Why hasn’t Metro PD been filling its vacancies?

By Daniel Honchariw

As county commissioners consider whether to increase the sales tax by one-tenth of a percentage point to strengthen Metro PD’s staffing levels, a large number of the department’s budgeted positions are vacant, according to Metro’s latest personnel summary.

As of October 24, 2016, Metro had 272 budgeted positions unfilled — meaning that nearly 10 percent of its authorized work-force had not been hired.

A review of past personnel reports indicates that such a high level of vacancies has been the norm — not the exception — throughout the past year, and before.

As the above chart demonstrates, at no point during the last year has Metro maintained fewer than 150 vacant positions, including in January 2016 when 300 positions were unfilled.

To be clear, these are budgeted positions, which means that money for them has been allocated. Thus, funding issues do not explain why these positions are vacant.

While Metro has accurately claimed that its current officer-to-population ratio stands at 1.7 officers per 1,000 residents, that ratio could reach almost to 1.9, were every budgeted position filled.

In this sense, Metro’s inability to reach what Sheriff Lombardo has called the 2.0 “magical” number he says the department needs, appears to stem more from Metro’s own hiring practices than from a lack of adequate funding.

These facts raise several questions:

  • Why hasn’t Metro filled these vacancies?
  • Are these positions being kept vacant so that Metro can point to an artificially-low officer-per-capita ratio as justification for increased taxes?
  • If Metro isn’t using its More Cops money for hiring more police now, how would additional tax revenues change that?

Sheriff Lombardo has repeatedly pledged not to comment on the issue until after the newest version of the More Cops tax — the Clark County Crime Prevention Act of 2016 — is decided.

Effectively, that means he’s declining to answer questions the public is justified in asking.

Daniel Honchariw, MPA, is a policy analyst at the Nevada Policy Research Institute.