In a controversial open letter to the Douglas County Library Board that has since made national headlines, Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley threatened to withhold emergency services from the library after they proposed to support Black Lives Matter in an agenda item.
Following the agenda item, which stated “The Douglas County Public Library denounces all acts of violence, racism and disregard for human rights. We support Black Lives Matter. We resolutely assert and believe that all forms of racism, hatred, inequality and injustice don’t belong in our society,” Coverley issued the following:
“To support this movement is to support violence and to openly ask for it to happen in Douglas County. Due to your support of Black Lives Matter and the obvious lack of support or trust with the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office, please do not feel the need to call 911 for help. I wish you good luck with disturbances and lewd behavior, since those are just some of the recent calls my office has assisted you with in the past.”
Soon after, Sheriff Coverley released a statement walking back his threat, and said that the Sheriff’s Office would continue to respond for help at the library. However, Coverley did not retract the rest of the letter labeling Black Lives Matter as a violent organization, which has since been outed as being plagiarized. The majority of his statement seems to have been copy and pasted from a July 22 letter sent to U.S. House and Senate leaders by several state attorneys general.
Today, Nevada Attorney General Ford, after speaking with both Sheriff Coverley and the library board, issued the following statement:
As Attorney General, I have expressed the need for better relations between law enforcement and the communities they serve. George Floyd’s killing has punctuated that need specifically within the Black community.
To say Black lives matter is to acknowledge, at a minimum, what Attorney General William Barr recently recognized: The “widespread phenomenon” that Black Americans “are treated with extra suspicion and maybe not given the benefit of the doubt.”
It does NOT reflect a belief that all law enforcement are corrupt and racist. Nor does it connote a support of violence and ask for it to happen in any community. Quite the contrary, it expresses a desire to eliminate violence, particularly that experienced by members of the Black community at the hands of some members law enforcement. Every Nevadan has the constitutional right to voice that position.
And so does the Douglas County Library Board.
Therein sometimes lies one of the unnecessary and unfortunate difficulties — standing and voicing support for what should be an unremarkable proposition and risking misinterpretation or worse, reprisal, by those sworn to uphold the law.
It’s a false choice, and law enforcement should neither create the conundrum nor condone it. Indeed, having a voice and the opportunity to have it heard are hallmarks of our Constitution.
I believe, as do many of my fellow elected officials and members of law enforcement, that Black lives do matter. And no government official should issue a threat — either real or perceived — to withhold public services simply because you believe and say it.
Thus, I welcome Sheriff Coverley’s further statement indicating that the library will continue to receive police services. That is undoubtedly the right outcome.
To learn more about Sheriff Coverley’s controversial letter, read our previous reporting here.