LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — Less than half a staff is what it looks like within Nevada State Police Highway Patrol. With traffic officials contributing a recent rise in road dangers to the lacking staffing, current and past personnel believe the state needs to pay up or risk further increases in these incidents.
The employee hiring and retention struggles date back decades, according to former state trooper Scott Beringer, who said pay increases were discussed but seldom approved. The Pahrump man patrolled Las Vegas Valley highways and roads from the 90s to 2007.
“The state police, I don’t want to say can’t match, but they just never have,” Beringer said during a virtual interview Tuesday evening. “It has been like this ever since I came on.”
However, staffing being this short made him laugh in disbelief when 8 News Now told him that the past two weekends saw only four state troopers patrolling the valley during multiple shifts. This left response times reaching nearly 40 minutes in the direst circumstances.
A fully staffed shift is considered to have 12 to 14 troopers.
“Did you ever see anything like that when you worked there?” 8 News Now asked.
“No! No! There were far more than that, even when I was on back in the 90s,” Beringer responded. “It’s so dangerous, oh my god.”
The problems seen during his employment match those problems now, not enough pay to keep troopers interested to stay.
Earlier this year, 8 News Now Investigators revealed that starting pay within the department begins at $55,000 for troopers. That’s compared to starting pay at other nearby agencies, like the Las Vegas Metropolitan and Henderson Police Departments, which begin at $81,000 and $100,000 respectively.
The former state trooper says personnel “do their time,” with his former employer to receive basic training before transitioning to a higher salary elsewhere.
“When you’re just the stepping stone for a lot of the other agencies it certainly doesn’t serve you,” Beringer said. “Losing money by always having to put more training, and more training, into new recruits.
Wayne Dice, Southern Command representative for the Nevada Police Union, confirms that 112 troopers have left the state department in just 2022 alone. Many of these personnel, he said moved on due to pay.
“Our whole reason that staffing levels are where they are at today are simply pay and benefits,” Dice said during a virtual interview.
Through years of advocating for higher pay within the state department, Dice said the last significant pay raise was back in 2006. The population has since grown in density, meaning more potential for crime and accidents on the roads.
The representative said that has already happened with DUIs, speeding, and fatalities all up. The troopers choosing to stay are burnt out due to excessive working responsibilities, Dice added, that was part of why 112 troopers have left the department in 2022 alone.
“Trying to do the best they can, but when you’re going from one end of the valley, running code three, it’s very stressful on our folks and our members,” said Dice.
With around 65 troopers needed to fill a 120 full staff load, he said actions need to be taken now before it’s too late. The next state legislative session to discuss the dilemma is scheduled for this January, three months from now.
“It could be fixed right now by the Governor, but he’s choosing not to fix the problem,” Dice said. “I know I have union members that are going to leave prior to session.”
Democratic Nevada Gov. Steve Sisolak promised to raise state police wages during his State of the State address in February, where he said he will propose a salary increase at the legislative session. Communications officials with the Nevada State Police Highway Patrol did not respond to our request for comments by the publishing of his article.