The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department has put out the help wanted sign and is looking to hire 600 officers this year.
The new positions are funded by an increase in the Clark County sales tax, which in April is set to go up a tenth of a percentage point — adding a penny to a $10 purchase.
The increase, dubbed the "More Cops" tax, was endorsed by the Nevada Legislature and approved by the Clark County Commission. It allows the department to replace positions lost through attrition during a hiring freeze imposed during the Great Recession.
Sheriff Joe Lombardo has repeatedly said a return to robust population growth, record visitorship to Las Vegas, and a pending expansion of the convention center have stretched the department, which currently has about 2,200 officers.
Along with moving Metro nearly to its goal of two officers per 1,000 residents, the department’s recruiting effort also aims to have the force better reflect the diversity of Southern Nevada.
“You don’t see too many African-American females on the force," officer Shanice Bell told KNPR's State of Nevada, "That’s really what pushed me to go ahead and join."
Bell is a rookie at Metro. She said she wanted to be an officer because she wanted to make a difference in the community she was raised in and the community she hopes to raise her own family in.
She said people she meets on the street while on patrol are surprised that she is a police officer. Bell said her family and friends have told her they are more comfortable with police officers now that she has joined the force.
“So, that’s really what I personally wanted to do make friends and family feel that comfort because I’m on the force and I can set that example for the African-American community,” she said
Officer Daryl A. Keithley is Metro's recruiting coordinator. He said it is important for Metro to reflect the community it serves.
“By us being as diverse as we can and mirror our community, it does nothing but help our relations with our community and the tourists who come here,” he said.
He said some victims of a crime will be more comfortable speaking with a female officer, or some people needing help will be more comfortable speaking with a officer of their same ethnicity.
While the department is seeking a more diverse workforce when it comes to race, it is also open to a diverse workforce when it comes to age.
Officer Scott Van Nostrand is also a rookie, but he's also 46 years old. After leaving the military, Van Nostrand worked at his family's business but decided to be an officer after a friend told him there were no age restrictions.
"I was like, 'I'm too old to get into the department,' and my friend said 'no, you're not, no, you're not.' and I looked into it and I wasn't," he said.
Van Nostrand admits he was in pretty good physical shape before he started getting ready for the department, but even if someone isn't Keithley said the department can help.
“We do everything that we can to make people successful that they can get through the testing portion to get onto the department”
The department has launched a recruiting website at ProtectTheCity.com.
Officer Daryl A. Keithley; Officer Scott Van Nostrand; Officer Shanice Bell
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