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November 24, 2014

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J. PATRICK COOLICAN:

Of course we need more cops, and yes we have to pay for them

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Leila Navidi

Sheriff Doug Gillespie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

J. Patrick Coolican

J. Patrick Coolican

I’m sure I’m not the only one concerned by the news that crime was up 9 percent last year in the area patrolled by Las Vegas Metro Police.

Crime is still down 20 percent from five years ago, so we needn’t panic, but this should get our attention. Given all the gambling and drug addiction in the valley, property crime, which was up last year, is too routine. Serious assaults, including stabbings and shootings, were also up, according to Metro Sheriff Doug Gillespie. Violent crime tends to disproportionately affect neighborhoods that face enough disadvantages already.

In an interview last month, Gillespie attributed the increase to budget cuts. In recent years, Metro has eliminated 506 positions: 238 officers, 236 civilians and 32 temporary positions.

“When you eliminate those positions and reduce investigative components, and your officer who is out on the street wearing the uniform and driving the black and white doesn’t have the downtime to be proactive and be visible, this is what happens,” he said.

Metro has asked the Legislature to approve a quarter-cent sales tax increase in Clark County, first approved by voters in 2004, to close another looming budget deficit, which would require still more reductions.

I posed some questions to Metro chief financial officer Karen Keller to help me make up my mind about the tax increase question before the Legislature.

Here are some Metro budget basics from Keller:

• The current year's budget, which ends June 30, is $502 million. Revenue will be $447 million. Keller expects revenue for next year’s budget to be flat. In other words, Metro faces what’s called a “structural deficit” -- expenses will continue to exceed revenue if something isn’t done to correct the imbalance.

• The bulk of the revenue problem comes from a steep drop in property tax revenue: $57 million, or a 31 percent reduction, reflecting how land and home values have plummeted.

• Metro has been making up the difference with money set aside in its reserves. The department had a fund balance in June of $54 million, expecting to draw the balance down to about $25 million at the end of the current fiscal year. Next year’s budget would draw down an additional $15 million. Metro will present a proposed budget for next year Feb. 25.

• The quarter-cent sales tax would raise $55 million for Metro.

I talked to a legislator who questioned how Metro spends its money, citing the mammoth downtown headquarters the department leases and the faulty radio system it purchased.

Metro leases headquarters for about $12.5 million annually. When they moved into the headquarters, they were able to move out of other buildings, which saved $4.3 million. Because Metro was using free space at the old city hall that doesn’t exist at the new City Hall, Metro would have had to lease an additional $2 million to $3 million of space without the new headquarters. So, all told, the new headquarters costs an extra $5 to $6 million per year, which is a lot, but doesn’t account for the $55 million shortfall.

With respect to the faulty radio system, Metro paid $40.1 million for it, with $11.2 million coming from grants and property seizures. All is not lost -- there are two components of the radio system, the data piece and the voice piece. They’ll keep the data piece.

The real costs are in people. Keller says salaries account for 60 percent of the total budget and benefits account for another 27 percent. In other words, labor eats up 87 percent of Metro’s budget. Contractual obligations make it difficult to reduce labor costs unless you reduce the number of officers. Are officers overpaid? I’ll leave that for another day.

Our ratio of officer to population is about 1.8 per 1,000 residents. Keller sent me the ratios for other cities: Austin, 2.0; Fresno, 1.6; Houston, 2.2; Jacksonville, 2.1; Los Angeles, 2.5; Phoenix, 2.0; San Diego, 1.4; Seattle, 2.1.

Keller estimated that within a few years, the tax increase would allow Metro to hire back the positions the department lost during the past few years.

I asked Gillespie about the increase in crime and his plan to combat it.

After a pause, he mentioned the need to look at crime trends, preventive measures, enforcement and prosecutions.

I wasn’t satisfied by the generalities in which he spoke, which he all but acknowledged when he said, “I don’t know if I’ve answered your question.”

But I’m not sure there was a better answer. It seems to me he needs officers, which means he needs this tax increase to prevent more reductions.

What’s interesting is that the opposition seems fairly muted, including from the usual “No taxes now, no taxes tomorrow and no taxes forever” crowd.

The governor has said he’ll sign it.

I suspect there’s broad consensus in favor of it because it makes sense that we have fewer officers on the street, and therefore crime is up.

You get what you pay for. A fairly simple rule in life.

So, about our schools ....

