© 2024 KUNR
Illustration of rolling hills with occasional trees and a radio tower.
Serving Northern Nevada and the Eastern Sierra
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations
iPhone users: Having trouble listening live on KUNR.org? Click here to download our app to listen to your favorite shows.

Reno Police chief finalists, union, community leaders envision the future of policing

Two people in business clothing are standing next to separate cocktail tables inside a gymnasium and speaking to small groups of people.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Reno Police Department Chief of Police finalists Kathryn Nance (front) and Chris Crawforth (back) speak with community members at the City of Reno’s meet and greet at the Neil Road Recreation Center in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 15, 2022.

The two finalists for the city’s next police chief met with stakeholders at the Neil Road Recreation Center on Thursday. According to a recent public survey conducted by the City of Reno, citizens say their top priorities are violent crime reduction, traffic enforcement and police accountability.

Finalists discuss mental health calls, staffing strategies

One of the finalists is Chris Crawforth, the current Sparks Police chief. He wants officers to be more visible and to see them develop closer relationships.

“By providing more staffing, we can free up their time, where they spend more time doing things like walking through the community, going to an apartment complex and talking with the neighbors, stopping at businesses and having a chat with them, and truly hearing what’s going on, not just what’s reported,” Crawforth said.

The Sparks Police Department has faced criticism for a series of recent officer-involved shootings, including public outcry over the killing of Miciah Lee, an 18-year-old Black resident of Sparks.

Crawforth is smiling while speaking with a small group of people with their backs to the camera inside a gymnasium.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Chris Crawforth, a finalist for Reno Police Department Chief of Police, talks with community members at the City of Reno’s meet and greet at the Neil Road Recreation Center in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 15, 2022.

“I was a deputy chief at the time,” Crawforth said. “There were some changes that I believe needed to be made, and I made those changes.”

Crawforth says that the incident led to tough conversations within the department about responding to mental health-related calls.

“Why are we there? Is it criminal in nature? If not, and there’s no threat to the public, we’re not gonna go,” Crawforth said. “Traditional law enforcement across this country, within our region in the past, has been we bring out SWAT teams, and we bring a lot of people, and we escalate the situation just by showing up rather than de-escalating.”

The other finalist is Kathryn Nance, the deputy chief of the Stockton Police Department, and she said she would emphasize recruitment.

According to the Reno Police Protective Association (RPPA), RPD’s union, there are fewer officers in the city now than there were before the recession.

“My view on this is that the entire city works together to fill all of our vacant positions. I joke around a lot, but if I can get somebody hired in one department, I can always steal them later to come be [a] police officer. It’s fine; they’re already working for the city; they’re already primed and ready,” Nance said.

Nance said attracting high school and college graduates to work for the city would help, too. As a young mom, good medical benefits initially drew her to the job, but she said recruitment tactics need to be inclusive.

Nance is smiling while speaking with multiple women with their backs to the camera inside a gymnasium.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
Kathryn Nance, a finalist for Reno Police Department Chief of Police, talks with community members at the City of Reno’s meet and greet at the Neil Road Recreation Center in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 15, 2022.

“A recruiting poster would not attract me in the same way it would attract somebody else that was maybe looking for some action or looking for different things,” she said. “So we have to make it a broad range of recruiting skills so that we’re getting a diverse law enforcement organization.”

If chosen, Nance would be Reno’s first female police chief. She also leads implicit bias training, which she believes can help ensure people are treated equally.

“Recognizing that everybody has [implicit biases], learning what they are, learning that about yourself, allows you to go into a situation and then think, ‘Am I treating this fairly and with an open mind?’ ” Nance said.

Union and community leader policing priorities

Patricia Gallimore is the incoming president of the Reno-Sparks NAACP, and she also wants to see more diversity in law enforcement. Gallimore has a background in social work and said cops should, too, and she placed importance on building trust with communities of color.

“Trying to get this ‘good ole boy’ attitude that we all know that’s in law enforcement, got to break down those barriers, and I know people of color are very weary of that,” Gallimore said.

Gallimore also wants to see the department embrace community policing.

“If there’s an individual that lives in my neighborhood that’s in law enforcement, we’re neighbors, right? They’re part of the community,” she said. “We don’t want that separation of, ok, you’re in this hierarchy, you’re over me; that’s your job.”

Tu Casa Latina is a local nonprofit that helps immigrants who are victims of crime, and executive director Sandra Quiroz explained what the organization is looking for in the police department’s next leader:

“Since we’re culturally specific, our community tends to call us when they have issues and they don’t know who to contact,” Quiroz said. “We’re looking for that connection, a chief that will connect with our community, that will meet our community where they’re at,” she said.

Around 20 people stand in smaller groups around round tables, talking amongst each other in a gymnasium.
Lucia Starbuck
KUNR Public Radio
The City of Reno’s organized meet and greet with the finalists for the next Reno Police Department Chief of Police at the Neil Road Recreation Center in Reno, Nev., on Dec. 15, 2022.

RPPA President Christopher Waddle said Reno faces a unique set of challenges.

“You have to realize when you come in here and see our homeless issue, you can’t just take a book, something straight out of a book, or that’s been done somewhere else and think it’s going to automatically work here,” he said.

Waddle added officers must also contend with tourists and the city’s explosive growth.

“We’re also unique in the fact that we are a tourist economy. Our population may be one number, but our real population, our day-to-day population some days, is quite larger,” he said. “The fact that our city is spreading out, which causes us a lot of issues with the number of police officers we have.”

Gallimore, Quiroz and Waddle, along with recently appointed Ward 3 council member Miguel Martinez, were in attendance at the city’s organized meet and greet.

Reno city manager Doug Thornley interviewed the two applicants on Friday and will ultimately make the final decision. Reno City Council is slated to confirm the next chief on January 11, according to the city’s director of human resources, when outgoing chief Jason Soto is set to retire.

Lucia Starbuck is an award-winning political journalist and the host of KUNR’s monthly show Purple Politics Nevada. She is passionate about reporting during election season, attending community events, and talking to people about the issues that matter most to them.
Related Content