LAS VEGAS (KSNV MyNews3) -- The constitutionality of Clark County's "coroner's inquest" system on shootings involving police officers is now before a federal court judge.
There are still 16-inquests that are still pending because of litigation with the new system, and it could be years before some of these are heard.
One year ago this month, a two-day inquest with the changes was supposed to take place for the police shooting of Benjamin Bowman. Three metro officers were involved in the incident, at the PT's Pub on South Nellis Boulevard. Bowman allegedly held a female bartender at knife-point before officers opened fire, killing him.
The police union is against the new inquest process and the addition of an ombudsman who would represent families of those killed. The union says the process violates the officers' rights.
A federal judge will determine if the case belongs in federal court, or if it will be handed back to state court.
The inquests compel officers to testify on the shootings – something defendants in criminal cases don’t have to do – yet the union is concerned that officers’ testimony may be used against them in future criminal cases.
“The officers can be involved, but they need to be afforded their procedural due-process rights,” said police union attorney Josh Reisman. “They need the same rights as any other person who's being investigated for a criminal wrongdoing and will potentially be prosecuted.”
The police union says the new inquest system is more of a trial than a fact-finding procedure, and the officers are more likely to be held criminally liable if it turns out the ruling finds the officers at fault.
The opposition to this new process is why police have not released details on the officer-involved shooting of Bernard Pate, who was shot in the back and killed while running from police after officers arrived to investigate suspicious activity in the area.