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Las Vegas police retirements up 37% in 2020

Updated March 4, 2021 - 12:23 pm

The Metropolitan Police Department saw a 37 percent increase in retirements in 2020, but the agency and the officers union said the rise isn’t linked to the ongoing push for police reforms in Nevada and across the nation.

There were 223 officers who filed for retirement in 2020, Metro spokesman Larry Hadfield said. The department had 163 retirements in 2019, 167 in 2018 and 146 in 2017.

Hadfield said the department commonly sees clusters of retirements at the end of a calendar year, which is what happened in 2020. He said police do not believe that increased pressure on officers, or turmoil faced by law enforcement in the aftermath of the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis in late May, has anything to do with increased retirement numbers.

“If an anti-police environment were driving separations, we would expect to see a large number of separations with years of service insufficient to retire,” Hadfield said in an email. “So far, we have not seen that.”

One Metro employee who retired at the end of 2020 was Undersheriff Kevin McMahill, after 28 years on the force. He said he retired because it was time to do so following a long and rewarding career. He suspects the vast majority of officers who retired in 2020 did so for the same reason.

The increase in Metro retirements, he said, is likely attributable to the fact that the Police Department started to really grow in the early 1990s and that those classes of officers are reaching retirement age.

“We’ve seen a slight uptick,” McMahill said. “I wouldn’t compare it to the mass exodus that you see from other police organizations. One of the things you have to do is look at historically, for example, I hired on in 1990, and my class was over 100 people. Many classes before that were 25 people, so we had just entered into that huge phase of hiring.”

McMahill said if officers were leaving because of tumult or increased demands for reform, “You would see that you would have a hard time recruiting.”

“At least for Metro, we are not having a hard time recruiting,” McMahill said. “We still have thousands of people lined up to take the tests.”

Across the U.S.

Other large American cities have seen a significant rise in police retirements as well.

Some 2,600 officers with the New York City Police Department retired last year, a 72 percent increase over the 1,509 who retired in 2019, according to Newsday.

In Minneapolis, where the killing of Floyd by police prompted civil unrest and a national movement for changes to police use-of-force policies, the Star Tribune reports the city plans to spend millions of dollars to hire new officers. This comes after the police department there said it was starting the year with 200 fewer officers because of retirements or officers going on medical leave in the aftermath of Floyd’s death, the newspaper reported.

The Chicago Sun-Times reported in January that 560 officers retired from the Chicago police force in 2020, which was 15 percent more than the year prior.

“Yes, the sense from our member groups across the United States is that a significantly larger number of officers than usual are retiring or leaving the job,” William J. Johnson, executive director of the National Association of Police Organizations, said in an email to the Las Vegas Review-Journal.

Steve Grammas, president of the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, said he suspects retirements are spiking in jurisdictions where political leaders called for dramatic changes to policing.

“We haven’t had the drastic changes in police work out here that they’ve had there,” Grammas said. “I know our counterparts in New York that I’ve spoken to, there is a lot of legislation that had moved forward, really tying the hands of the cops, disbanding some of their proactive firearms units.

“If they (the Legislature) put dramatic ties on cops’ hands and increase the rights for suspects and criminals as opposed to helping the police out, you may see a different number next year for retirements.”

Other agencies

North Las Vegas police spokesman Alexander Cuevas said 22 officers retired from the police department in 2020. That’s about the middle of the road for the city, which saw 26 officers retire in 2019, 13 in 2018 and 31 in 2017, Cuevas said.

“They (retirements) come in waves, and some personnel do stay on past the age or time of retirement because they love their career,” he said.

The Henderson Police Department said 16 officers retired in 2020, following 11 retirements in 2019, 14 in 2018 and 16 in 2017.

The Nevada Police Union, which represents Nevada Highway Patrol troopers, has expressed concern over what it described as a “record high employee turnover rate” and vacancies for state Department of Public Safety positions.

“Officers are leaving the state to work for a local police agency, which pays approximately 20 to 30 percent more,” the union said in a Feb. 18 news release. “The pay disparity has increased over the years, as local law enforcement agencies increased their baseline wages, while state police wages remained stagnant.”

Contact Glenn Puit by email at gpuit@reviewjournal.com. Follow @GlennatRJ on Twitter.

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