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  1. The answer may be just smarter policing instead of more cops. I don't know why the answer to crime is always more cops instead of coming up with more ingenius ideas on how to combat crime. The force should employ more cameras in high crime areas. Maybe they could start using mobile cameras that can be stationed in different areas as needed to eliminate cops just sitting and watching. They could also rely more on private security as a deterrent in certain areas to free up patrol units.

  2. In 2010, the top 10 highest paid people at Metro made over 4.1 million dollars in salary and benfits. Then they all retired, probably with pensions of over $100,000 a year. Transparentnevada.com doesn't indicate what their job was, but in 2011 the top 10 people were all desk people, and they made over 3.7 million dollars. Gillespie's cronies at the top are making the big bucks. They're just like the people at the Fire Departments and the big shots at the top levels of local governments. They loot the treasuries then want a tax increase on people making the minimum wage. Don't blame the officers on the street. It's the top level desk people who are grossly overpaid.

  3. Glad to see that the good conservatives of the greater LV area have such good feelings for their "thin blue (tan) line".

    To them money is obviously more important than the public good.

  4. This should attract the attention of our taxophobic friends who know the price of everything but the value of nothing.

  5. Being the world destinations that Las Vegas and Hoover Dam are, we need appropriate supervision for the safety, care, and welfare of all.

    That being said, suggestions as utilizing more street cams also makes sense, but it still costs money. A cap on administrative pay and benefits MUST happen, before asking for MORE MONEY via taxes. Officers should have, as doctors and educators do, liability insurance for on the job lawsuits. In our society, we tend to assume guilt before proving innocence anymore (which really speaks about integrity and good reputation has gone the way of the dinosaur).

    And yes, they do need to revisit use of police heliocopters, as those are quite expensive to use. Overall, my experiences with Metro have been positive and proactive. They do a fine job with public education, and have kept enough of a presence to deter a rise in crime.

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  6. We could start adding to the number of officers by eliminating the Constables office and moving its positions to Metro. The handling of legal documents they now serve could be farmed out to a private firm, saving even more in pension, vacation and sick leave costs. I am opposed to adding to the sales tax burden because, once instituted, it never goes away and the funds are never truly accounted for. Besides, lefties, the sales tax is a regressive tax and who really gets hurt the most when it is raised? Not the "1%' you are so quick to demonize.

  7. All of this so the scumbags in the area can complain about more police when they do their jobs.

  8. Coolican,

    You provided a lot of numbers, but you failed to provide any real information. Not even the numbers you provide actually support your lock-step support of Gillespie's decision to override the will of the people and conduct an end-run around current law.

    You tell us that a 9% increase in crime rates more officers, but did you ask how the department reduced its staff over the previous four years when crime went down. How does the budget today compare to the department's spending five years ago? Did it follow the same decent as the crime rate?

    Of course not. Police levels and crime never seemed to be tied with the crime rate drops, now do they?

    How can you not see who is really to blame for the current "shortfall?" This "shortfall" is nearly identical to the amount of money Metro has wasted on the faulty radio system and financial settlement stemming from officer misconduct during his watch.

    You thought you heard crickets when you "asked Gillespie about the increase in crime and his plan to combat it," try asking him why we should hire more officers when he can't discipline the ones he has? Or why we should give him more money when has shown so little regard for the money we've already been entrusted in him? Even if "$11.2 million [of the wasted funds came] from grants and property seizures" those were funds he was under no less of an obligation not to flush it down the toilet.

    Yet, despite Gilliespie's inability to articulate how more money or more officers would help reduce crime you conclude, "It seems to me he needs officers, which means he needs this tax increase to prevent more reductions....it makes sense that we have fewer officers on the street, and therefore crime is up."

    You should heed the words of George Santayana: "Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it"

    In 1994, Bill Clinton vowed to reduce crime by funding 100,000 new cops on the street. While crime did decrease over the next few years, Clinton had failed to put less than half the promised number of officers on the street and a 2005 report by the Government Accountability Office found 95 percent of the decline in crime rates was attributable to other factors.

    More recently. Ed Maguire, an American University criminology professor took a long hard look at crime and police staffing. After reviewing more than 27 studies that attempted to link the size of a police force with crime rates, Maguire found that more than half of those studies found no relationship between the two. Of the remainder, most found that crime actually increased as police levels rose.

  9. Collican found that when confronted with facts, Gillespie has with no real answers to how he intends to reduce crime with more money. Gillespie after all doesn't live in a world governed by facts. The facts to him are always based on urban legend rather than real life.

    I mean just last week, after two cops killed a suspect after they opened fire yards away from a school, injuring two innocent bystanders, and the cops walked away unscathed Gillespie was quoted stating the the incident was an "unfortunate reminder of the dangers facing police."

