Sheriff Doug Gillespie is no stranger to the Clark County Commission chambers.
He has sat through public hearing after public hearing, listening to residents lambaste the department or demand an audit. He has made repeated requests for commissioners to approve a sales tax increase to pay for police officers.
He’s also seen county commissioners delay and then reject those proposals.
On Tuesday, he might find out if the efforts will pay off.
Gillespie, who said Friday he’s “not making any predictions” about what the commission will decide, has been the public face pushing the sales tax increase to bolster police ranks since he lobbied the Legislature in Carson City in 2013.
If passed, the tax would raise the 8.1 percent sales tax rate in Clark County to 8.25 percent in two steps by October 2015.
But he’s not the only one waiting to see if the county will be able to hire police officers. Smaller police departments in the cities of North Las Vegas, Henderson, Mesquite and Boulder City are also watching closely. The sales tax would boost their ranks, too.
For the municipal police departments outside the Metropolitan Police Department’s jurisdiction — the city of Las Vegas and unincorporated areas of the county — a tax hike would bring a total of about 60 to 70 additional officers.
Metro, the largest agency in the county, would get 101 more officers under the proposal. That makes the potential total as high as roughly 171 more officers for police departments across the entire county.
Gillespie is pitching the issue as one of maintaining the status quo or moving forward with adding officers.
Without any changes, with a gap between revenues and expenditures, the Las Vegas police force will drop from 2,483 authorized officers to just 1,871.
NORTH LAS VEGAS
The 262-officer North Las Vegas Police Department hasn’t hired a new cop since 2009.
Each phase of the sales tax would mean another 10 to 15 police officers, totaling an estimated 20 to 30.
Police Chief Joseph Chronister said the potential change would mean more officers on the street to aid the public and boost a stretched force that once numbered about 330 before the recession hit.
“Right now, our officers are working on pretty much a call-to-call basis or a reactive basis,” he said.
He added that having more police in neighborhoods would be a deterrent to crime, helping the department do community policing and shift away from only responding to incidents.
“It’s equal in significance to all, but I think sometimes that the smaller cities get kind of lost in the translation of things and the focus is strictly on Las Vegas,” Chronister said.
The officers wouldn’t come immediately.
Between hiring, academy and field training, it takes about 18 months for an officer to be fully prepared and equipped.
Chronister also noted that the public perception that the proposal is only a Las Vegas police issue doesn’t reflect the sheriff’s view of the issue.
Gillespie said he keeps in regular contact with other departments about the tax proposal, noting need officers, too.
For the Mesquite Police Department, the 28-officer department eventually would be able to add two more officers, Chief Troy Tanner said.
He said that having more officers for Metro ultimately helps Mesquite, making more resources available when the department needs assistance from Las Vegas for large-scale incidents that require processing major crime scenes.
In 2008, the department had 31 officers.
The proposal also would get another couple of officers for the Boulder City Police Department, which has 30 officers.
But like his Mesquite counterpart, Police Chief Bill Conger said it’s important to look at the scale of the department — not just the number.
For Boulder City, it would allow increased night and weekend patrols, he said.
“What you have to understand is two officers to us is a lot,” Conger said. “More Cops helps us and the smaller agencies. It really helps us because two policemen to us is a good number.”
For the Henderson Police Department, the sales tax increase would mean 38 more officers for the 327-officer force.
“The More Cops initiative will allow the Henderson Police Department to put more officers on the street, ensuring our response times remain low,” Henderson Police Chief Patrick Moers said in a statement.
“Henderson has been named one of the safest cities in the country by Forbes, Business Insider and Law Street Review, and maintaining that high level of service to our residents is our primary objective.”
If commissioners approve the proposal, the 8.1 percent sales tax rate would eventually increase to 8.25 percent. But that wouldn’t all come at once.
It would begin with a 0.075 percentage-point increase that starts on Oct. 1.
There’s a condition for the increase to kick in. Metro’s joint city-county oversight board, the Metropolitan Police Committee on Fiscal Affairs, would have to adopt a budget for next fiscal year, which starts in July, that will draw down on funds in the existing More Cops account, bringing that fund to $100 million or less.
For the second half of the tax increase to start in October 2015, Metro’s budget would need to spend down the balance of the More Cops account to $75 million or less.
That More Cops account holds about $140 million. It contains money from a quarter-cent sales tax that started in 2005 to hire more police officers in the county. The tax is due to sunset in 2025.
Gillespie developed the proposal as a way to address commissioners’ concerns that the tax would essentially patch a $30 million shortfall at the same time the existing More Cops account contains more than $100 million.
County voters in 2004 approved an advisory referendum for a half-cent increase in the sales tax to pay for more officers. The Legislature approved half that amount in 2005, and in 2013, authorized the County Commission to increase the sales tax by up to 0.15 percentage points to pay for more officers.
Contact reporter Ben Botkin at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-405-9781. Follow him on Twitter @BenBotkin1.