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Nev. Black Democratic Officials Discuss Systemic Racism, Possible Special Leg. Session

A man wearing a suit is speaking at a podium.
Nevada Attorney General's Office
Nevada Attorney General Aaron Ford speaks to reporters on Friday, June 5.

Monday marks two weeks since 46-year-old George Floyd was killed while in police custody in Minneapolis, Minnesota. Former police officer Derek Chauvin knelt on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes. Floyd was pronounced dead shortly afterward.

Since then, protests throughout Nevada and across the country have been renewing attention on issues like police brutality and systemic racism among state leaders. During a press conference Friday, Gov. Steve Sisolak, joined by a few Black Democratic state lawmakers, said more needs to be done in the state government to combat these issues.

Among them was Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson. For him, this issue is personal.

“As a Black kid, I had special rules my parents taught me that allowed me to face systemic racism that was waiting for me every time I opened the door,” Frierson said. “And now, 40 years later, I find myself teaching my son those same, same rules.”

Frierson called on the state to collect more data to check if there are any disparities among races and ethnicities when it comes to sentencing. He also said that the state needs more data on law enforcement interactions with members of the public.

Gov. Sisolak said he is working to plan a special session of the Nevada Legislature, and he’s currently deciding on what will be addressed, which may include economic and health issues due to the COVID-19 pandemic and issues related to systemic racism.

“We owe ourselves and our neighbors this much because we all know it would be easier to just tuck this away, and avoid the discomfort that is going to come from the challenging conversations about race and the deep-rooted prejudice that we may carry, but we’re not going to do that,” Sisolak said. “We are better than that. We are going to listen, and we are going to have the conversations. And we are going to take action.”

Daniele Monroe-Moreno is the assistant majority floor leader for the Nevada State Assembly. She’s also a former corrections officer for the North Las Vegas Police Department. She said law enforcement should get psych evaluations annually.

“I saw firsthand the systemic racism that exists in our society. And I cry for my black community and the struggles to be seen as equal,” Monroe-Moreno said. “The weight of this time… it’s overwhelming.”

Attorney General Aaron Ford serves as the state’s top cop. He said he grew up in a community where there wasn’t much trust in the police, if at all.

“I try to understand the position of our police officers, when they explain to me that their day to day lives are put forward, trying to protect everybody, every single day. I feel them, actually,” Ford said. “But as a Black man, I also feel something else. And that’s the need for improved relations between law enforcement and the communities that they serve — specifically for today’s conversation, the Black community.”

There are a lot of ideas out there coming from state lawmakers and the public on how to reduce or stop police brutality. In the meantime, Ford and other government officials are holding online panels to address concerns about the justice system in the state, which can be found on the Nevada Attorney General’s Office Facebook page. And as protesters continue to march and chant, state legislators wait to hear if and when a special session will be called.

Bree Zender is a former host and reporter at KUNR Public Radio.
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