    Gillespie will tell you policing is a dangerous job, when farming, fishing, waste management and six of seven other jobs have historically higher mortality rates. He will tell you how transparent his department is as hides a deal allowing Det. Timothy Nicothodese to avoid termination after his alcohol fueled search for strippers in Montana left two young women seriously injured and a felony conviction to end his career. Despite department policy dictating termination for any officer convicted of a felony, Nicothodese received a full medical pension. Considering Nicothodes is the husband of Deputy Chief Kathy O'Connor, Gillespie's chief of staff, its no wonder this wasn't part of his quest for transparency.

    Gillespie has wasted our money in the past, has no idea how he is going to utilize the additional funds he his begging for to stem crime in the future, faced with facts he continues to spread the
    fictions of law enforcement, and he is all for transparency--until there is something he doesn't want us to know.

    It seems, "You get what you pay for," is not the "fairly simple rule in life" you think it is.

  10. And perhaps we could look at deployment. Does it really take three or four police cars and officers to interrogate every homeless person or jaywalker who is stopped by Metro? In addition, how many times have you seen a group of officers standing around a minor fender-bender?

  11. "I'm sure I'm not the only one concerned by the news that crime was up 9 percent last year in the area patrolled by Las Vegas Metro Police. . . . .With respect to the faulty radio system, Metro paid $40.1 million for it, with $11.2 million coming from grants and property seizures. . . . .You get what you pay for. A fairly simple rule in life."

    Coolican -- at the risk of taking the wind out of your sails on this one, you neglected to mention most traffic offenses are actually crimes. Driving with a cell phone in one's ear being just one of many, many examples. That somehow got lost in the background of what "crime" is.

    I'm troubled by our sheriff's dependence on "property seizures" as part of his budget. How exactly does he, who took an oath to support, protect and defend both our federal and state Constitutions, both of which forbid taking private property for state use without just compensation? Given the many marijuana raids and other seizures done within his jurisdiction, I have to ask how much of that kind of compensation was made.

    Finally, as for getting what we pay for, that may very well be the crux of the biscuit here. His priority is likely keeping his job and expanding police authority. My one traffic stop involved a simple driving my not currently-registered vehicle Downtown. Three units were on me with six of his deputies, and the two that stayed were bike cops. The one at my window turned hard-ass when I responded to his question "Do you have anything illegal in your vehicle?" with a reminder that was a Fifth Amendment question. My point being Gillespie's bullies with badges need their wings clipped, and the only power We the people have over that is to chop his budget.

    "Gillespie's cronies at the top are making the big bucks...They loot the treasuries then want a tax increase on people making the minimum wage."

    lv55 -- probably the best post so far, including mine

    "This "shortfall" is nearly identical to the amount of money Metro has wasted on the faulty radio system and financial settlement stemming from officer misconduct during his watch."

    bghs1986 -- another good post.

    "Where once the criminal law might have stood as a well-understood and indisputable statement of shared norms in American society, now there is only a bloated compendium that looks very much like the dreaded federal tax code. The end results can be downright ugly: a soccer mom thrown in jail in a small Texas town for failing to wear a seatbelt; a 12-year-old girl arrested and handcuffed for eating french fries in a Metro station in Washington, DC; and defendants serving 25-year to life sentences in California prisons for, among other things, pilfering a slice of pizza." -- "Overextending the Criminal Law" @ http://www.cato.org/pubs/policy_report/v...

  12. SHORT, SWEET, SIMPLE. You will never stop the crime until you stop the criminal. My friends, that will never be done. Like it or not. Police make the arrest, Judges and Lawyers turn them lose, around and around we go. I am guessing recidivism is a good 80 to 90%. STOP RECIDIVISM, slow down cime but nothing will stop it.

  13. "Some "crimes" should be reduced to civil disobedience and issued a ticket, or simply made legal."

    stopthebs -- or simply leave people alone! Or not "simply made legal" but decriminalized. Like all traffic laws being simple misdemeanors, for which the Vegas-area courts require a $1,000 bail.

    And like the current, profoundly stupid marijuana laws. As I understand them, not only is marijuana currently in the highest class of controlled substances, so is hemp. The opiates like heroin are in the next lower class. Hemp??! What aggravates this point for Nevada is over ten years ago We the people changed our Constitution to legalize it. Yet the raids, arrests and seizures continue.

