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Nevada Cop Block Will Be Attending Freedom Fest 2017 and the Anthem Film Festival

Freedom Fest Las Vegas Nevada Cop Block CopBlockThis year, members of Nevada Cop Block will be attending Freedom Fest, which is held annually here in Las Vegas. Freedom Fest 2017, which will be hosted by the Paris Hotel and Casino on the Las Vegas Strip, marks the tenth anniversary of the “world’s largest libertarian gathering.”

The theme for the Freedom Fest this year is, “Exploring New Frontiers.” A title that is no doubt inspired by the fact that Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, will be serving as a keynote speaker this year. Other notable speakers include John Stossel, Steve Forbes (whose 70th birthday will be incorporated into the events), Nick Gillespie, and John McAffee, along with many more. In addition, as always, there will be multiple panel discussions, debates, and breakout sessions devoted to libertarian ideas and theories.

The Police on Trial

What I expect to be one of the highlights will be the mock trial that this year features “the police on trial.” It is described this way on the event site:

What is the state of policing in America? Are the police overstepping their bounds and eroding the rights of citizens? What about the safety of the police officers who have promised to protect and serve? Fox Business host Kennedy, who hosts her own show on Fox Business, is back as the judge in our mock trial, the most popular event at FreedomFest.

This year we’ll put “The Police on Trial,” accused of violating property rights (through civil asset forfeitures), racial discrimination, and using excessive force with SWAT team and individual arrests. She’ll oversee prosecuting attorney Neill Franklin (Baltimore Police Department), defending attorney Larry Elder (popular radio talk show host), and star witnesses Adam Bates (Cato), Daniel Franklin (NAACP), Larry Burns (Las Vegas Police Department), and Dan Bongino (NYPD, Secret Service). Not to be missed.
FreedomFest Mock Trial Police Las Vegas Nevada Cop BlockThat should be interesting. (I say: Guilty as charged. Watch the video here and see what their verdict was: https://youtu.be/z3eftVK8rFE)

Anthem Film Festival

The other major attraction of Freedom Fest is the Anthem Film Festival, which has accompanied it for the past seven years. The stated goal of the film festival, which includes, documentaries, narrative films, and short features, is to provide a venue for filmmakers who care about individuality and libertarian ideals. In addition to the screenings, each film also features a panel discussion with those involved in making them afterwards.

Of course, if you’ve followed Nevada Cop Block recently you also know that the film festival has special relevance this year for Las Vegas and anti-police brutality activists working within the city. On Thursday, July 20th, at 3:20pm, the documentary “What Happened in Vegas,” by Ramsey Denison, will be screening inside the Versailles 3 Theater.

As I’ve already described several times on this site, “What Happened in Vegas” details the many crimes, corruption, and cover-ups of the LVMPD. Along with other local cases of abuse, racism, and police brutality, it focuses on the murders of Trevon Cole, Erik Scott, Stanley Gibson, and Tashii Farmer-Brown by Las Vegas police officers, as well as the cover-ups that followed them. (See below for the official movie trailer and links to related posts on NVCopBlock.org.)

The post screening panel will also include a press conference attended by the mother and other family members of Tashii Farmer-Brown. This will be the first public appearance by Brown’s family since he was murdered by LVMPD Officer Kenneth Lopera at the Venetian Hotel and Casino on May 14th. Lopera has since been charged with involuntary manslaughter, after the local community reacted with outrage at his actions.

Brown had approached Ofc. Lopera and another Metro officer requesting help. Instead of being treated like someone needing help he was instead treated like a criminal even though he was not suspected of or wanted in connection with any crime at the time. After he became afraid and tried to leave, he was chased, beaten, tased seven times, and eventually choked to death by Lopera.

Personally, I’m looking forward to Freedom Fest and especially to the screening of “What Happened in Vegas” during the Anthem Film Festival. Hopefully, you’re going to be there, too. If you see me or one of the other members of Nevada Cop Block out there say hello.

