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  • Where are the cops we paid for?

    I-Team: Tax Money for More Police Falls Short in NLV
    Posted: Oct 29, 2009 1:28 PM PDT Updated: Oct 30, 2009 10:29 AM PDT
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    I-Team: Tax Money for More Police Falls Short in NLV
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    I-Team: City Councilman Questions More Cops Spending

    The More Cops Sales Tax initiative passed on a promise to put more patrol officers on the streets of southern Nevada. Millions generated by the quarter-cent sales tax hike was supposed to increase the rate of police officers per resident. Yet the Channel 8 I-Team has discovered -- in one city -- the numbers just don't add up.

    Local government continues to fund the police department as it always has plus it can add even more officers with the "more cops" sales tax. Trouble is, the city of North Las Vegas has far fewer police than projected. Some are questioning whether the tax has lived up to its end of the bargain.

    "Hurry up and get your weapon together. You're in a gun battle right now. Somebody's going to shoot you because you can't get your weapon together," barks Henderson Police Officer Larry Jannotti to a new recruit.

    Some of the recruits in his class will end up serving in the least protected city in southern Nevada -- North Las Vegas.

    "Obviously we need more police officers," said North Las Vegas Police Chief Joe Forti. "The need for officers is definitely a high priority, needs to be a high priority for us."

    North Las Vegas voters deemed it a high priority in 2004 with their overwhelming support of the "more cops" sales tax increase. A quarter-cent to put more cops on the streets. Following its passage, the city approved more than 100 additional patrol officer positions to be funded using "more cops" money. To date, the city has fewer than half of that number.

    People believed they were going to get an additional boost of police officers and it simply hasn't happened.

    "I don't know that I would agree with that and maybe we can agree to disagree. What our numbers reflect is that we have hired additional police officers that are actually on the street, more bodies, that we have indeed allocated more positions for police officers," said Gregory Rose, North Las Vegas city manager.

    Rose points to 79 police officers currently paid for with the "more cops" fund. Yet according to police statistics, the figure fails to represent a true increase in the number of cops.

    The city of North Las Vegas pays for police out of three different funds, the general fund, a separate public safety tax fund, and the "more cops" fund.

    According to records obtained by the I-Team, the city has 47 officers originally hired under "more cops". Instead of increasing those ranks, in February of 2008, the city shifted 32 police officers paid for out the general fund and the out of the public safety tax fund into the "more cops" fund. That effectively freed up the money spent on those salaries and benefits for other things.

    "Would I have done that? I think I would not have done that. I would've left those positions where they were in the general fund and in the public safety tax and then you still have positions in more cops," Forti said.

    In a memo obtained by the I-Team, the city finance director explains that Chief Forti knew about the plan to move the officers. It is a claim he adamantly denies. Forti tells the I-Team that his staff discovered the shift nearly a year after it occurred.

    "Maybe Chief Forti was distracted, maybe he simply didn't hear, I don't want to talk about heresy because I don't see that as my role. What I see my role being is making sure that the public and our council have what the facts are," said Rose.

    The facts according to Rose, is that he directed his staff to hire all new officers first from the "more cops" fund. The presence of positions elsewhere, some on the books for more than a year, was merely a mistake.

    "Some were wrongly coded, we're not denying that. But we have not decreased the number of officers that we have had. In fact, we've increased the number of officers," said Rose. Increased by far fewer than projected. Instead of more than 100 new officers, North Las Vegas has 47 hired under the "more cops" money which was a taxpayer investment of millions of dollars.

    Reporter Colleen McCarty: "Did they get what they paid for? Did they get what they were promised?"

    Chief Forti: "We're down right now, we're struggling to get what the citizens may have wanted."

    The I-Team recently uncovered an email copied to the chief -- dated last year -- notifying a low level police staffer of the officer shift. The e-mail also says the chief was aware of the moves. The chief insists he never the saw the email and knew nothing of the shifts until earlier this year. Subsequent emails seem to support his assertion. The issue of whether the city has properly spent its "more cops" money has local officials asking questions.

  • #2
    Part II

    I-Team: City Councilman Questions More Cops Spending
    Posted: Oct 30, 2009 6:01 PM PDT Updated: Oct 30, 2009 6:26 PM PDT

    You paid extra taxes to get more cops on the streets. But the Channel 8 I-Team has learned North Las Vegas may have used the funds to reduce its commitment to public safety.