    "The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others." -- Thomas Jefferson, Notes on the State of Virginia, 1781-82

  14. All government agencies are charged with the task of meeting three goals - Do it faster. Do it better. Do it cheaper. It's impossible to maximize all three. For any undertaking the agency must do a trade-off among these goals. Do it cheaper. Fine, does that mean we do it slower, that we do less well, or both? Do it better. Fine, does that mean we do it slower, spend more money on it, or both? Do it faster. Fine, does that mean we do it less well, spend more money on it, or both?

    Yes, there may be one-time savings in eliminating waste. Can you point to specific examples and their solutions? Is the amount material? If so, cut the waste right now as a first priority. If not, cut the waste, but do so as you go along.

    Be specific about "waste." It is very easy for lv55(Steve Brown), for example, to say "Don't blame the officers on the street. It's the top level desk people who are grossly overpaid." Perhaps. But that generality is meaningless. Just WHAT do they do for that money? Do they have some arcane expertise that is costly to obtain? (I.E. do they supervise 2 car washers or did they spend life-times learning how to best protect expensive public and private property?) Just what do we GET for that money?

    It's simple for mred to claim: "We need fewer cops and fewer laws." Fewer laws - such as? To paraphrase the gun control crowd - we have proven that we can't eliminate all speeding. Instead of wasting yet more money continuing a failed attempt to do so (with traffic cops) we should eliminate all speed limits as well as all other traffic laws. Viola!! Fewer laws! More police jobs eliminated!

  15. We wouldn't need more cops IF WE KEPT the bad guys locked up for their full sentences. We keep letting the same Perps out to commit new crimes--a growth industry for cops, courts, attorneys.

  16. LVMPD does give off an image of being mismanaged. I'm always skeptical when hiring new cops to fight crime is proposed first instead of working harder and smarter to reduce crime. We have a culture of ignorance and violence in this city. We have luxury high rise condominiums with drug deals and prostitution going on in and around them in empty lots.

    It's like a third world country in some areas. Upper class dwellings surrounded by squalor. Filth and danger awaits those who walk the street right outside their gate or lobby. You'd have to hire a million cops to fix that around the city. A smarter plan must be formulated. The city and police need to start solving the problems from the inside out. That's what they get paid to do. Most of us would be fired if we performed our individual job duties with the same quality we see in our government.

  17. I SEE said the taxpayer.
    Property values went up 25% last year and 12% the year before according to published reports. Assessed valuations and property taxes will go up over time as well. Perhaps too fast once again.

    We don't need nor should we rush to raise taxes or create new ones for this or any other purpose. Revenues are and will increase for schools, police & other community cornerstones but we should not act hastily nor without an eye toward affordability in the future.

    Although I hope it is slower than this I anticipate my property taxes will go up by 3% every time a reassessment is authorized for years to come. If we are not careful we will wake up one day with a significant portion of our retired and fixed income taxpayers of which we have recently gained tens of thousands of, unable to afford their homes or continue careful but comfortable lifestyles due to increasing property and other taxes. Then we will start to have the reverse effect of what they are bringing to the valley; they and the businesses they support will begin to leave rather than continue to fuel growth and stability of the valley economy whole.

    Greed for more taxes too quickly will push out many taxpayers who pay for community services, schools and more. We all should have learned the hard lesson in the last 6 years what happens when folks stop spending and the well goes dry.

    Contrary to what some think, money does not grow on trees for the picking. It takes a life time to earn but a short time to lose.

  18. Would those who support an additional sales tax of any amount agree to include a mandatory end to it based on a return to specified revenue levels?

    Taxes are easy to create but rarely go away. Like road and bridge tolls intended to go away when the subject is paid for, they never do. Hollywood accounting can be predicted and counted on.

    As the economy improves it is likely property crimes will go down. Rather than ignore history and what it foretells we need to be mindful of our and future generations prospects.

  19. We are near the bottom when it comes to every important metric. Even with the terrible stats we are growing again. We will need more of everything including police to accommodate population and tourism increases. Education and crime will be frequent topics of discussion as time rolls on.

  20. Education will NOT help. We have plenty of college grads without jobs moving in with Mom and Dad, when they can. When they can't, they're living on the streets or living off crime--just like many of the illegals--crime for cash. The LAST THING we need is to dump more resources into a broken K-12. We've had a sour economy for more than 4 years now with no plan from the white house. We're on our own except that the government will take 35-50% of anything we earn and report. We need to ENFORCE immigration laws and remove 15-20 millions illegal immigrants (ICE data). More than 12% of employees in Nevada are illegals. Looks like 25-40% of K-12 students are illegal--terribly expensive at more than $12,000 each per year. Gee maybe a little support for hard-working Americans would have turned this around sooner rather than later. Working adults without dependent kids get almost zip for a safety net while we are taxing our seniors into starvation to import illegal kids and illegal workers.

