Man plans town hall to solicit complaints about Nevada City police
A Nevada City man who claims officers showed “gross police misconduct” in an encounter at Pioneer Park is organizing a town hall meeting tonight.
Posters ask, “Does Nevada City have a police problem?” and advertise a town hall at 6 p.m. today in the community room of the Madelyn Helling Library, next to the Eric Rood Administrative Center at 950 Maidu Ave.
But Nevada City police say he’s making “wild accusations” and has not followed through with the city’s complaint procedures.
“He’s making what I consider some outlandish, non-specific claims,” said Nevada City Police Chief Lou Trovato. “I don’t know what he’s talking about.”
Town hall organizer Darin Barry, who was raised in Nevada City and worked at a coffee shop in Portland and as a mortician in Denver before returning to town in February, described an incident in August where he and Gordon Landon were watching the Perseid meteor shower in Pioneer Park after dark.
An officer approached them as they left the park and allegedly bullied them and did not reveal his identity.
When Barry and Landon called city hall to complain, a sergeant called them back to follow up about the incident. According to Barry, the sergeant mentioned he knew Barry’s dad – former Nevada City police officer Benjamin Barry – and allegedly encouraged him not to pursue the complaint.
“My father would be very ashamed of the activity going on – and this sort of over-familiarization,” Barry said. “I said, ‘I’m not going to participate in the good ol’ boy network.'”
Trovato said Barry has since refused to talk about the issue with the department.
“Should we hit them with a rubber hose? Are we being too nice?” Trovato said. “If you’re friendly, they don’t like it. It doesn’t make sense.”
He added that patrols in Pioneer Park – where the city has had problems with drug use, alcohol and lewd conduct – are routine, especially after dark and near the bathrooms.
“That’s what people expect. If we didn’t do it, people would say we’re negligent,” Trovato said.
Barry and co-organizer Landon, said the problem is widespread; “Everybody has a complaint,” Barry said.
“In my youth, police were always very courteous to me. … There was a relationship of trust,” Landon said. “We’ve seen a disintegration of that.”
Tonight’s meeting is for citizens to share any stories of negative run-ins they’ve had with Nevada City police; city staff and police are not invited. Barry said he wants to create an accountability committee for the police department, and he’s considering a class-action lawsuit depending on his findings.
“We’re in a discovery mode. … We’re not sure if it’s the best thing to do,” Barry said. “My whole goal is not to bankrupt the city (with a lawsuit). I want to put the money back.”
Barry, whose previous jobs include a paid activist role as National Field Organizer for the political satire group “Billionaires for Bush,” is optimistic about his chances of winning such a suit.
Police aren’t so sure.
“Let him have his meeting. If the room is full, we’ve got a problem. If it’s empty, then we don’t,” Trovato said. “My feeling is we have a bunch of outstanding officers.”
To contact Staff Writer Michelle Rindels, e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org or call (530) 477-4247.
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