Library's proposal on Black Lives Matter prompts sheriff to say won't respond to 911 calls

The sheriff said, "please do not feel the need to call 911 for help," but, in a later joint statement with the library head, he said he supported open discussion "that values diversity and law enforcement."

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By Wilson Wong

A Nevada county library's proposed statement in support of Black Lives Matter prompted the local sheriff to warn that his office would not respond to its 911 calls.

“We support #BlackLivesMatter,” the Douglas County Public Library said in the proposed short statement released last week at the end of a meeting agenda. “We resolutely assert and believe that all forms of racism, hatred, inequality, and injustice don’t belong in our society.”

Sheriff Dan Coverley, in the county that is about an hour south of Reno, responded in a letter to the library board of trustees that called the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis police custody "tragic and preventable" and went on to argue that "data simply does not support claims that law enforcement is systemically racist or structurally biased."

The letter published Monday on the sheriff office's website ended by saying, "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," the letter said.

Douglas County Sheriff Dan Coverley attends a news conference held by Washoe County District Attorney Chris Hicks in Reno, Nevada on Jan. 28, 2019.Scott Sonner / AP file

County spokesperson Melissa Blosser later walked back the idea that sheriff’s deputies would no longer respond to 911 calls from the library.

“Sheriff Coverley would also like to take this opportunity to clarify that the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office will continue to respond to all 911 calls, including those at the Library,” Blosser told the Reno Gazette Journal.

Library director Amy Dodson told NBC affiliate KSNV in Las Vegas that the proposed diversity statement "simply was meant to state our inclusivity at the library, that we are open and welcoming to everyone and we treat everyone equally.”

Dodson and Coverley met Tuesday and released a joint statement on social media in which the library director said the two "had a very candid conversation."

“We agreed that we both support the people of Douglas County and this may have been an unfortunate circumstance of misunderstanding," Dodson said. "The library respects and supports the work of the Douglas County Sheriff’s Office and appreciates everything they do to keep our community safe.”

The sheriff said in the statement that he is “passionate about and proud" of his agency's work in the community.

“This has been a difficult time to be a law enforcement professional and can be disheartening when we perceive that our office may be under attack," Coverley said. "My response was rooted in my belief that these issues need to be openly discussed in a way that values diversity and law enforcement."

The planned library board meeting at which the diversity proclamation was to be considered will be rescheduled, the joint statement said.