Nevada’s Director of Nevada’s Department of Public Safety said Tuesday his officers would need a 30 percent pay raise to pull even with what local law enforcement pays in Nevada’s urban departments.
He said there are about 870 sworn positions in the divisions under DPS that have officers and currently 93 are vacant.
He said officers are leaving state service for the pay raises metropolitan law enforcement agencies can give them but it’s more about benefits than just salary. Those local agencies, Wright said, pay all of the officer’s retirement premiums where the state pays just half. He said that accounts for about 20 percent of the difference with salary accounting for the remaining 10 percent of the gap.
“To get us there, you’re looking at that type of increase and that’s probably low-balling it,” he told the Commission on the Administration of Justice.
The majority of those vacancies — 50 — are within the ranks of the Nevada Highway Patrol. Another 33 are in the Division of Parole and Probation. The remaining 10 are in the Capitol Police Division.
DPS lost a total of 104 sworn officers in 2015 and has lost 23 so far this calendar year.
“They aren’t leaving for White Pine County; they aren’t leaving for Esmeralda County,” he said. “They’re leaving for the metropolitan departments.”
He said when he adds 30 percent to the total pay for his 870 officers, the governor and legislators “are going to get sticker-shock.”
“That’s going to be a hellacious number,” he said.
He added he fully understands there’s a limit to what the state can afford to pay because, “there’s a cap on how much money the state has.”
But he said the issue has to be raised and put out there for all to see.
Supreme Court Justice Jim Hardesty, who chairs the commission, said the Department of Corrections has an even more serious problem with people leaving. Again, those officers are leaving to take jobs in the major jail facilities in Reno and Las Vegas.
Wright said he reviews the exit interviews and officers don’t want to leave DPS but they say they have no choice because they need the higher pay to support their family.
Wright said he’s making every effort to fill vacancies. This year’s first academy graduates in Carson City Friday with 33 new officers and two more academies are planned this year including one in Las Vegas.
One thing that isn’t negotiable, Wright said, is the standards even though it takes a thousand applicants to get 50 students into the academy.
“I cannot reduce any standards to get more people,” he said.