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November 27, 2014

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With crime rate increase, sheriff points to need for additional funding

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Leila Navidi

Sheriff Doug Gillespie speaks during a news conference Thursday, Nov. 15, 2012.

Sun coverage

Crime in Las Vegas increased roughly 9 percent last year compared with 2011, underscoring the need for more police funding, Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the Sun’s editorial board Thursday.

Property crimes and assaults fueled the increase, but homicides remained relatively flat, said Gillespie, who added that a “bullet a little more to the right or the left” in some instances could have increased the number of homicides.

Gillespie, addressing a wide range of topics during the meeting, frequently cited his desire for a quarter-cent sales tax increase in Clark County to fund officer positions as a means to combat rising crime numbers.

In 2004, Clark County voters approved a half-cent sales tax increase, only a quarter-cent of which has been imposed so far. Gillespie — with the support of Gov. Brian Sandoval, the Clark County Commission and Las Vegas City Council — is seeking approval from the Nevada Legislature to enact the second quarter-cent increase.

“As the sheriff of this county, more cops is my priority,” Gillespie said. “We need to get that funding. We really do.”

Gillespie said Metro Police employs 300 fewer officers than it did during its pre-recession peak in staffing. The department is operating under a $46 million budget shortfall, he said.

“When you eliminate those positions and you reduce investigative components” and officers cannot do as much proactive policing, Gillespie said, “you start to see some of the crime numbers coming back.”

He pointed to the Northwest Area Command as an example of current low staffing. On most shifts, two squads — each of which is made up of nine officers if no one is sick, on vacation or doing training — cover more than 100 square miles, equivalent to the land area of a city like Baltimore.

During the meeting, Gillespie also shared his view on the following topics:

Police fatality review process

Gillespie was upbeat about this newly adopted process, which will replace the old coroner’s inquests into fatal officer-involved shootings.

In October, the Nevada Supreme Court ruled the inquest process adopted by the county in 2010 was legal but said justices of the peace could not preside over the hearings. Commissioners this week opted to scrap the inquest in favor of a police fatality review process.

Under the new system, once the district attorney determines the officer was justified in a shooting, the review will be triggered. A presiding officer and an ombudsman will be chosen for the hearing and they will receive access to investigatory documents used by the prosecutor. At the hearing, the prosecutor will make a presentation on the essential facts of the case, which may include testimony from the police officer charged with investigating the officer-involved shooting. The prosecutor may call other witnesses, who can be questioned by the ombudsman and the presiding officer.

The presiding officer will also be allowed to ask questions submitted by members of the public.

“I think it really has the ability to provide, in a public forum … a way to present the facts of what happened,” he said.

Gillespie said he was not discounting concerns among police union officials, who have recommended their members not testify if subpoenaed for the review panel. Chief among the union's concern is that the officer still could be subject to prosecution, either in state or federal court.

Regardless of the type of review for officer-involved shootings, Gillespie said people still would make up their own minds as to whether an officer’s actions were justified.

Guns

In the wake of recent mass shootings, Gillespie said it’s time for the country to take a look at why these tragedies occur by assembling a cross-section of people, such as mental health advocates and gun industry members, to examine the issue.

“I don’t support an assault weapons ban,” he said. “I don’t see that as eliminating or changing what’s occurred.”

Instead, Gillespie said he would support restrictions on high-capacity magazines, the ammunition storage and feeding devices of certain firearms. Reloading magazines can be a tricky process, which could trip up anyone intent on committing a mass shooting, he said.

“They’re not nearly as good at manipulating the weapon as they think,” he said.

In the meantime, Gillespie said law enforcement should continue focusing on how to make public places, such as schools, churches and malls, safer.

Gillespie said he hoped a national conversation about these issues would start now, but he would not want lawmakers making rushed decisions to complex questions.

“Because of the close proximity of what happened in Newtown and what happened in Aurora, it’s fresh in everybody’s mind and we need to take advantage of that,” he said.

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  1. So Gillespie wastes $42 million dollars on installing the Desert Sky radio system even though the company had already failed to deliver service to several metropolitan areas. He has been a complete failure in disciplining rogue officers.

    So after failing to control the cops he has and failing to be fiscally responsible with the money we gave him, he thinks it prudent to demand MORE MONEY FOR MORE OFFICERS.

    Is the man selling bridges as well?

