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My comments for the BOPC meeting on 7-27-21

I encourage anyone who can go to the Grant Sawyer Building and make their comments in person to do so. Thank you for those who submitted comments for consideration.


My name is Paul Lunkwitz, I was a Correctional Officer at High Desert State Prison. I was a correctional officer with the Nevada Department of Corrections since June 5, 2000. I am also the President of Nevada C.O. Lodge 21 of the Fraternal Order of Police. In all my years of experience as an officer and in my 13 years of representing officers in various capacities, I can tell you that there has never been a more critical issue than the one we are here to discuss today. The highly contested removal of the potentially lethal firearms from protective posts inside our institutions back in 2016 caused an evolution within the Nevada Department of Corrections. Officers have evolved to rely solely on less lethal options in the performance of their duties. While access to additional less lethal options was a responsible decision, the removal of a lethal force option was negligent and in disregard to the mission of the NDOC.


I established at the EMC hearing that inmates have defeated and fought through every single less lethal option that we have available in the NDOC currently. After outlining the conditions under which we are asked to work under, and discussing the various violent attacks on officers and inmates, The EMC granted my grievance after a unanimous vote. The NDOC is failing its Officers, Inmates, and the Public. I will ask all of you on the BOPC the same question I asked the EMC: “Would any of you on the BOPC feel comfortable sending 10 officers with no stab vests, helmets, shields, tasers or lethal force option to work a housing unit that houses 336 inmates over a mile away from the operations building? No? How about 4? Thats right ladies and gentlemen, on dayshift units 9 through 12 are staffed with 4 officers per unit. Over a mile away from the operations building, no stab vests, no tasers, no shields, no helmets, and no lethal force option!”


Our use of force training teaches us that there are 6 levels of force. #1 officer presence, #2 verbal commands, #3 restraints, #4 chemical agents, #5 incapacitation tools, and #6 deadly or lethal force. With no lethal force option available to the officers in these positions, we are not talking about if an officer will ever be murdered, but when an officer will be murdered. Inmates have already attempted to and murdered inmates. Inmates have also expressed their own concern regarding our ability to protect them from other inmates. This is a life or death issue we are here to discuss today.


I cannot be certain what Deputy Director Williams intends on discussing during the appropriate time on the agenda. I know I did have a conversation with him regarding this grievance after I spoke up at the previous April BOPC meeting. He expressed to me that Christina Leathers was at fault for not keeping the Directors in the loop. If she should offer any input to this proceeding, I would suggest her lack of experience and naivety be taken into consideration. She made several false claims and used derogatory language(kill inmates) during her incompetent representation at the EMC Hearing in March 2021. D.D. Williams further intimated that the administration is on my side in equipping the appropriate gun posts with a lethal force option. I am quite sure that his remarks today will be far more politically muted.


The bottom line is you wouldn’t ask a police officer to work the streets with only less lethal tools. You wouldn’t ask a soldier to go to war with less lethal tools. We as officers are being asked to work in an environment where the inmates we are responsible to protect are scared for their lives, but those we oppose are equipped with lethal weapons. We are being asked to uphold this NDOC mission without the realistic lethal force platform that we need.


I am well aware that the order to remove lethal firearms and birdshot from our protective gun posts came from the former governor of Nevada. If Governor Sisolak needs to change this directive, then so be it. If this vital safety issue continues on unchanged, and this BOPC, NDOC administrators, the attorney generals office, and the NDOC Director do not make every effort to fix this issue, you will all bear this liability. One day you will hear the news that an officer, staff member, vendor, visitor, or inmate was murdered due to the lack of a lethal force option at our institutions. This burden will fall on everyone who had a chance to prevent this from happening. I humbly ask that after reviewing the evidence and exhibits from my EMC hearing, and hearing the comments submitted today, you vote to equip all staff with protective stab vests and that every single secure protective post throughout the NDOC be equipped with mini-14 rifles or similar firearm, as well as effective less lethal firearms and ammunition. Thank you for your careful consideration.


Paul Lunkwitz

President

FOP Nevada C.O. Lodge 21

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