    As the I-Team first reported, instead of hiring new officers using the More Cops money, the City of North Las Vegas added police on paper, shifting 32 officers already on the payroll, some for more than year, into the More Cops fund.

    The move has prompted questions about the city's use of the voter-approved tax.

    On a council crowded with veteran politicians, Richard Cherchio is a rookie with a fresh perspective, which may explain why he spent his first months as a North Las Vegas City Councilman looking back 10 years. "It was alluded to me that there was a problem there," he said.

    He's referring to a dispute between the city and its police department about the use of the More Cops fund. A quarter cent sales tax hike approved by voters in 2004 to put more police on patrol. "There's no doubt in my mind as to what the thought processes were of the people at the time who voted for it. They wanted more cops. I wanted more cops," he said.

    To determine whether North Las Vegas got more cops, Cherchio asked city and police department staff to detail a decade's worth of police hires by fund. With respect to More Cops, the city notes 47 officers hired under the fund. The police department claim 46. That's far fewer than the more than 100 positions initially approved by the council.

    "There should be more than what's in there right now -- substantially more. We're not talking about 10 or 20 cops, we could be talking maybe 50 cops, you know," said Cherchio.

    "When the initiative was approved, I don't think we had identified at that point how many officers we would end up hiring. What we did say is we will hire more officers and we have honored that," said City Manager Gregory Rose.

    Rose bristles at any suggestion the city has misused its more cops money. North Las Vegas, insists Rose, followed the letter of the law, including a provision meant to preserve existing city funding of police services. "The reality is what the law provides for and as long as we don't reduce the police department's budget, which we did not, it is an appropriate use of those funds," he said.

    City financial records show since the inception of More Cops, North Las Vegas has increased the amount of money allocated the police department, while at the same time decreasing the overall percentage of the city budget earmarked for police services.

    A department memo obtained by the I-Team notes the city has not hired a new police officer from its general fund in five years. "I just don't know why that was done. It was explained to me how it can be done within the letter of the law, but I'm just uncomfortable with that explanation," said Cherchio.

    When it comes to public safety, Cherchio professes no patience for semantics. "People designated a certain amount of money to go to More Cops. Simple. And that's what we're trying to determine now and I think we will get to that point. I think the people have the right to know that," said Cherchio.

    Councilman Cherchio believes the More Cops fund should be audited. He is exploring ways to make that happen.

    The I-Team also spoke with state Assemblywoman Marilyn Kirkpatrick. She's working with the legislative legal counsel to explore the legality of the city's actions.


    • #3
      If they don't want them, give them to Metro, we could always use a few more.


      • #4
        The North Las Vegas and Henderson Police departments DO NOT manage their money, it is managed by their respective city officials like a city treasurer or city manager. This is why the "More Cops" money was mismanaged. The city used the money earmarked from the more cops bill the for something other than hiring or keeping the cops that were hired. It is in no way the police departments fault, they should fire whomever did this. I would hate to see layoff's from the departments from this , however I can also see the short minded city government doing this, even though it was their mistake.


        • #5
          As voters in Los Angeles County have learned repeatedly, money is fungible. If you direct all the money from a tax increase to a fund to pay police officers, then the city or county will take funds that it otherwise would have used for that purpose and use those funds for something else instead. Politicians cannot be trusted and their promises are unenforceable. You vote for a tax for more police, and you instead provide funds for welfare programs.

          Voters in the City of Los Angeles recently learned that their increase in rubbish collection fees, which was supposed to hire more police officers, will instead be used to reduce the budget deficit.

          For this reason, I always vote against these proposals. In reality, they are scams to get you to vote for a general tax increase.
          Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. -- Aldous Huxley
          Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity. -- Albert Einstein


          • #6
            It took a new council member to find out about it. The rest seem like they don't care otherwise they would have said something by now. Just like they ask cops to make concessions on wages while stockpiling their savings for a good credit rating. We'll see how far this goes and if someone gets the axe. My guess is that Rose will be the first out.


            • #7
              Geesh, that's pretty shady if you ask me. Seems like everyone is back pedaling. Kudos to the city council member who dug the information up.


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