Investigations probe alleged Nevada City police misconduct, inaction
Nevada City officials are hiring an independent investigator that will launch two probes into officer misconduct or inaction during this month’s violent counter-protest, with one remaining a confidential internal investigation and the other to be available for public review.
At a special meeting last Friday, Nevada City Police Chief Chad Ellis said the internal investigation has already begun and will likely grow to encompass his actions as well. Any complaints about officer conduct during the Aug. 9 incident should be directed to Nevada City Manager Catrina Olson, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The separate investigation into criminal activity during the protest is still underway and has led to one arrest so far. People are encouraged to contact special investigator Angela Ford at Angela.Ford@nevadacityca.gov if they have information to report.
The investigations will be worked on simultaneously and are expected to take a number of weeks, Nevada City Mayor Erin Minett said.
During the Friday meeting, presenters who were at the protest gave accounts of their experience with the counter-protesters and the police response, which they said showed either the officers’ incompetence or complicity in the day’s events.
Several commenters said they were denied assistance when they asked officers on the scene, and claimed they were not able to make timely reports after being given the runaround by the department.
“Police made it virtually impossible to report,” said presenter Graham Hayes.
According to Hayes, it took three days of calling and visiting the police station in person before he was able to make a report, all while suffering multiple contusions and dislocations from the incident. He called for additional training in the department and the formation of a community police oversight committee.
According to Ellis, the department was not trained for the new elements presented that weekend: counter-protesters, moving demonstrations, and no warning.
He said arrests were not made on the scene because the department was severely overwhelmed, which could have led to an even more dangerous situation. While officers on the scene agreed it was “chaos,” Ellis took umbrage with the claim that any officers were acting in concert with the counter-protesters.
“It’s hurtful to hear that as the chief of the agency and knowing these officers,” he said.
The council opted not to move forward on an enforceable permit ordinance, but encouraged any demonstrators to make city officials aware of any protest events going on, particularly if they will require street closures.
Ellis said now the department must take every rumor of possible demonstrations as an event that “has the potential to erupt.”
According to Ellis, three or four aggressors have been identified, but less than half of the victims of clearly recorded violence have come forward, making prosecution more difficult. While the most egregious incidents may still be pursued without a victim, it is not the “regular circumstance,” he said.
But Councilwoman Daniela Fernandez pointed out there have been counter-protests in the county before.
“It’s the violence piece that’s new,” she said.
Councilman Doug Fleming said many counter-protesters were motivated by misinformation that violent Antifa protesters would be bused in to loot businesses in the city. Some public comments claiming to be from counter-protesters said they had to protect the town from protesters trying to burn it down.
At the meeting City Attorney Crissy Hodgson advised the council not to discuss police personnel matters in order to comply with state regulations, and to redact specific allegations of misconduct from the public comments. According to Hodgson, personnel matters are within the authority of the city manager and not the council.
The contract with the investigator will need to be approved by the City Council if their services cost more than $5,000, otherwise it can be executed by the city manager. The same investigator will conduct both investigations, which will be overseen by the city’s contracted legal firm.
To contact Staff Writer John Orona, email email@example.com or call 530-477-4229.
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