North Las Vegas opens talks on shared police services

Sheriff Doug Gillespie and North Las Vegas Mayor Shari Buck met early Monday to discuss sharing police services, likely the first in a series of talks between the two entities.

"It was a productive, positive meeting," Buck said. "We are looking at where we want to go from here."

The city approached Clark County's sheriff late last month asking to "explore shared services opportunities" that could include the Metropolitan Police Department "assuming some functions ... or potentially all the functions" of North Las Vegas' police department.

Buck said consolidation of the two departments is not on the table, and the entities are simply "talking about contracting for some services" if it makes financial sense to do so.

Gillespie said the preliminary talks included discussions about jail services and fatal-crash investigations. They did not include taking over the day-to-day police services the city provides its residents, he said.

The discussions would require more research into specific services, what resources they would demand and at what potential cost to the Metropolitan Police Department, he said.

"I'm not looking to take on any additional responsibilities without adequate resources," Gillespie said.

City and Police Department staffers will continue to research the options and potential costs before any decisions are made, he said.

"I've made no commitments. I will evaluate this," he said.

The talks have nothing to do with the fact that the cash-strapped city is embarking on another round of contract concession discussions with its police unions, Buck said. "They are two separate issues," Buck said. "They have nothing to do with each other."

The city began exploring regionalizing some services after the state Legislature recommended doing so, she said. North Las Vegas and Las Vegas also have discussed sharing some of their business functions.

But Mike Yarter, president of the North Las Vegas Police Officers Association, called the timing of the shared police services talks "a little funny."

He does not support contracting out for police services in the city.

"The citizens of North Las Vegas have paid their taxes for more officers on the streets," Yarter said. "The voters of North Las Vegas want their own police department and need their own police department."

Sgt. Leonard Cardinale, president of the Police Supervisors Association, declined to comment.

The city in recent years has undergone contentious concessions talks with its unions, some of which wound up in court.

Gillespie said he did not believe the city's overtures were a negotiating tactic by the city as it heads into talks with its police unions.

North Las Vegas must bridge a $33.3 million shortfall in its fiscal 2013 budget. The fiscal year starts July 1 and runs through June 30, 2013.

City officials had to trim more than $60 million from the city's general fund in recent years because of plummeting tax and other revenues during the economic downturn.

State officials last year were alarmed at the city's failure to balance its fiscal 2012 budget, leading to worries about a potential state takeover of the municipality. The city finally balanced the budget thanks to a combination of cuts, layoffs and union contract concessions. Those concessions expire at the end of the current fiscal year.

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