  21. Have you ever seen a tv show, reality type, of a homicide investigation? Able to questimate the cost of a homicide investigation when 1-5 detectives work endless overtime....for months? Ever notice that when they find the Perps, they have lengthy rap sheets, almost always, for serious violent crimes against people and property? So why are the Perps on the streets? WE keep letting them out of prison early. Do you ever hear the public defenders (and regular attorneys appointed to handle murder case defense) complain about the repeat business? They WANT more crime. Look at Nevada Supreme Court lobbying for another layer of appeals courts because of their work load--and then recall that ONE INMATE has filed HUNDREDS of appeals and cases prior to the Court saying ENOUGH.

  22. It's been hard to hold Gillespie accountable. Candidates for Sheriff usually come from the ranks in Metro but Gillespie has been effective in punishing those that have ran against him with nary a word of protest from the polticos, press, and public. He can waste $40 million on a radio system without facing any consequences.

    Metro has long been opposed to anything other than their current manning model. Full-time officers only. He has now only began to consider reserve officers that could fill lower priority calls. I think we should all look at different options like Police Specials as they have in San Francisco. Some kind of tapping into the private industry to fill lower priority but important duties leaving Metro able to use their resources more wisely.

  23. There is a website called AlertID - it alerts you to the crimes in your neighborhood soon after they are reported. It is AMAZING to me how many crimes happen each day here in Green Valley! Some days my inbox is full of nothing but reports of crime, and so close to home. I thought I was in a relatively GOOD, crime-free zone. It's shocking to find out otherwise and has prompted extra home security for my house.

    I have to wonder what AlertID would show in the Metro area. Anyone use it?

  24. CUT THE FAT FROM METRO ! While our public school system ranks 50th in the nations metro ranks in the top 10 in police depts. UMC is bankrupt, our public health system is crumbling to the ground. Metro moves into a new police HQ complex, gets a 40 million dollar radio system. The 6 yr. old Regional Justice Building gets a 20 million dollar expansion. Metro you have plenty of cops to put on the streets. Do you really need 50+ K-9 units, Do you really need 6 full time SWAT teams. Do you need 22 pilots for 7 planes & helicopters. Instead sheriff you cut the DARE progam. Metro is a business to make money. Metro is top heavy and equip.fat. Learn to do more with less like the rest. Give my taxes to our kids future. In 5 yrs. the largest high school in clark county will be the GED program at the state prison.

  25. Have you considered that the sales tax is the most regressive of all taxes? The poor will pay that tax on all items except food, and since they save little, it will be a tax on virtually all of their income, versus a middle or high income person, who can escape the tax increase by spending less. When I read of a $50,000,000 loss to the police department for purchasing a failed radio system, lavish higher command salaries and pension benefits, and money wasted chasing small time pot smokers, I really wonder if the department is exercising due diligence with the monies they already receive. Sales tax revenues will increase along with an economic recovery. The sales tax on a new car is already a nearly 10% additional cost, which doesn't even put license plates on the vehicle. Raising the sales tax will discourage big ticket retail sales, which will stifle the recovery. I think the sheriff's idea should be the beginning of a discussion, not the basis for blindly raising the sales tax, on the premise it will lead to better law enforcement.

  26. "We" also need to pay for the Iraq War debt, but the solution to that seems to be cut back Medicare and Social Security. This country should learn that someone has to pay for wars, the military, homeland security, the government - and without exception, Metro, and it seems that is a majority consensus.

    The greatest point of contention is the interpretation of 'we', as in what do you mean "We", Kimasabe?

  27. I always ask when RE values were increasing 10-20% per year and taxes going up the same where did THAT money go?
    I spent the winter in China and was amazed at the police presence in every city and village I went to.
    Many where in "tents", like the tailgate tent, at busy corners or here and there along pedestrian ways, they just sat there and watched. There was a huge amount of police on bikes,,not the tricked out 18 speed Metro has, no, single speed bike with a blue light pole on the back. They would have it on and cruise around, or just parked, people knew a cop was near by. Every community had only a few ways to get in and out of, and there was a cop stationed at every entrance, same for the schools.
    I really did not see many driving around in cruisers. If we are to add more police they should be foot/bike patrol only, no cars added to the budget.

  28. Idiot Cookican. It's always cops, firefighters and teachers whose salaries are cut. Always go for the essential workers at first and leave non-essential untouched. Typical leftist tactic.

    You love your Democrats, dontcha?