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Nevada Highway Patrol attrition drawing union attention

Nevada State Police Highway Patrol
Nevada State Police Highway Patrol/Facebook

LAS VEGAS (AP) — Nevada Highway Patrol job vacancies resulting from troopers leaving for better-paying law enforcement jobs elsewhere has a union official calling for immediate legislative action.

Gov. Steve Sisolak in his recent “state of the state” speech acknowledged what he termed “a big problem” with unfilled jobs and said he’ll propose raises for state police officers next year if he’s re-elected.

Wayne Dice, representing the Nevada Police Union that includes highway patrol troopers, told the Las Vegas Review-Journal that action is needed sooner to address the exodus of troopers.

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“We can’t wait 17 months for him to ask (the Legislature) for a pay raise,” Dice said. Troopers “are leaving because of pay and benefits,” he said. “We do have some retirements mixed in with that but most of it is for pay and benefits.”

The union did not immediately respond Monday to messages seeking comment.

State lawmakers usually meet every two years. The state Legislature next convenes for 120 days in early 2023.

The union also represents Nevada Capitol Police, state parole and probation officers, fire marshals, game wardens, park rangers, university police and public safety workers. It had about 735 members in September 2021.

Dice said the union lost at least 30 members across the state — mostly troopers — during the first two months of 2022, after losing a total of 136 members in all of 2021.

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Sisolak, in his statewide speech on Feb. 23, said Nevada had “a big problem with the state police in that we’re ending up being a training ground for all the other departments across the state,” where pay can be up to 40% higher.

In an emailed statement, Sisolak’s spokeswoman, Meghin Delaney, indicated Monday the governor is not considering calling a special session of the Legislature to address trooper pay. But he believes having “well-trained and well-paid” state police is a “critical issue.”

“The governor plans to build raises into the comprehensive proposed budget that he is required to submit prior to the next legislative session,” the statement said. “The issue requires full budget discussions, which are not achievable in a special session.”

In September, the department issued a statement pointing to “a shortage of sworn personnel” and said the safety of Nevada residents was at stake.

The Review-Journal reported that an entry-level Nevada State Police officer’s starting salary can range from a little under $47,000 to $54,000, depending on the retirement plan the employee chooses.

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The union wants a 15% pay hike, and for the state to pay troopers’ retirement contributions, Dice said.

A presentation made by state police to state legislators in 2021 put the department’s overall officer turnover rate at 135% in 2020, with 60 cadets hired and 81 officers departed from the agency. Turnover was 109% in 2019 and 127% in 2018.