  2. Comment removed by moderator. ALL CAPS

  3. "Crime in Las Vegas increased roughly 9 percent last year compared with 2011, underscoring the need for more police funding"

    Wrong. It shows the need for a new sheriff.

  4. When Metro has enough cops to stage cell phone sting operations, there clearly is no need for additional funding.

  5. Metro takes more and more and does less and less and the cops hired are a bunch of cowboys. They get away with anything they do and it is all disguised as being a "tough job". They need to use the funds they get to rein in the cowboys and stop the waste.

  6. More funding means more administative leave which means even more short falls which leads to the need for more funding. Sounds like a cycle to me.

    Although if it was a requirement for the funding that they get dash cams on all cars and the ones that are also on the officers and they give up the protections for killing people then perhaps it could go forward.

  7. @TomD..."There's always a small vocal minority that's going to complain..." Seems you need to learn to count. What was a vocal minority when Doug was elected in 2010 has now become a deafening roar.

    You keep clinging to the 2010 election. In political terms, that was a life time ago.

    Since the last election, Gillespie flushed $40 million down the toilet on Desert Sky. Since 2010 we learned how his department had cost taxpayers millions of dollars to settle a wrongful conviction suit that was caused by Metro. Since 2010 we had to pay nearly $2 million to the family of a low level drug dealer, due in part to Gillespie's need to see Las Vegas cops on national T.V.. Since 2010 we learned that Gillespie's lying about the James Manor incident was not an isolated incident, but rather part of a pattern of dishonesty that continues at Metro to this day. In 2010 we didn't realize that Gillespie was nothing more than Chris
    Collins' bey0tch.

    @antigov....ALL CAPS indicates shouting.

  8. "Crime in Las Vegas increased roughly 9 percent last year compared with 2011, underscoring the need for more police funding, Sheriff Doug Gillespie told the Sun's editorial board Thursday."

    Hey, Gillespie -- when We the people see you're responsible enough to spend the hard-earned dollars you stick us for, at least on an outrageously expensively communications system that actually works, maybe you'll be credible about picking our pockets for more.

    "So Gillespie wastes $42 million dollars on installing the Desert Sky radio system even though the company had already failed to deliver service to several metropolitan areas."

    bghs1986 -- you said it better

    "When Metro has enough cops to stage cell phone sting operations, there clearly is no need for additional funding."

    Noindex -- your post opened the door to the question how much of the fine and cool grand for bail does Metro get?

    I live downtown. Everywhere I go on this side of I-15 people are begging for help, sometimes wandering the street from car to car. The point being a lot of those among us aren't getting enough to eat or a warm, place safe place to sleep. Get in line, Doug, and in the meantime do like the rest of us and make do with what you have.

    "Indifference to personal liberty is but the precursor of the State's hostility to it." -- United States v. Penn, 647 F.2d 876 (9th Circuit, 1980), Judge Kennedy dissenting

  9. As a female and legal USA citizen, and resident of Clark County, living on the EAST side of Las Vegas, and on occassion needing to call upon Metro for assistance, I have found they respond in a timely manner, shown proper courtesy, and made good attempts at resolving the presenting issues.

    Having said that, IF there is a need to spend more money on anything for the agency, it should be in equipping each officer and patrol car with audio and visual devices, to mitigate costly, deep-pocket lawsuits. Otherwise, I would very much like to see money spent on enforcing immigration laws to lessen the load that comes from having illegals here in our community and country. Typically, they drive on our roads without a license nor insurance, and put everyone around them at risk. All of us can attest to having our rates go UP even though we have had no accidents or tickets.

    Do this, and our currently down striken underfunded system will have the proper funding for healthcare and social services for our citizens and returning veterans. Our schools would immediately see an improvement with students. Just saying....

    Blessings and Peace,
    Star

  10. Do understand why elected Sheriff Gillespie is taking that stand of infringing on the right to bear arms, a slice at a time? Could it be that he is addressing an electorate that he knows is indoctrinated by the Establishment INSIDER media (New York Times, Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, NBC, ABC, Fox News, etc.)? Could it be that he is beholden to the Federal Government?

  11. LEO's START about $100K when we include PERS and benefits. That's just too much. Metro is essential. But ALL government employees need to take at least a 10% pay cut--like the rest of the employed. The firefighters need about a 90% pay cut. All City, County, SD employees need to PAY YOUR OWN PERS.