Investigation into UNR traffic stop complete

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RENO, Nev. (KOLO) - UPDATE: University of Nevada, Reno President Marc Johnson says the investigation into a traffic stop involving a UNR student that sparked controversy, is now complete.

He released the following statement:

The internal affairs investigation conducted by University Police Services and a separate investigation conducted by the University’s Office of Equal Opportunity and Title IX regarding the police traffic stop earlier in the fall have been completed. Appropriate steps have been taken following University and Nevada personnel policies. It should be noted that personnel actions are confidential by law, due to Nevada Administrative Code 284.718.

I understand and empathize with individuals who feel frustration regarding the traffic stop and its aftermath. The thoughts, suggestions and personal testimony shared by our faculty, staff and students have reinforced in my mind the importance of a safe and welcoming campus environment.

The Equal Opportunity and Title IX Office, Chief Diversity Officer and Police Services have worked to improve the efficiency and responsiveness of our reporting policy and procedures when a crime, threatening action, or threatening words are reported. Further, Chief Adam Garcia has been meeting personally with numerous student groups on campus to understand their perceptions of safety, and will continue to do so. He has also instituted comprehensive training processes called “Bias Policing Training” for all department members, with participation from respected community members. The department has embarked on a recruitment drive to further diversify the department. Training will be ongoing.

Given what has been happening in our country, I can understand why some might feel that official statements denouncing hateful words and actions are not enough. We’ve had many conversations, meetings and workshops this semester to address these events and the impact they’ve had on our campus. We will continue to hire the most diverse faculty we can, to bring the campus together for thoughtful, meaningful dialogue on the subjects of diversity and inclusion, and continue to hold trainings and workshops so that we can all better understand each other in the workplace and in the classroom.

This is our focus going forward.

- Marc Johnson, President, University of Nevada, Reno


UPDATE: Click to read statement by UNR student Kevin McReynolds. The statement includes graphic language.


ORIGINAL STORY: University of Nevada, Reno Police Chief Adam Garcia has released a statement, apologizing about an incident in which two campus police officers displayed inappropriate behavior, using 'offensive' language to students, during a traffic stop.

The language refers to a comment made by Officer Adam Wilson in which he jokingly comments he would have shot one of the students had the interaction gone differently.

It happened during a traffic stop in the early morning hours of Sunday, September 24, 2017. The video, captured by Sergeant Dan Johnston’s body camera, shows a traffic stop where the driver is suspected of being under the influence. Sgt. Johnston tells the driver he pulled her over for swerving in front of him.

"Well, besides having too many people in the car, you scared the c*** out of me," Sgt. Johnston tells the driver.

He then asks her how much she had to drink. The driver tells him nothing, but later tells him she had some wine earlier in the evening. Johnston then asks the driver and passengers to step out of the car. The officers allegedly found open containers in the car. While Johnston puts the driver through a field sobriety test, Officer Wilson checks the IDs of the other passengers.

When the driver passes the sobriety test, Sgt. Johnston lets everyone off with a warning, but tells the students someone has to walk home since there were too many people in the car.

That's when Johnston notices the student Officer Wilson had been speaking to.

"Holy s***!," Johnston says. "I'm glad you're not fighting. You're too big!"

The students and officers laugh, but then Officer Wilson adds, "I was like, I'm just going to shoot him if he goes sideways. F*** that!"

The comments were made to a graduate student and former Wolf Pack football player.

"My reaction, quite frankly, was one of anger," University of Nevada, Reno Police Chief Adam Garcia said. Garcia, who has been the police chief for 15 years, says he has never had a complaint like this.

"The interaction between a police officer and a member of our community is something I have not seen," he said. "I will not tolerate it. It was repugnant in its very nature. "It does not speak to who we are as a department or as a university."

University Police and Title IX officials are investigating the incident. Wilson, who has been with UNRPD for 3 years, has been placed on administrative leave.

"Obviously we have a long ways to go for these kinds of insensitive statements to be made to one of our students," Garcia said. "We still need to not only reach out to our community, but also within the department discuss and evaluate how we can best deliver the services we should be delivering without this kind of interaction."

Both Garcia and University President Marc Johnson have reached out and apologized to the student.

"I have apologized, which I think is appropriate given the circumstances, given the comments that were made," Garcia said. "Again, I feel were highly inappropriate and are not reflective of my department or the university."

KOLO has spoken with the student in question, and he has retained an attorney.

Here is the police statement:

"Two University Police officers conducted a traffic stop early Sunday morning in which inappropriate and offensive comments were made to a University graduate student by the officers. The comments were captured on a body camera.

"I have seen the video and I find the language that was used to be disturbing, offensive and unacceptable. I condemn this reprehensible language, and again, offer my sincerest apologies to the graduate student for what occurred.

"I am deeply concerned about the distress that was placed on the graduate student. I commend the student’s courage in reporting this incident, it was a brave thing to do. I’ve spoken personally to the graduate student, as has University President Marc Johnson. Both President Johnson and I have personally apologized to the graduate student for the comments that were made.

"University Police and the University’s Title IX Office are investigating, following our personnel policies and procedures, and we are moving quickly to determine our most appropriate action. One of the officer’s has been placed on administrative leave and is not on campus.

"The words that were used during the traffic stop are deplorable and have no place in the important interaction that must occur between members of our community and our Police Department. At a time of heightened fear and anxiety throughout the country and on campus, the impact of the statements was further compounded.