Daniel Coverley is the sheriff of Douglas County, Nevada, who recently told the county’s library trustees not to bother calling 911 should an emergency arise, because trustees planned to issue a statement in support of the Black Lives Matter movement.
In a public letter, Coverley said, “to support this movement is to support violence and to openly ask for it to happen in Douglas County.”
Coverley then advised library trustees, “please do not feel the need to call 911 for help.”
A library trustees meeting at which the statement of support was to be voted on has been postponed, according to the public library’s Facebook page.
Here’s what you need to know:
1. The Douglas County Library Board of Trustees Was to Meet on July 28 & Vote on a Diversity Statement That Included the Words, ‘We Support #BlackLivesMatter’
At the Douglas County Public Library’s July 28 trustees meeting, a diversity statement was on the agenda. The agenda and statement were posted publicly, and Sheriff Coverley took notice.
The statement, available online via the county, stressed that the library was an inclusive environment, and stated that the trustees support the Black Lives Matter movement.
It read, in part:
The Douglas County Public Library denounces all acts of violence, racism and disregard for human rights. We support #BlackLivesMatter. We resolutely assert and believe that all forms of racism, hatred, inequality and injustice don’t belong in our society.
The Douglas County Public Library joins the American Library Association and the Urban Libraries Council in condemning the violence and racism towards Black, Indigenous and People of Color. We are steadfastly dedicated to equality, freedom to read and freedom of expression.
For that reason, we have joined more than 170 public libraries across North America in signing the Urban Libraries Council’s Statement on Race and Social Equity. Together we can move toward change and progress so that everyone may live and thrive surrounded by the kindness, support and safety of our community.
The Urban Libraries Council statement that Douglas County signed onto can be read here.
2. Sheriff Coverley Took Exception & Published His Own Open Letter to the Trustees: ‘Please Do Not Feel the Need to Call 911 for Help,’ He Wrote
On July 27, Coverley got ahead of the trustees’ meeting and posted an open letter on the sheriff’s office website. He opened by lamenting the “tragic and preventable death of George Floyd,” but disputing the idea that American law enforcement is “systemically racist or structurally biased.”
He linked anti-police sentiment and the Black Lives Matter movement to police assaults and “assassinations,” and, much like Attorney General William Barr did before a Congressional committee Tuesday, asserted that more unarmed white people were killed by police than Black last year.
The most relevant part of Coverley’s letter to the trustees read:
The Douglas County Sheriff’s Office is the only local law enforcement agency in Douglas County, and it is the men and women of DCSO that keep you safe. The Black Lives Matter movement openly calls all law enforcement corrupt and racist on their website. They call for the defunding of police, and we have seen how a lack of active law enforcement has worked in Seattle, Washington, and Portland, Oregon. Numerous Black Lives Matter protests have resulted in violence, property damage and the closing of local businesses, sometimes permanently. To support this movement is to support violence and to openly ask for it to happen in Douglas County.
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.
Library Director Amy Dodson told the Reno Gazette Journal that the diversity statement was not intended to be anti-police.
“It simply was meant to state our inclusivity at the library, that we are open and welcoming to everyone and we treat everyone equally,” she said.”
3. Coverley’s Letter Was Criticized by the State ACLU & a State Law Enforcement Official & Found to be Extremely Similar to 1 Sent by State Attorneys General to Congress
First of all, this is just a library district trying to be inclusive, but this would be monstrous no matter who it was. Police have a sworn duty to protect everyone. https://t.co/qFQiDEUS0t
— Wesley Juhl (@WesJuhl) July 28, 2020
Coverley’s letter provoked backlash from Nevadans online and the state ACLU. A number of accounts called on Twitter and Facebook for Coverley to resign or, at least, be voted out in the next round of elections. “Responding to ALL 911 calls is part of your job. Either do your job or resign. Those are the only choices,” one user wrote, responding to a Tweet from the sheriff’s office.
Nevada ACLU Communications Manager Wesley Juhl called Coverley’s letter “monstrous,” and claimed that Black people are 21.91 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana than whites in Douglas County.
“First of all, this is just a library district trying to be inclusive, but this would be monstrous no matter who it was,” Juhl wrote. “Police have a sworn duty to protect everyone.”
The Nevada Sheriffs’ and Chiefs’ Association’s Eric Spratley told This is Reno that Coverley’s statement was “pretty drastic,” and “a little bit frustrating.”
He was more measured, however, noting that passions run high on all sides of the debate.
“So, I’m not giving the sheriff a pass or commenting on his comment or judging his comment — but if you go to the other side of the matter, the Black Lives Matter website, it does say, ‘The police don’t keep us safe,’ and they call it a corrupt criminal justice system—and that’s troubling,” Spratley told the outlet. “For people to support that thought process is troubling for law enforcement because we’re trying to be involved in our communities.”
This is Reno also noted that much of the language in Coverley’s letter was taken verbatim from a June 22 letter to Congress from state attorneys general from Nevada, Alabama, Ohio and several other states.
4. After the Trustees Canceled Their Meeting on the Diversity Statement, the Sheriff’s Office Walked Back Its Message
— Douglas Co Sheriff (@DouglasSheriff) July 28, 2020
After Coverley learned that the trustees had canceled their July 28 meeting, he wrote yet another letter, indicating that his office and the library trustees were having “active conversations” to try to understand the “intent of their proposed diversity statement.”
However, the letter also walked back Coverley’s prior statement, vowing that the sheriff’s office would respond to all 911 calls — including those from the library.
“My response to the library’s proposed agenda item 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 wrote.
The sheriff’s office will “continue to fairly and impartially apply laws and ordinances without regard to race, color, creed, sex, or station in life,” he wrote.
Coverley and Dodson then released a joint statement characterizing the tiff as a “misunderstanding.” Dodson said the library “respects and supports the work of the [sheriff’s office] and appreciates everything they do to keep our community safe.”
The statement did not say what will become of the diversity statement, only that the meeting at which it was to be discussed will be rescheduled.
Melissa Blosser, of the sheriff’s office, told Heavy on Wednesday, “The sheriff and the library director are actively meeting behind closed doors to further reconciliation and express their opinions. They are looking at ways to keep our community safe and create unity within our community.”
Heavy reached out to the library trustees for comment.
5. Myriad Libraries & Library Groups Have Come Out With Similar Diversity Statements Since the Black Lives Matter Movement Has Gained Steam
The library industry news compiler Infodocket has gathered hundreds of statements promoting diversity and supporting the Black Lives Matter movement.
The American Library Association released a statement on June 11 condemning police violence against Black, Indigenous people and people of color.
The statement asserted that libraries in general stand for freedom of expression, information and opinion.
“We recognize that institutionalized inequities based on race are embedded into our society and are reinforced through social institutions, and we condemn the systemic racism and violence that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color experience on a daily basis in our inequitable society,” the association wrote.
The ALA also targeted police violence against protesters and journalists: “The former raise their voices to demand justice; the latter seek to document and share history as it is being made,” the statement read.