that will be on our web page about where we are losing individuals, whether its people of color, what race, gender, where are they falling out.”

The agency’s policy manual is updated and accessible online, along with plans to document demographics of citations by highlighting race, gender and ethnicity.

“This is a great profession no matter what’s going on in our nation, so come join this family,” Balaam states.

It’s far from a one day or one talk fix, but as we’ve heard, his ears are open, knowing improvements can always be made. Balaam says he’s creating a citizen’s task force with the community to discuss use of force, arrests, citizen complaints, diversity and other topics later this year.

To contact the Sheriff or read reports his team has posted, click here.

Copyright 2020 KOLO. All rights reserved.

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