LAS VEGAS (FOX5) -- In a release sent Friday, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department unveiled new guidelines for community activism and peaceful protesting in the valley regarding police response protocol.
Based on community and stakeholder feedback, the department said it would revise its tactics regarding dispersal orders and legal observers in the wake of controversial detainment and arrests made during marches for George Floyd, a Black man killed in police custody.
In a series of marches from the Strip to the streets of downtown Las Vegas, a number of protesters, journalists and legal observers were hit with tear gas, pepper balls or handcuffs when crowds were ordered to disperse. Now, department officials have lent their ears to community representatives, hoping to quell tensions borne by violence.
Police officials said they have engaged local representatives from groups including Black Lives Matter, the ACLU, the Attorney General's Office, Las Vegas City Council, among others, to create a dialogue surrounding the public's First Amendment Right to peaceable assembly.
"The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department hears the voice of our community and we are committed to working with all stake holders to implement meaningful reform, build trust, and improve as a police agency," a release stated. "During these difficult times emotions are high and many people have participated in protests to express their First Amendment Rights and to make their voices heard."
LVMPD will now do the following:
- COMMUNICATE FIRST - LVMPD will communicate with legal observers prior to events to identify a "liaison" and "reduce potential conflict."
- DISPERSAL ORDER - Officers will issue dispersal orders from multiple directions "ensure it is easier for protestors to hear the order."
- WHERE TO GO - Authorities will communicate "a clear path for protestors to leave the area to avoid confusion and conflict."
In a Frequently Asked Question document provided by LVMPD, police said officers are present only for the safety of all, and that officers will "not interfere" unless illegal activity occurs.
WHEN DOES A PROTEST BECOME ILLEGAL?
According to the document, a protest becomes illegal once participants break the law. Common violations include: harming others, property damage, throwing projectiles like rocks or bottles and obstructing roadways.
A full list of items deemed as "weapons" were also provided, in addition to a FAQ regarding local protests.
WHAT IS A DISPERSAL ORDER?
As outlined in a release, a dispersal order is issued by police when an illegal activity occurs in a gathering of two or more people. This gathering becomes an "Unlawful Assembly" under Nevada Revised Statute 203, police said. According to police, once this statute has been violated, officers will issue dispersal orders "at 10-minute intervals" in English and Spanish and may be repeated "up to three times depending on the severity of the illegal activity that is occurring." At that time, "all persons" must leave the surrounding area or face a misdemeanor offense which can result in a citation or arrest.
"NRS 203.060 Unlawful assembly. If two or more persons shall assemble together to do an unlawful act, and separate without doing or advancing toward it, such persons commit an unlawful assembly, and are guilty of a misdemeanor."
Since May 28, thousands have gathered in Las Vegas, and around the country, to support the Black Lives Matter movement, an historic civil rights act throttled by numerous in-custody deaths of Black Americans. Hundreds have been arrested or had physical encounters with police.
"Your safety and the protection of your rights is our top priority," police said.