There goes another $1.2 million into the pockets of unionized Clark County School District police instead of into the classroom.
After a judge ruled the district's police are covered by a collective bargaining law mandating expedited arbitration for police officers and firefighters, the School Board had little choice but to award the police retroactive cost-of-living wage hikes similar to those afforded other district employees. That amounts to $1 million in back pay and $200,000 in contributions toward police health insurance.
Now the school district must start negotiations for a contract for the next school year.
Perhaps it is time to play hardball. The school Police Department, which began in 1967 as little more than night watchmen at school buildings and evening events, has mushroomed into a $15 million-a-year, 200-member armed force with the power to arrest. The cost of the department has grown 20 percent in just four years -- before the back pay and benefits are added onto the expense side of the ledger.
The force is redundant to the local police forces who are called to any major problems on school campuses anyway.
The school police union apparently is aware that some are beginning to question whether they are worth the tremendous investment of tax money. Why else would school police Sgt. Phil Gervasi, president of the Police Officers Association of the Clark County School District, take the time to propagandize following the arrest of a teacher at Mojave High School for failing to report two of her students had been bringing a handgun to school?
Sgt. Gervasi told a Review-Journal reporter the incident shows the need for a strong police presence on campus because teachers can't always be counted on to do the right thing. He went on to claim the school police officers had a good enough rapport with the students to get valuable information that outside police officers or less professional security guards might never get.
Otherwise, "That gun might still be out there," Sgt. Gervasi said.
The students brought the gun on Tuesday and were not arrested until Thursday. We think he doth boast too much.
This is the department that did nothing about a school accountant accused of streaming an obscene video from his school system computer to what he thought was an underage girl.
The School Board should weigh the cost of maintaining this armed cadre with its own fleet of vehicles, fingerprinting unit, detective unit, training bureau, communications bureau, records unit and dispatch center vs. hiring a private security firm.
Education should be the main mission of the district.