Monday, Feb. 24, 2014 | 2 a.m.
If Chris Collins’ ruminations are true, Metro Police officials have deliberately left funded job vacancies unfilled for years as a tactic to push for the More Cops sales tax.
In the latest issue of Vegas Beat, a magazine produced by the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, Collins, the union head, makes the case by pointing to hundreds of authorized positions that have remained empty at the department since at least 2008.
In 2008, the department was allowed a total of 2,978 positions, but 331 went unfilled. As of the most recent fiscal year, 72 of the department’s 2,555 available positions were vacant. The resulting manpower shortage, Collins argues, eventually caused an overall uptick in crime in 2012 and a strong — if superficial — argument for More Cops proponents.
But Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield says not enough money has been provided by the county to fully fund the vacancies — those positions are technically funded through the end of one fiscal year but could be eliminated by the next based on a new budget.
The department is hesitant to hire officers for the vacant positions out of fear that they will be laid off, Hadfield said.
“Yes, some elected officials have publicly stated that they would not vote to lay off officers, but the reality is they have voted not to properly fund the department, which has required us to eliminate some positions,” Hadfield said. “So even though they haven’t voted to lay off officers, they do vote at what level they will fund and then we have to make it work.”
Clark County Commission Chair Steve Sisolak, who staunchly opposed proposals to raise the county's sales tax to pay for the More Cops initiative pushed by Sheriff Doug Gillespie, doesn’t buy that argument.
“We might have to say, look you have to cut your budget and you can cut helicopters or the horse patrol, or that sort of thing,” Sisolak said. “What elected official is going to lay off officers?”
Collins has been a proponent of the More Cops sales tax, but he has also been critical of Gillespie’s efforts to tap into More Cops money to bridge the department’s $30 million budget shortfall.
“Are we working with fewer cops than we need because the elected officials won’t pass the More Cops tax, or are we working with fewer cops than we need because the department has made the decision to leave funded positions vacant?” Collins wrote, addressing fellow Metro officers. “Either way, your job has been made more dangerous because of a critical manpower shortage that you had nothing to do with.”