Assembly Speaker Jason Frierson says a state board overseeing police officer training is not fully implementing a 2019 law requiring annual training on de-escalation, racial profiling and implicit bias.
Frierson, a Democrat and attorney with the Clark County Public Defender’s office, said on Friday during a press conference that the state’s Peace Officer Standards and Training (POST) division has failed to promulgate regulations implementing AB478, a bill passed by the 2019 Legislature requiring police officers to complete annual training on topics including racial profiling, mental health and de-escalation.
Those topics have received renewed attention in the wake of the death of George Floyd and global protests against police violence. In an email on Saturday, Frierson fleshed out his criticism of the division and said it had failed to implement the principles behind the bill in a “meaningful way.”
“Reasonable minds can disagree in the wisdom of proposed legislation but I fail to see how an agency can refuse to follow the law,” he said in an email. “Across the country, we are seeing the results of a failure by some in the law enforcement community to take these matters seriously and it is costing lives. Even in Nevada, we have seen on video conduct that raises questions as to whether there is a collective embracing of these issues. No one knows if regulations had been developed by POST consistent with the spirit of AB478 could have had an impact on the recent reactions to protests.”
The POST Commission is the primary regulatory agency overseeing the “behavior, hiring, basic and professional certification, course certification, and training requirements for all law enforcement officers in the state.” It’s composed of nine commissioners from law enforcement agencies across the state and has an executive staff that oversees operations and management.
In 2019, Frierson introduced a bill requiring the POST Commission to include at least 12 hours of annual continuing education on topics including racial profiling, mental health, the “well being of officers,” implicit bias recognition, de-escalation, human trafficking and firearms.
Frierson said during a hearing on the bill in April 2019 that it largely reiterated training already required by various law enforcement agencies across the state, but wanted to codify those requirements into state law. The measure was supported by several police agencies and was passed unanimously out of both houses of the Legislature, but was opposed by POST’s executive director over concerns that it would take time away from other training requirements.
But in a memorandum sent to law enforcement agencies around the state, POST Executive Director Mike Sherlock wrote that because the bill did not directly require the commission to develop specific curriculum or establish performance objectives, POST was taking the position that “individual agencies may tailor the training to fit their specific needs and determine if existing training may cover some, or all, of these topics.”
Although the agency developed a reference guide for the eight categories required under the new law, Sherlock wrote that nothing in the bill required a police department or agency to develop a separate training program to comply with the bill, writing that many existing training activities would cover the requirements of the new law. He wrote that law enforcement agencies and departments would need to show evidence that they were successfully meeting the 12-hour training requirement during the normal POST auditing process, but that agencies had until the end of 2020 to comply with the new requirements because audits are done on an annual basis.
In an email sent late Friday, Sherlock said that he wasn’t sure what Frierson’s criticism was referring to and said that POST had developed regulations to carry out the bill but that they have not been adopted yet because of COVID-19 related restrictions on public meetings.
“However, the statute is in effect and the Commission’s adoption requires law enforcement agencies to provide the training this calendar year,” he wrote. “From the POST perspective, the only issue is we were not funded to deliver the training. It is left to the agencies to develop or fund said training.”
In his email, Frierson wrote that the bill was structured in a way to give POST an opportunity to “act in good faith and incorporate the new topics in the development of regulations,” but that the agency had declined to do so thus far.
“From what I have seen thus far, the flexibility provided to POST was not met with an appreciation for the importance of this annual training that the community has come to expect,” he said in the email. “We will ensure that there are no loopholes moving forward.”