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Las Vegas. "The Entertainment Capital of the World." In a single destination, people see replicas of the Statue of Liberty, Space Needle and Eiffel Tower. Huge buffets and five-star restaurants greet diners. The city offers gaming, shows and nightclubs galore, and that's just on the Strip. Others come for the one-of-a-kind Fremont Street Experience to be dazzled by the largest big screen on the planet. Even with all there is to do and see around these two areas, Las Vegas has more to offer. Hikers enjoy Red Rock Canyon, skiers swish down Mt. Charleston and others take out their boats or lounge on the banks of Lake Mead. Visitors with children enjoy the myriad of family-friendly venues. Aside from the 39.2 million visitors to Las Vegas per year, over 600,000 people call the city home.
Las Vegas resides in Clark County, with a population of 1.96 million. The county stretches east to the Arizona border, changing states and time zones at Hoover Dam. To the south, it borders California. Clark County is the largest county in Nevada (71% of Nevada's population lives there), hosting the most populous city Las Vegas. With millions of tourists exploring the sites and millions more residing there, the county requires a police department which can both accommodate the public and keep them safe. The Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department (LVMPD) meets this challenge every day.
Currently, about 2,800 sworn officers and 3,000 civilian personnel working out of eight stations handle the 8,012 square miles in Clark County. 9-1-1 calls and dispatching are in-house, as well. In fact, LVMPD doesn't contract out any of their services. "Our department doesn't rely on any third party for anything even our jail," says Sergeant Jason Harney, Recruitment Team Supervisor. "We are a city and county agency together. The county jail is run by us." Corrections officers attend their own academy, but make the same amount of money as police officers. "Our department is divided into divisions. [Corrections Officers] work out of the Detention Services Division," Harney explains.
Being a tourist destination, LVMPD faces unique problems. "We deal with traffic issues [such as] pedestrians in the roadway accidents in the tourist quarters," Harney says. "So, we focus on writing tickets both in traffic and patrol [divisions]. There are always issues with keeping the whole tourist quarters safe." Along with keeping tourists protected from traffic, LVMPD faces personal crimes affecting visitors. "The biggest transient population is the tourists," states Harney. "When something happens to them we have to deal with it. If a tourist gets their purse stolen on the Strip, we have to deal with it right away. We have to find the criminal. [The victim] could be from Ireland."
Although LVMPD boasts 1.7 officers per 1000 residents, the department remains undermanned. "That only takes into account the residents and not the 40 million tourists per year," Harney says. "That puts us behind the eight ball sometimes. You have that small 4.5 mile Strip, which in most cases is 95% occupied 365 days a year, and numerous conventions which attract hundreds of thousands of people occur regularly." Four years ago, the residents and the government addressed this challenge voting to support a More Cops Initiative. "It includes a sales tax increase of a quarter of a penny to hire 400 officers every year," explains Harney. "This makes it economy-proof." To gain these new officers, LVMPD has a "fairly large" recruitment division with two sergeants, eight recruiters and numerous support staff. "The cornerstone of our recruiting is our web site," Harney states. "We also use Facebook, YouTube and MySpace." Once hired, officers attend a 24-week, non-residential academy run by LVMPD.
After graduating the academy, a Police Officer I makes $54,000 per year. Once off probation, the pay ranges from $54,350 to $77,376. LVMPD offers incentives as well. Unlike many departments, incentives are awarded on an annual basis. Officers with an Associate's Degree on up earn education incentives. A Bachelor's will net $850. Foreign language incentives are also offered. Nevada PERS handles retirement, which provides for police and fire members to retire with 25 years of service, regardless of age.
Another unique aspect about LVMPD is they do not issue service weapons. "Officers have a choice of handgun," Harney explains. "In the academy, they purchase their own weapon and are trained on it." A Remington 870 is assigned to each car, but like the handgun, officers have the option of buying and qualifying with their own. A bright orange bean bag Remington 870 is assigned to each patrol car as well. The same rules apply to patrol rifles. Officers can take a 40 hour class and become certified on the department Colt AR-15, or purchase their own. TASERs are mandatory.
Patrol officers work four ten-hour shifts while plainclothes officers rotate each week, working three nines and an eight one week and three nines the next. Most shifts fit into standard day, shift and graveyard hours, but depending on need an area can adjust them. "It is up to the area command captain," says Harney. "For example, a station just opened. It's the Convention Center Area Command, just for the Strip. Because of the hours and days it's most busy, that station has tailored its shifts to when the Strip is most busy. We focus on staffing and the right application of our resources in the right place at the right time."
An example of this application is the annual New Year's Eve Extravaganza. To say farewell to 2008 and ring in 2009, venues across Las Vegas hosted star-studded parties with celebrities from Usher to the Kardashians, from Kid Rock to the New Kids on the Block. 30,000-40,000 people watched the fireworks display on the Strip while another 30,000 watched Fremont Street's display. "Over a million people come to the Strip," Harney explains. "We have this every year. Every police officer, regardless of assignment, works New Year's Eve. The incidents are very few and everyone gets to come out and have a good time, but we are able to keep control of a massive situation."
When people come to the Las Vegas area to gamble, attend a convention or to live, LVMPD will be there to meet the challenges. Guaranteed hiring means a safer city and opportunities for people who want to join this diverse department offering numerous assignments, growth and promotion. Why would someone want to join LVMPD? "The unique thing is it is Las Vegas," Harney explains. "This is certainly a place where if you want to be a police officer, you wouldn't be lying if you said it was one of the most exciting police departments. If you go to work for some departments expecting it to be like what you see in the movies, you will be sorely disappointed. (On the other hand,) Las Vegas is a lot like what you see in the movies."