RENO, Nev. – Douglas County, Nevada Sheriff Dan Coverley has a message for his county’s library: Don’t bother calling 911 for help anymore and good luck dealing with lewd visitors and disturbances on your own.
His outburst, which he posted in an open letter on the sheriff’s office website, follows an aborted plan by the Board of Library Trustees to consider a statement of diversity and inclusion at a public meeting that was canceled today.
The draft statement denounces “all acts of violence, racism and disregard for human rights.” It reads in part: “We support #BlackLivesMatter. We resolutely assert and believe that all forms of racism, hatred, inequality and injustice don’t belong in our society.”
That line prompted Coverley to write a statement of his own.
“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,” Coverley wrote. “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.”
Coverley condemned both the library and the Black Lives Matter movement.
“Numerous Black Lives Matter protests have resulted in violence, property damage and the closing of local businesses, sometimes permanently,” he wrote. “To support this movement is to support violence and to openly ask for it to happen in Douglas County.”
While protests across the country have resulted in clashes with police and property damage, many Black Lives Matter demonstrations have remained peaceful. The protests are in response to the death of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis police officers in May. One officer, Derek Chauvin, kneeled on Floyd’s neck for more than eight minutes. Chauvin faces charges of second-degree murder.
Library Director Amy Dodson said the diversity statement was meant to send a message to the community that the library welcomes individuals of all backgrounds. It was not meant to be an anti-police statement.
“It simply was meant to state our inclusivity at the library, that we are open and welcoming to everyone and we treat everyone equally,” Dodson said.
“I want the sheriff’s office to know we do love and support our law enforcement here. We would never want to support a movement to defund the police, so to speak. I think a lot of this has been a big misunderstanding.”
The draft diversity statement was set to be considered by the Board of Library Trustees at its meeting Tuesday. That meeting was canceled “due to overwhelming amount of community response,” county spokeswoman Melissa Blosser told the RGJ.
It’s not the first time the diversity statement has come under attack in the rural county south of Reno. Prior to the canceled meeting, the library had posted the statement to its Facebook page.
But county officials asked the library to remove the statement, saying it violated a policy on using government websites to promote a political agenda.
“We had them take it down,” Blosser said. “We cannot use public owned media to propagate a political agenda.”
Blosser said that despite Coverley’s warning to the library not to call 911, sheriff’s deputies will continue to respond to 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 said in a written press release.
In a written statement, Coverley said his open letter was “to provide public comment about their proposed diversity statement and to further provide open commentary about how this could affect our local law enforcement profession.”
Coverley did not immediately respond to a request for comment from the Reno Gazette Journal.
Coverley is in the middle of his first term as sheriff. According to his bio, Coverley grew up in Douglas County. He has worked for the sheriff’s office since 1997, rising to the rank of sergeant prior to his election in 2018.
Dodson, who spent Tuesday morning greeting library patrons at the front door and handing out masks to those who needed them, said she hopes to have a conversation with Coverley soon.
“I’d just like to open a discussion with him and maybe clear the air,” Dodson said. “We love our sheriff’s office. We love our first responders.”