As if Clark County residents needed a reminder, the unrivaled political power of local government unions is again on full display.
This time, the involved union is the Las Vegas Police Protective Association, which appears to have duped Metro negotiators into conceding an additional $6 million for salaries and retirement benefits for, essentially, nothing in return.
Alternatively, Metro brass — recognizing the giveaway in progress — may have simply been content to hide behind the rationale advanced by the union.
What brings all this into focus is the recent (and predictable) passage and signing into law of Senate Bill 176, mandating body-worn cameras (“BWCs”) for all Nevada police officers.
Thus, Clark County taxpayers are now paying police and corrections officers additional millions to merely comply with state law.
Moreover, this may well have been the LVPPA’s strategy all along.
Here’s the background. As reported by Nevada Journal last fall, the LVPPA and Las Vegas Metro PD agreed in September on a new collective-bargaining agreement through June 2019, following the expiration of their prior agreement in June 2016.
Besides ending a months-long impasse between the two parties, the new agreement was remarkable for containing a specific provision expressly granting union members higher salaries for “agreeing” to be equipped with BWCs while on duty.
Per Article 25.6 of the new agreement:
The Parties agree that regularly assigned uniformed members of the Department will be required to wear a BWC, while on duty at all times.
The parties recognize that .25% of the salary increase in July 2016, .5% of the salary increase in July of 2017, and .25% of the salary increase in July of 2018 are a result of the Parties agreeing to the conditions identified above in Article 25.6.
Such increases were on top of the 2 percent salary increases the parties had already negotiated for each of the next three years.
Thus, the public’s desire for additional transparency in policing — exacerbated by a series of recent and controversial officer-involved events across the nation — was used to further thicken PPA members’ wallets.
That police officers would demand raises for being equipped with BWCs is standard government-union hubris. Unfortunately, it’s also extremely costly for Clark County taxpayers.
Those marginal quid pro quo salary increases will cost taxpayers an extra $4.5 million, at least, through 2019. Moreover, when retirement contributions are considered — the city and county bear 100 percent of these payments, whereas every $1 in salary must be matched with 40.5 cents into Nevada’s retirement system — taxpayers will be on the hook for at least $6 million over the next three years.
And that figure doesn’t begin to acknowledge the long-term effects on retiree payouts, as higher salaries lead to higher pensions.
Thus, on fiscal bases alone, it was an over-generous concession by Metro to make taxpayers pay for the type of transparency provided by BWCs, especially given Las Vegas Metro PD’s own history of officer-involved misconduct.
Yet the controversy hardly ends there.
A review of events before the September 2016 CBA signing shows that state lawmakers had already proposed to mandate BWCs for all statewide officers in the 2017 legislative session.
In August 2016, a full month before the new CBA was signed, Senator Majority Leader Aaron Ford submitted Bill Draft Request 23-666 for legislation that “provides for the use of portable event recording devices by peace officers.”
Senator Ford’s intentions, moreover, were hardly a secret. In fact, months in advance of the 2017 session, many other lawmakers had signed onto the bill-draft request.
Listed as co-requesters of Ford’s bill-draft request were Senators Atkinson and Spearman, and Assemblypersons Frierson, McCurdy II, Miller, Monroe-Moreno, Neal and Thompson.
In addition, Ford’s submitted BDR — which the Legislative Counsel Bureau transcribed into Senate Bill 176 — came on the heels of 2015 legislation (SB111) which mandated certain Nevada Highway Patrol officers to be equipped with BWCs. SB111 passed both legislative chambers via unanimous votes in 2015, indicating bipartisan support of pro-transparency measures regarding law enforcement, generally.
So Metro officials either knew, or should have known, that statewide BWC legislation had a full head of steam behind it.
Either the union suckered Metro management into compensating officers for being equipped with BWCs — all the while understanding that BWCs would soon be mandated by the state — or Metro brass were knowingly complicit in this money grab, for whatever reasons.
Either way, it’s not complementary.
Now, with the passage and signing into law of Senate Bill 176, the final domino on the LVPPA’s strategy has fallen into place: State law now requires all police officers to be equipped with BWCs.
And Clark County taxpayers are now paying LVPPA members — officers of the law, by definition — an annual bonus for simply following the law.
So, next time Metro officials complain about insufficient revenues, remind them that they’re needlessly paying $6 million to police officers for doing something the law already requires.
Alternatively, demand from the LVPPA a $6 million refund check.
In regard to the latter, don’t hold your breath.
Daniel Honchariw, MPA is a researcher and policy analyst with the Nevada Policy Research Institute. He graduated from Cornell University’s School of Industrial and Labor Relations and previously worked for the National Labor Relations Board.