The Supreme Court’s plan to create its own security force got an initial nod from a legislative subcommittee Friday.
Fiscal staff told the panel the plan will cost a total of $431,239 over the biennium to pay for 2.5 positions. That should translate to three people including the one existing officer currently funded from other sources who would be chief of the force.
“I think they’ve demonstrated the need,” said Assemblywoman Lucy Flores, D-Las Vegas, subcommittee chairwoman.
She was joined by Senate Majority Leader Mo Denis, D-Las Vegas, who made the motion.
Justice Michael Douglas said after the hearing the funding is General Fund money but would come from “redirecting two positions out of the capital police.” He said those positions are the ones currently provided at the Supreme Court building.
But Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp said although two officers are now assigned to the court building, the Supreme Court isn’t paying anything extra for that service.
“They don’t pay any more than the other agencies that don’t have officers permanently assigned,” Mohlenkamp said. “They pay the same general allocation as any other agency.”
The cost of capital police is covered under the same cost allocation system that provides state buildings, other than the Legislature, with maintenance, janitorial and other support services. State officials say the police costs are not typically broken out in that allocation, which is based on the square footage of each agency’s building.
Almost no state buildings have capital police permanently assigned to them and those that do, pay for it, except the state Capitol and the court.
Those buildings are the Governor’s Mansion, which has funding in the dignitary protection budget to cover the cost of capital police assigned there, and the Attorney General’s office which has an officer present during business hours.
Mohlenkamp said the administration has submitted legislation that would cut two positions from the capital police budget if this plan is eventually approved, but he said that reduction wouldn’t cover the entire $431,239 biennial cost of the Supreme Court proposal.
Asked how the Supreme Court building would be covered at night and on weekends, Douglas and Chief Justice Kris Pickering said the security would only be needed during business hours at the court but that, if something happened, one of the officers would be on call to respond.
The court is asking for a separate security force because they don’t believe they are getting adequate protection. In a March interview with Pickering and Justice James Hardesty, they said the court is often cut back to just one officer and that the capital police have not provided coverage for the court when offsite, such as holding hearings in area high schools, the rurals and other places.
“They don’t provide adequate cops,” said Hardesty.
The recommendation must go before the full Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees for review of not only the policy but the funding.