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Las Vegas police departments struggle to recruit amid low pay, public perception

Las Vegas Police recruiting troubles
Las Vegas Police recruIting troubles
Las Vegas Police recruiting troubles
Posted at 6:16 PM, Nov 16, 2021
and last updated 2021-11-16 21:18:48-05

LAS VEGAS (KTNV) — Police departments in Las Vegas are ramping up recruiting efforts amid an officer shortage. Law enforcement staffing shortages are happening across the country, however, with the valley growing so rapidly, there’s a need to hire as soon as possible.

Police departments are also focused on recruiting officers that reflect our diverse community.

“Last year we had a record number of officers and supervisors retire from this agency,” said Deputy Chief Kelly McMahill with the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department.

McMahill has served with the LMVPD for more than two decades. In all those years, she said recruiting new officers has never been so difficult.

“I think the challenge will always be on the front side, the funding. Where will the money come from to fund the number of police officers that we truly need in this valley? Secondarily to that, in the times that we live in, how do we successfully recruit the right people to come here?,” McMahill said.

Those are the same questions that neighboring police department, North Las Vegas PD is trying to answer. NLVPD serves one of the fastest growing and diverse populations in the valley.

“We’re trying to have an agency that represents the community we serve,” said Capt. Mike Harris.

Both police departments say they can’t afford to lose any more officers on our streets, especially when crime isn’t easing up. But with the trends they’ve experienced in recent years, there’s no guarantee they’ll be able to retain members of their force.

“I think the national feeling against police has become a real challenge for us to keep officers here and also go out and recruit for officers,” McMahill said.

To recruit, LVMPD put up billboards in cities like Chicago, Portland, Minneapolis, and Austin, hoping to pull officers from those cities into what they call a lateral academy.

“We've been working really really hard at getting some new folks,” Harris said.

Another incentive being offered is cash. Police departments are looking to offer generous moving bonuses to those who take the job.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average salary of a police and sheriff's patrol officer in the U.S. is about $65,000. In southern Nevada, it’s above that at around $79,000 annually.

“It really is becoming a bidding war in many of the cities across the country,” McMahill said.

Moving forward, LVMPD wants to keep a ratio of at least two officers per 1,000 residents. That's the recommendation from academia and law enforcement leaders across the country.

“Here in Las Vegas, that’s tricky. What’s even more important about this city is that right now with having the Golden Knights in town, the Raiders coming to town, these massive events like EDC that was just here, we’re averaging about 900 officers a week working overtime,” McMahill said.

NLVPD is using a different approach through community policing, hoping the efforts will pay off as both the city and the department grow.

“It can't just be the police or the community, it has to be a partnership to keep us safe,” Harris said.

Both police departments are also looking to recruit locally through different programs.

13 Action News invited the Henderson Police Department to participate in this conversation, but they declined an interview.