The current mayor and former mayor of Sparks vigorously defended the city’s police officers after members of the public called into a city council meeting Monday demanding law enforcement reform.
The calls for change follow the Jan. 5 Sparks police shooting of Miciah Lee and nationwide calls by activists for local governments to “defund the police” following the death of George Floyd, a Black man who died while in custody in Minneapolis.
Lee, 18, was reported as armed and suicidal when he was shot and killed by Sparks police officers. On June 29, Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks released a 50-page report that found the officers were legally justified.
People demand justice
At Monday’s Sparks City Council meeting, more than a dozen people called in to demand justice for Lee.
Some asked for more funding for mental health resources.
“I’m scared for myself and for other people,” said one caller. “I want you to consider your humanity, and I encourage you to learn about racism.”
Another call said by spending money on mental health care it sends a positive message to Lee’s mom.
A look at police tactics: Could Miciah Lee have been saved?
“If you are not angry by this situation, you have no compassion,” said another caller. “What would you do if that was your kid? Of course that wouldn’t happen to any of you because you are white.”
Former, current mayor defend police
Former Mayor Geno Martini and his successor, Mayor Ron Smith, expressed frustration as callers demanded police change.
“So, boys and girls, you kids that are so angry and so socially liberal, get a clue please,” said Martini, who was the longest serving mayor of Sparks until he left office 2018. He called in at the end of the meeting.
He said he had it “up to his ears” listening to people complain about the police.
“Walk a mile in a policeman’s shoes. Get off your collective butt. Go out and ride with a policeman sometime,” he said. “You have no clue, really.
Martini said in reference to callers upset about the Lee shooting and other cases that have linked police brutality to race, “Murdering people, black, brown, whatever. It’s kind of funny how they got murdered doing something that was against the law.”
Mayor Ron Smith also defended the Sparks Police Department and said he would never defund the department and would like to hire more officers.
“People want to know how come they can’t get a police officer to their house within a certain amount of time,” he said. “It is because we only have seven on shift at any one time.
“The bottom line is if a police officer pulls you over, follow his instructions,” Smith said. “If you pull a gun on a police officer, expect repercussions, whatever that might be.
“I stand behind our police department. I stand behind our chief and everyone who works there. I am proud of them.”
Siobhan McAndrew tells stories about the people of Northern Nevada and covers education in Washoe County. Read her journalism right here. Consider supporting her work by subscribing to the Reno Gazette Journal.