Prior to July 1, 1973, the police agencies in Clark County consisted of five; namely, the Clark County Sheriff's Department, City of Las Vegas Police Department, City of North Las Vegas Police Department, City of Henderson Police Department and Boulder City Police Department. The cities policed their incorporated areas and the Sheriff's Department provided police services to the unincorporated areas of the County of Clark. The Las Vegas Police Department was the largest police agency in the State of Nevada, with approximately 500 personnel (both commissioned and civilian). That department was responsible for police services in the City of Las Vegas, which consisted of approximately 53 square miles.
The Clark County Sheriff's Department
The Clark County Sheriff's Department was the largest Sheriff's Department in the State of Nevada and also had approximately 500 personnel (both commissioned and civilian). That Department was responsible for police services in the unincorporated areas of the County of Clark, which consisted of approximately 8,000 square miles. This area covered the land mass from the California border on the south and west to the Arizona border on the east, and the Utah and Lincoln County borders on the north. Police services to the unincorporated towns were still provided by Resident Officers living in those communities.
City of Las Vegas and County of Clark
For many years, dating back prior to 1973, the major political subdivisions, i.e., the City of Las Vegas and County of Clark, argued for the incorporation of urbanized areas of the County into the City since the City believed that due to the urbanization of a former rural area, it could and should be serviced by a municipal government which is in the business of providing urban services. It was pointed out by the City that County government should provide rural services and not get involved in a duplication of effort by providing that which another political subdivision was already doing, and which could be provided at less expense by the City.
The County Board of Commissioners opposed the efforts of the City of Las Vegas to incorporate the tax-rich "strip" area because, to do so, the County would be deprived of tax revenue. Therefore, Public Administration Service was commissioned to conduct a study of local government in 1968 and make recommendations for improving the structure, or streamlining local government and the services they provided. The study was commissioned by the Board of County Commissioners, and since many of the recommendations were favorable towards the County Government, the City officials believed that the study was biased. No affirmative action was ever taken on the recommendations in that report.
Strong opposition from local elected officials
During the 1969 session of the Nevada Legislature, efforts were made to pass a law which would have abolished the Charters of the Cities of Las Vegas and North Las Vegas. Its intent was to create a single metropolitan government which would have included not only the two aforementioned cities, but much of the unincorporated urban areas of Clark County as well. This legislation was Assembly Bill 783. It was not passed into law due to strong opposition from local elected officials.
Local Government Study Committee
During the 1971 session of the Nevada Legislature, another effort was made toward consolidation of local government. This act created the Local Government Study Committee, composed of members of the Legislature whose duties were to include the holding of public hearings for the purpose of determining how local government might be streamlined. After conducting an in-depth study of local governments and their operations, that Committee reported back to the 1973 session of the Legislature, recommending various alternatives to resolving the dilemma of the various local governments' duplication of services. This bill empowered that Committee to command the cooperation needed from local government officials.
As a result of the numerous public hearings conducted by the Local Government Study Committee, and the information provided by the five local political subdivisions, that Committee at its meeting of December 15, 1971, directed that the City of Las Vegas and the County of Clark Commissions appoint members of its law enforcement departments to a committee for the purpose of studying those areas of each department which could feasibly be consolidated. Some areas specifically identified were Records, Criminalistics, Detention, and Communications.
Law Enforcement Study Committee
The two governments complied and on January 28, 1972, a committee of nine convened to begin the task of studying the feasibility of consolidating the aforementioned services. That committee was known as the Law Enforcement Study Committee. After several weeks of regular meetings, it was the Committee's belief that the only practical method to consolidate any of the services of the two police agencies was to totally merge the two agencies into one agency.
