LAS VEGAS (KLAS) — It is more dangerous than ever to drive on county roads and freeways, according to the union representing Nevada State Police (NSP).
A lack of staffing is the reason why, but there are not enough incoming troopers to compensate for those leaving.
The agency, responsible for patrolling miles of Clark County and other unincorporated Nevada county roads, has been less than half staffed for years.
But, before NSP can put more troopers on the road, they must go through a “stress” filled academy.
A Southern Command representative for the Nevada Police Union, Wayne Dice, said NSP may not have many candidates to pick from this academy.
“We lost somebody on day one of the academy, I was told by a member. And we lost a second one just a few days later,” Dice said during a virtual interview Thursday evening.
Not enough cadets are making it through the six-month-long program that prepares them for patrol, he said. Based on previous media invites to different academy graduations, it was once common to see up to 22 graduates in a single academy.
Now, halfway through “academy 97,” just nine cadets are on track to graduate. It’s down from 13 cadets when it started nine weeks ago. Only four of the remaining cadets are training to become state troopers.
“The higher echelon has basically tried to get people pushed through the academy,” Dice said. “We’re seeing people push forward, and going through training again, and being retrained again, and that’s concerning some of our members.”
They’re more and more, chances, he says typically are not available. The main reason for leaving, he says is pay.
“After 9 weeks, I think some of them are seeing a paycheck and they’re realizing their paycheck doesn’t quite meet what they saw maybe in writing,” Dice said.
NSP has one of the lowest starting wages of law enforcement agencies in the Las Vegas Valley. Even Governor Steve Sisolak agreed during a Politics Now interview with John Langler that there is not enough pay to make cadets and troopers stay.
“We train people and the sheriff, police departments hire them away from us because they can get a 30% raise as soon as they leave,” Sisolak said.
With state troopers already scarce on the road, he says drivers’ and troopers’ safety are taking the hit, seen in the valley Tuesday with two back-to-back fatal crashes.
“It took 15 minutes for somebody to start responding just because we don’t have enough bodies out there working,” Dice said.
Should more troopers be expected to be patrolling the roads soon?
“They’ve got a lot of weeks ahead of them still. Do I think we’re going to lose more? We probably will. And then once they do finish that academy, they’ve got to go into field training, and we’re going to lose more members during the field training aspect of it because that’s when the stress really comes in hard on those out there on the road,” Dice said.
The union representative adds that the physical requirements to qualify for and complete any academy plays a small role in some cadets choosing to leave the program early.
With less staffing, it means less time to enforce the rules of the road before drivers break them.
“Fatalities are all rising, we all see the numbers. The crashes are up, DUI crashes are up. It’s because we don’t have enough troopers to do proactive enforcement,” Dice added. “That is the key to our roadways being safer.”