Metro brass: Pay up or face ‘dangerous consequences’

Andy Matthews

The protection racket is a classic mob extortion scheme.

A business owner either pays the mob for “protection” or has criminals demonstrate what happens to those without “protection.” Of course, the group the business owner needs protection from is the mob itself.

Fortunately, Las Vegas police have done a good job of rooting out and limiting the mob influence in Las Vegas. Unfortunately, the police themselves are now the ones implying that taxpayers need to pay up or the police “can no longer guarantee your safety.”

The police union in North Las Vegas actually put that message on signs throughout the city during a salary dispute in 2011.

Now, the Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department is telling the public the same thing — pay up or face “dangerous consequences.” Department bureaucrats want the Legislature to authorize a quarter-cent sales tax increase and give the department “flexibility” in using the money. Originally in 2004, tax increase proponents had pledged that the “more cops tax” money would be used to hire new officers.

The “flexibility” the department seeks, however, would mean that new revenues could be used to increase already-bloated salaries — and not to put more officers on the streets.

In a video filled with ominous music, Sheriff Doug Gillespie says he is “worried” about what will happen if the Legislature doesn’t increase the sales tax. And Deputy Chief Kevin McMahill asks, “Will it be less safe (without the tax increase)? … The truth is probably.”

Your favorite mob boss couldn’t have said it better.

Now, no one disputes that a police force costs money or that officers should receive fair compensation for their work. But it must be asked: Are Metro’s budget problems caused by a lack of money or have rich wage and benefit increases become unsustainable in Metro like elsewhere in government?

Five years ago, answering that question wouldn’t be easy. You, your neighbors, media members and the public officials you elect wouldn’t be able to see Metro salaries unless you went to the effort and the delay involved in making public records requests.

Today, however, Las Vegas Metro’s salary information is easily accessible on And, this past Tuesday, TransparentNevada released Las Vegas Metro salary records for 2012.

Releasing Las Vegas Metro salary data this week is especially appropriate, because it’s Sunshine Week. Running from March 10 through 16, Sunshine Week is a nationwide observance highlighting the need for governmental transparency.

Even a casual glance at Metro’s salary data reveals that the department’s employees are some of the best compensated workers — in either the private or public sector — in the Las Vegas Valley.

In 2012, over 149 employees took home more than $200,000 in total compensation with one captain raking in over $585,000 in total earnings.

One lieutenant cashed in for over $354,000 and an assistant sheriff received more than $294,000. Metro also paid three sergeants a combined $1.09 million last year.

Salaries weren’t just high because of retiring officers selling back sick leave when they retired. High compensation is the norm with 348 employees taking in over $175,000 and 2,204 employees making over $125,000.

Even with Metro bureaucrats claiming they’ve instituted “salary cutbacks,” employee earnings continue to climb.

In 2010, 300 employees received over $175,000. In 2012, 348 employees took home over $175,000.

In 2010, 824 Metro employees received over $150,000. In 2012, 888 took home over $150,000.

In 2010, 3,072 Metro employees received over $100,000 in total compensation. In 2012, 3,307 took home over $100,000.

Sky-high Metro salaries aren’t the department’s only wasteful expenditure. NPRI’s Nevada Journal has found that each year Metro spends over $1.8 million paying police officers and other employees to work for their private union organizations — rather than taxpayers.

It’s called “union leave time,” and it’s a racket. While Metro brass are warning the public of the “dangerous consequences” of not increasing the sales tax, they’re paying officers and others over $1.8 million each year to sit on their behinds and work full-time for private organizations.

The root cause of Metro’s budget problems is Nevada’s collective bargaining law, NRS 288. In many ways it gives union bosses more control over government spending than legislators, county officials or Metro administrators have.

Nevada’s collective-bargaining laws need to undergo serious reform — or, better yet, be repealed entirely. But rather than acknowledge that need, Metro’s top brass is shaking down taxpayers.

It’s not a pretty or inspiring sight, but sometimes that’s what sunlight shows.

Andy Matthews is the president of the Nevada Policy Research Institute. For more visit A version of this commentary first appeared in the Las Vegas Review-Journal.