“What Happened in Vegas” Trailer

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Update: Shooting Nevada Inmates With Birdshot Banned by New NDOC Director (For Now)

As I’ve reported here on CopBlock.org in several posts over the past year, the use of shotguns loaded with birdshot has come under scrutiny recently in Nevada prisons after a high-profile case in which an inmate was killed after a fight with another inmate. The family of that inmate, as well the family of the other inmate, who was also shot but survived, and others have made claims that the fight was instigated by guards intentionally in order to allow for the shooting.

Although the Nevada Department of Corrections continues to deny that, they have filed manslaughter charges against one of the guards involved. In addition, the former director of the NV Department of Corrections, Greg Cox, was forced to resign by Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval.

In April, James Dzurenda was appointed to take over as the director of the NDOC. Prior to this, he worked in the corrections department in New York and was the DOC commissioner in Connecticut. During that time, he drafted the use-of-force policy for New York State.

In a recent interview with a local NPR affiliate in Nevada, Dzurenda has indicated that one of his first moves as the state DOC director will be to suspend the use of shotguns loaded with birdshot within Nevada Prisons. Previously, the NDOC had indicated that they would not accept the recommendations of experts who had stated shotguns should not be used by prison guards included in a report prompted by the most recent shooting and other similar incidents. However, although he states that he thinks that he feels it’s unnecessary, he seems reluctant to actually stop their use permanently, instead specifying that it is a temporary ban.

The interview also touches on Nevada’s “unique” prison culture and use of guns within those prisons. Dzurenda also indicates that he wants to focus more on rehabilitation and “reintegration” of prisoners being released back into society. plus, he wants more money (surprise!) and he thinks you can help him get it.

Via KNPR.org in Las Vegas:

Throughout history, however, Nevada has developed a unique prison culture. Huffington Post recently published an in-depth story about the use of guns inside Nevada’s prisons following the High Desert State Prison incident, and the sub-headline says it all: “Guards inside prisons shouldn’t have guns. That’s pretty much an accepted fact. Except in Nevada – and the results are mayhem and death.”

When interviewing writer Dana Liebelson, she told KNPR that Nevada’s use of guns inside its prisons “is highly unusual.” Skolnik said he agreed with her – to an extent.

“When I left, Nevada had the lowest rate of correction officer to inmates in the United States,” Skolnik said. “I don’t anticipate it’s gotten any better. If anything, it’s probably gotten worse.”

Is Dzurenda possibly wondering what he’s gotten himself into? Maybe. But he’s not shying away from tough questions about the state of the Nevada’s prisons. In fact, Dzurenda’s interview with KNPR was a first – former director Cox and interim director McDaniel never responded to multiple requests for interviews for the past few years.

One of his first orders of business, he said, is stopping the use of birdshot (the pellet-style ammunition that killed Carlos Perez in 2014) at least temporarily.

“To me, I don’t think it’s necessary,” Dzurenda said. “I’m not saying it’s going to be eliminated, but I’m going to temporarily take it offline because I think there are better things out in the world today we can use to control inmate populations.”

These things include non-lethal rounds of ammunition such as bean bags, rubber or plastic.

Dzurenda is more concerned, however, with programming inside correctional facilities – and considers an inmate’s first day at prison what should be the first day of reintegration efforts.

“If you take a snapshot today, and you don’t arrest anyone ever again, there’s 13,500 inmates in the system right now and 88 percent of those have less than 20-year sentences,” Dzurenda explained. “That means 12,000 of those offenders are released into our community pretty soon – that’s if you arrest no one.

“No matter how we feel about an offender, they are going back into the community. If we don’t funnel resources to do better for them, we’re just going to re-victimize our communities.”

As Skolnik noted, however, getting the money and resources together to have proper programming for inmates is no walk in the park. So how could Dzurenda do what his predecessors could not?

Constituents. Dzurenda may not be a political candidate – but getting the constituents to care about the people being put back into their communities might be able to get the ears of their represented politicians.

You can listen to the entire interview here on KNPR’s site.

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