Proceeding with this course of action and consulting with the department heads of both agencies to insure this course of action was acceptable to both, the Law Enforcement Study Committee labored feverishly to submit a report of its recommendations. The Law Enforcement Study Committee created various subcommittees to assist in the gathering of information to establish a sound basis for its recommendations. On October 5, 1972, the Law Enforcement Study Committee submitted its report to the City of Las Vegas and the County of Clark Boards of Commissioners for their review and approval. Approval by these political subdivisions was received within a few weeks and the report was then forwarded to the Chairman of the Local Government Study Committee, which had directed the creation of the Law Enforcement Study Committee.
Shortly thereafter, the Local Government Study Committee accepted the Law Enforcement Study Committee's report in its entirety. That report was then forwarded to the Legislative Council in Carson City, Nevada for a preliminary draft to be completed prior to presenting it to the Legislature scheduled to convene in January, 1973. Upon completion of the Legislative draft, the Law Enforcement Study Committee reviewed the first draft of what was to become Senate Bill 340 which provided for the consolidation of the City of Las Vegas Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff's Department. The Law Enforcement Study Committee made nine changes in the draft to bring the provisions of the bill into alignment with what that committee had intended.
Senate Bill 340 - Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department activated
Senate Bill 340 was passed and became effective on July 1, 1973. Thus, the Las Vegas Police Department and the Clark County Sheriff's Department were deactivated and the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was activated to take their place. The new agency (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department) would be responsible for all police services within the City limits of the City of Las Vegas and the unincorporated areas of the County of Clark.
The Bill provided for a Police Commission to approve the budget and oversee the budgetary expenditures as had each of the former Departments' respective Commissions. It also provided a method for funding the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department and designated the Nevada Tax Commission as the arbitrator for any disputes which might arise between the City and County Commissions relative to the funding formula.
Sheriff answerable directly to the public
Senate Bill 340 provided that the newly created Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department would be headed by the elected Sheriff of the County. It was believed by the members of the Law Enforcement Study Committee that an elected department head would have more freedom from political pressures than an appointed Chief and that the Sheriff would be answerable directly to the public. The bill further provided that all members of the two former departments would become members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department; that all command officers would be assured of their positions until the expiration date of the Sheriff's current term of office, which would end on December 31, 1974. Thereafter, if the Sheriff so desired, they could be demoted to the rank of Captain and others from the highest civil service grade could be selected by the Sheriff to fill their positions. The highest civil service grade was and still is the grade of captain.
Employees within the protection of the Civil Service System
The bill further provided that all classified employees (except appointed) would be within the protection of the Civil Service System. The former Las Vegas Police Department had been operating under the Civil Service System, where as the former Sheriff's Department was not. Also, the bill gave all employees the best benefits from each of the former departments. This provision, while a very necessary one from Management's view, resulted in a large monetary impact on the 1973-74 budget. It was the single largest cost factor in the consolidation of the two departments.
Expenses incurred to achieve uniformity
The cost of merging the two departments did involve a significant amount of money. Had more time been allowed, the costs would have been negligible, but because both departments had previously made commitments for the immediate future, some expenses were incurred to achieve uniformity. For example, each of the two agencies had already gone out to bid for their vehicle fleets. Each had different colored vehicles and the colors could not be changed at such a late date. Therefore, it cost $10,000 to repaint all the vehicles to the new colors for the new agency.
Expense of standardizing weapons
Concerning weapons and leather equipment expense, the two former agencies each carried different weapons (one pistols - the other revolvers). Therefore, a common weapon was necessary and a semi-automatic pistol was selected which fired a 9 mm round. This also necessitated all new leather equipment. The cost of standardizing weapons and leather equipment came to $109,000.
Expense of uniforms
Uniforms worn by the two former departments were entirely different, which necessitated a change. Originally, the intent was to design a new uniform which would be a change for all personnel; however, due to budget restraints, it was decided by the Law Enforcement Study Committee to maintain the uniform that the former Sheriff's Department was wearing due to its better material and appearance. The cost of purchasing uniforms for the members of the former Las Vegas City Police Department (including shoulder patches, badges and cap pieces for members of both agencies since we did design a new badge for the new department) came to $175,000.
