The Clark County School District has come up with a new justification for allowing its school police force to ignore issues near schools and instead go out onto county highways to find people to ticket.
Since last summer when Nevada Journal first questioned the legal authority of Clark County School District police to issue traffic tickets on highways away from schools, CCSD officials have sought to defend the practice by citing multiple alleged sources of authority.
Now the district is saying the distant ticketing activities are appropriate because every peace officer has a responsibility to deal with “reckless driving.”
Department officials initially explained it was a school police officer’s Category I training and certification under Nevada’s Peace Officer’s Standards and Training (POST) that vested in school cops the authority to enforce traffic laws anywhere in the state — even though state law designates school police as Category II officers with limited jurisdiction and responsibilities.
“For us, we know that we operate as a Category I agency, and we’re recognized by our duties as a Category I agency,” CCSD police spokesman Lt. Ken Young told Nevada Journal last summer. “We are state-certified police officers.”
Despite support for CCSD’s argument from multiple area law-enforcement agencies, POST Deputy Director Tim Bunting said that it is state law that determines jurisdiction, not POST training standards.
“POST sets standards for training and certification,” explained Bunting last September. “It is not in POST authority to regulate jurisdiction of law-enforcement agencies.”
Nevada Revised Statute 391.275 restricts school-police jurisdiction to “the streets that are adjacent to the school property, buildings and facilities within the school district for the purpose of issuing traffic citations for violations of traffic laws and ordinances during the times that the school is in session or school-related activities are in progress.”
“Anyone can train to a higher level,” explained Bunting, “but that doesn’t mean they can effect an arrest outside their jurisdiction.”
Then, on Oct. 26, CCSD police were videotaped participating in a multi-jurisdictional speed enforcement event on Boulder Highway far away from any schools.
CCSD officials then said it is Nevada’s “mutual aid” provisions that authorize school police to get on highways with other police agencies and issue tickets.
“If you look under the request for mutual aid,” said Lt. Young during a Nov. 7 interview on “Face to Face” with Jon Ralston, “this is a request for mutual aid any time you enter into a task force.
“So, whether it be gangs, whether it be drugs, whether it be graffiti, as a mutual aid assistant we work across those lines with any entity which requests.”
“Go back and also look at mutual aid,” said Young. “When we’ve been requested as a law enforcement entity to come in and assist on a mutual aid, [we] do it as a mutual aid.”
In November, Nevada Journal obtained an e-mail that the district’s now-retired chief of staff, Dr. Craig Kadlub, had sent to a parent, specifically addressing the question the parent had raised at a school-board meeting, “of whether or not school police are inappropriately exercising police powers outside their jurisdiction….
“[O]fficers,” wrote Kadlub, “may provide police assistance to local police jurisdictions when they observe a crime in progress, are dispatched or otherwise requested to assist (Mutual aid – NRS 277.035; surety of peace – NRS 170.040), and they are also permitted to work in conjunction with other agencies (NRS 277.035 Implied agreement between law enforcement agencies in absence of interlocal or cooperative agreement.).
“The latter is relevant to the issue because the CCSD PD was part of a valley wide task force, in 2006 and again in 2011, comprised of representatives from all local police agencies, that identified four priorities for southern Nevada police forces. The participating agencies agreed to work corroboratively on those issues.”
Last month, however, a Nevada Legislative Counsel Bureau legal opinion denied that school police have authority to engage in traffic enforcement on roadways away from schools. The LCB specifically examined CCSD’s mutual aid claims under NRS 277.035 and NRS 277.110 and found that “it is the further opinion of this office that NRS 277.035 and 277.110 do not authorize a school police officer to enforce traffic laws and ordinances and issue citations on streets that are not adjacent to school property.”
Given the direct refutation of the CCSD claims of authority under mutual aid provisions, school district officials — for some reason eager to justify sending their police officers away from district schools — have come up with yet another state statute.
Now, it is NRS 484A.710.
“It is important to note that the CCSD PD officers actually work under NRS 484A.710,” said CCSD Chief Legal Counsel Carlos McDade in a statement distributed by school district spokesperson Amanda Fulkerson. “The legislation provides any peace officer may arrest a person for reckless driving. The officers do not operate under the statute stated in the LCB report.”
CCSD-PD is also changing its story. In January 2012, Lt. Young told Nevada Journal several times that CCSD police officers operate under Nevada’s Joining Forces traffic task force — a federally funded program administered through the State’s Office of Traffic Safety.
Months of Nevada Journal investigation into Nevada’s Joining Forces program, with records dating back to 2010, had not revealed CCSD police as participants in Joining Forces.
Then, on Feb. 24, responding to a Nevada Journal request for follow-up information regarding the department’s claimed participation in Joining Forces, Young wrote back.
“Just for clarification,” he said, “CCSDPD has been active participants with the Southern Nevada Traffic Task Force.”