Nevada City releases Aug. 9 protest after-action report
No police officer violated any rule or law during the Aug. 9 Nevada City protest that turned violent, an after-action report states.
Instead the officers “were insufficiently trained and equipped to handle the protest,” according to the report.
The report, the result of a private investigation prepared by Paragon Investigative Services, was ordered by city officials to determine what went wrong and prevent future violence, a letter from Nevada City Manager Joan Phillipe states.
Findings of the investigation that no officer violated any law are only advisory, Phillipe said.
“Therefore, both I and the City Attorney’s Office conducted our own review.” said Phillipe. “We concurred with the investigator’s findings that no actionable misconduct occurred … But that is not to say officers did a good job managing the protests, only that they did not run afoul of the law.”
According to the report, supporters of Black Lives Matter assembled Aug. 9 in Nevada City to advocate for social justice issues. But another group, the Nevada County Patriots appeared to be in Nevada City to counter-protest the Black Lives Matters group.
Neither of the two groups sought or obtained a permit to hold their protests, the report states.
“Once the protest began and the counter protesters showed up it became immediately obvious that the two groups would not peacefully hold their respective protests,” it continues.
Verbal and physical confrontations took place throughout more than an hour protest. The two groups together were estimated at 150 to 200. Officers increasingly experienced difficulty in managing the protests, as the groups were on the move over the duration of the event. Had the two sides remained stationary, the ability of police to separate the two sides and maintain control would have been much easier, the report states.
Only four police officers were on duty at the time. No police supervisors were present. Two sergeants were out of town attending a training. Because it was a Sunday, the lieutenant and police chief had the day off, it continues.
As soon as it was clear four officers were insufficient to keep protests peaceful, the officers requested assistance from the Grass Valley Police Department and the Nevada County Sheriff’s Office. Both departments responded, but with limited personnel. A total of four additional law enforcement staff were dispatched. Eventually, the Nevada City Police Department lieutenant responded to the altercation as the protests were winding down.
The report states that while the protests continued, officers made minimal effort to keep the two sides separated. They did make some effort to stop a few assaults in progress, but no arrests were made and no citations were issued. The officers present explained they did not take necessary enforcement actions to quell the clashes because they did not have sufficient personnel. In order to complete an arrest, citation or report it would have required removing one officer from attending the skirmish. Additionally, officers said they kept the protesters moving to keep them out of the street and the two sides apart.
Authorities charged three men weeks later in connection with the counter-protest. James Steven Smith and Joseph Alves have pleaded not guilty. Randy Matheson pleaded in March to a misdemeanor assault and battery, Nevada County court records state.
The day following the riot, several protesters filed complaints with the Nevada City Police Department. The most frequent criticism was that police failed to protect Black Lives Matter supporters from the Nevada County Patriots. In light of allegations against the officers, the city decided not to have them provide reports of what occurred, according to the report.
It also states that the morning after the protest, a highly edited video was posted to YouTube. It showed officers marching alongside the Nevada County Patriots. But this video omitted a significant amount of footage. An officer’s body camera footage showed a different perspective, making it apparent officers were not showing bias toward either group.
Since August, a handful of protests have taken place in Nevada City that alerted the city before any actions were taken. This notice helped police properly plan for the events. Had this precaution taken place in August, it is probable the outcomes of the Aug. 9 protest would have been significantly different, the report states.
As events move forward, the Nevada City Police Department will explore additional training regarding crowd and riot control. Police will also examine different funding options for crowd/riot control equipment.
“The City has a requirement that permits be obtained for these types of events,” the report states. “However, it appears that the City has not consistently enforced this requirement. Going forward it is strongly recommended that this requirement be enforced in order to ensure that City resources can more effectively be planned for and deployed in order to best ensure the health and safety of all concerned.”
William Roller is a staff writer with The Union. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
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