The largest cost of the consolidation - salaries
The largest cost of the consolidation and the one having the greatest impact, was that of salaries. There was a difference in salaries between the two agencies due to the adoption of a new salary structure as a result of bargaining negotiations between the County and the Sheriff's Department employee's bargaining unit. The salary adjustment for equalization to all employees amounted to approximately $469,000.
Benefit package costs
The consolidation bill required that the best of the benefits packages from the two previous departments be given to the new departments employees. The benefit package costs amounted to approximately $294,176. This figure included $104,336 for shift differential pay, $50,400 for clothing allowance, $42,480 for increased incentive pay, $24,960 for increased hazardous assignment pay, and an estimated $72,000 for overtime pay since one department was paid straight time and the other at time and one-half.
Initially the consolidation did not save money
The creation of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department was the first attempt made locally to reduce the duplication of services which had come about in Clark County as a result of rapid population growth. The consolidation of the two departments did not save money - it cost the citizens of this community more than it would have had no action to consolidate the departments been taken. However, this was a short-term phenomenon brought about due to a need to bring uniformity and a sense of identity to the new police agency borne of two previously independent departments, each of whom had a different identity and a sense of loyalty to their respective organizations.
The Law Enforcement Study Committee failed to anticipate the cost of salary adjustments and to some degree, the costs of achieving uniformity (although the latter could have been met without too much difficulty since both governmental agencies had committed Federal Revenue Sharing Funds to their respective police agencies). It was not possible to accurately forecast the impact of salary adjustments due to bargaining negotiations being in progress in both agencies at the time; and disclosure of those discussions could well have destroyed the collective bargaining process.
The fact that employees of both of the former agencies were members of the Public Employees' Retirement System presented no problems relating to the retirement program for employees.
It did not seem reasonable that two departments should exist side by side, both providing the same services for adjacent or surrounding areas with little communication and joint effort between them. This was an expensive luxury which government should find increasingly difficult to afford. We, therefore, took two highly professionalized departments and merged them into one department, thus creating one we believe is much better because of that merger. We have erased boundaries, so that now the criminal cannot find seclusion in one area or another since the department now covers all of the area formerly policed by the two separate departments. Our communications is now within the organizational structure.
Overall efficiency of the department
The overall efficiency of the department has improved. Obviously, when efforts were made to communicate criminal activities between the former two departments, there was much to be desired because of the physical separation of the two agencies and the professional jealousy of the investigative units. Now the information of one is the information of all.
Increased purchasing power
The merger has increased the purchasing power of the department and assists in the stretching of the budget dollar. In 1981 funding for this department became an issue in the Nevada Legislature again; including some discussion of "de-consolidation". Until that time, funding was based on arbitrary fixed percentages determined by the legislature. Ultimately, an agreement was reached which provided what most viewed as an equitable and reasonable solution. That solution was to establish certain designated statistics that would be the basis of the new funding formula as opposed to arbitrary (negotiated) contributions. This funding formula considers calls for service, population and felony crimes. The percentage contribution for each entity is then adjusted annually. Those services provided for statutorily by the county (i.e., resident officer program, airport and detention) are provided 100 percent by county contribution. This formula is still in use today to determine the percentage of funding from each entity annually.
To those of you confronted with the decision of consolidation, I would say to you that if law enforcement officers work together as a team, it is possible to develop an organization of which the community and members of the departments can be proud. It will not be accomplished without encountering some of the problems similar to those we experienced; however, we do believe that our problems were minimal due to the pre-planning during the development stage. After one year of operation, we are amazed at the success of the operation. It is as though we have been operating for years. This, of course, is due to the professional attitudes of all the members of the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.
Original Nevada Revised Statute Chapter 280
The original Nevada Revised Statute Chapter 280, "Metropolitan Police Departments" created the department as well as the legislation as it currently exists, (click here to read the Revised Statute).