More Cops passage spurs plans for new police academy class

The Metropolitan Police Department is planning to kick-start its hiring process now that Gov. Brian Sandoval has signed the More Cops tax bill.

According to police, the anticipated additional funding will allow Sheriff Doug Gillespie to restart the hiring process in July by opening a new police academy and recruiting full-time and reserve officer candidates.

The last police academy class graduated in January 2012.

Senate Bill 1, the More Cops bill, will raise the sales tax rate in Clark County from 8.1 percent to 8.25 percent. The increase is expected to generate roughly $30 million, of which the Metropolitan Police Department, which serves the city of Las Vegas and unincorporated areas of the county, will receive roughly three-quarters of the funds. The remaining funds would be spread to other area jurisdictional police departments, such as North Las Vegas and Henderson.

Sandoval signed the bill during a June 4 special legislative session that was called because the Legislature failed to come to a decision on the tax increase during the regular session.

“I was worried about it since the Legislature started, as well as through the legislative process,” Gillespie said of the bill’s survival.

Gillespie said officers who graduate from the newly planned academy will be used to fill jobs that have been left open or to staff new positions.

Clark County commissioners still need to give their approval before the tax increase takes effect.

“We don’t normally pass a whole lot of tax increases at a county level,” Commissioner Steve Sisolak said. “It may be a sign of the times that people are hesitant to be the one who votes for the sales tax increase.”

According to Sisolak, commissioners will hear from Gillespie and others in a three-step process to approve the bill. On July 2, the sheriff will speak to the County Commission about the bill. On July 16, the tax increase will be introduced. Finally, in the first meeting in August, commissioners will vote on the measure.

“The County Commission has been briefed,” Gillespie said. “I anticipate approval of amendments when it comes to a vote at the commission.”

At least one commissioner has questions before the bill is approved.

“It’s a short-term fix that the Legislature gave them,” Clark County Commissioner Chris Giunchigliani said. “My understanding is that (Gillespie) was asking for an increase from the city and county for next year as well.”

Giunchigliani noted that every additional officer put on the street brings additional costs that the financially strapped county has to cover.

If approved, the tax increase could go into effect as early as Oct. 1. Police departments would have to report to the Legislature periodically detailing how the funds were spent.