A proposed statement of support for Black Lives Matter from a rural library promoted a county sheriff to threaten not to respond to future 911 calls.
Although he has already attempted to walk back his statement, Douglas County Sheriff Daniel J. Coverley in an open letter to the Douglas County Public Library Board of Trustees on Monday wrote: “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 sheriff’s warning letter, which was posted Monday on the official county website, was a direct response to a proposed diversity statement that the library trustees were scheduled to consider during a meeting Tuesday.
That meeting was canceled — a decision Library Director Amy Dodson says was made prior to the sheriff’s letter being read.
“We got so much public comment from the community,” she said. “We made a good estimate that we’d have a large meeting and we can’t accommodate that right now.”
Dodson estimates the library has already received more than 100 written public comments regarding the proposed diversity statement.
The proposed diversity statement begins by saying that everyone is welcome at the library.
It also read: “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.”
It concludes: “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.”
(You can read the proposed statement in full here.)
Dodson says the proposed diversity statement was penned by staff within the library, not by the trustees whom the sheriff addressed his threat to.
In his response letter posted Monday, Sheriff Coverley denies the existence of systemic racism or structural bias within law enforcement.
“The Black Lives Matter movement openly calls all law enforcement corrupt and racist on their website,” he wrote. “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.”
A day later, the sheriff’s office published another statement. Within it, Coverley does not address his threat and instead states, “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.”
The second statement notes that the sheriff’s office “will continue to respond to all 911 calls, including those at the library.”
Dodson said she and the library hold no ill will toward the sheriff or law enforcement.
“There was no ill intention,” she said of the proposed diversity statement. “We love our sheriff. We work together. I think there might have been some miscommunication.”
Still, she admits she was taken aback by the sheriff’s original letter.
“I think he was expressing and representing his department,” she said. “I can’t speak for him, but I was surprised. I understood it as we need to have further conversations about this. I need to take initiative with some communication with the sheriff to make sure we’re all under the same page.”
According to his bio on the sheriff’s office website, Coverley has been with the department since 1997 and was elected sheriff in 2019.
A report from the American Civil Liberties Union found that in 2018 Black people in Douglas county were 21.9 times more likely to be arrested for marijuana possession than white people. Statewide, Black people were three times more likely than white people to be arrested for marijuana possession.
Douglas County Libraries operates branches in Minden and Zephyr Cove.