LAS VEGAS (KLAS)– Nevada State Police have struggled to retain personnel for years. Now, the short staffing is affecting the safety of those on the road, according to officials.
It’s a story Wayne Dice has told too many times before. He is the Southern Command representative for the Nevada Police Union, representing some troopers responsible for monitoring thousands of drivers on valley highways and roads through state police.
However, with not enough troopers to keep up, he said the operations are “just about broken.”
“We can’t sustain where we’re going right now,” Dice said through a virtual interview Monday evening. “We should have 120 troopers working the valley 24/7. We’re under 60. That should be alarming to anybody.”
The union representative said 112 members have left the agency in just 2022 alone. This means the department currently operates with less than half of a full team. The Nevada Department of Public Safety career website lists 65 open positions as of Monday evening.
Between 12 to 14 troopers are needed to fully staff one shift. Dice said only four troopers were patrolling during Saturday’s dayshift, and only four troopers covered each shift the previous Friday and Saturday.
It leaves small squads to cover the entire Las Vegas Valley, a scene now all too common, he said.
“They’ve talked about eliminating a graveyard shift just because we don’t have enough people to fill those vacancies,” Dice said. “We just can’t do enough recruitment, retention, to fill those gaps. It’s going to take us years to even fix this problem.”
Response times have additionally multiplied. Dice referenced a recent service call on the I-15 that on-duty troopers could not respond to for nearly 40 minutes after first reported. Situations like this, he says, only increase “the fatalities, the crashes, the DUIs” in America’s worst city for drunk driving.
“It’s not even safe for the public. It’s not even safe for troopers because we just don’t have enough bodies to back each other up, especially when we have calls of somebody that wants to jump off an overpass or we have a trooper maybe, or union member, fighting a pedestrian on the highway,” Dice said.
With no end in sight to these staffing woes, drivers, like Eleanor Oliver, are now thinking twice before getting behind the wheel for their own safety.
“It’s kind of unnerving,” Oliver said, hearing the news for the first time Monday afternoon. “Nobody ever thinks about themselves getting into a situation where they need help until it happens.”
Due to smaller staff and higher call volume, the union adds troopers are prioritizing which incidents to respond to. Conversely, he says proactive enforcement to mitigate the potential crashes, DUIs, and other incidents cannot be pursued, contributing to a recent increase in such situations.