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Highway Patrol loses most of its command officers

by Geoff Dornan, Appeal Capitol Bureau

The Nevada Highway Patrol has turned over 90 percent of its command officers since Richard Kirkland became public safety director.

Highway Patrol Col. David Hosmer told legislative money committees Wednesday almost all of the captains and majors, as well as his own position as head of the NHP, have been in those jobs less than two years. He said the same is true for 75 percent of the patrol’s lieutenants.

“This extraordinary turnover is a result of the prior highway patrol command staff leaving rather than be held accountable for their failure to properly recruit, train, promote and supervise,” he said in a paper prepared for legislators.

He blamed those “past failures” for the number of tort claims, lawsuits, equal rights complaints, personnel problems and citizen complaints the patrol has had.

“Some of them did leave of their own volition,” Hosmer said after the hearing. He said the majority either resigned or retired and that several had 30 or more years service and were eligible for full retirement.

Kirkland told the combined Assembly Ways and Means and Senate Finance committees he has also replaced 12 of his 13 division chiefs in the past 18 months “for various reasons.”

Hosmer told lawmakers the Highway Patrol isn’t hiring now even though there are 59 vacant positions for sworn officers — many of them in the Las Vegas area.

He said the reason is the patrol’s training programs are being completely rewritten. He and Kirkland said the old training programs were designed more to turn out city police officers.

“They didn’t have the hard-core focus on traffic enforcement,” he said.

He told lawmakers, however, the changes are working.

“The changes in command staff and overall philosophy have resulted in an almost 50 percent decline in citizens’ complaints against our employees,” he said.

Hosmer said NHP’s budget seeks 10 more dispatchers for the southern command in Las Vegas. He said the current staff must schedule 252 hours of overtime each month to meet minimum staffing requirements.

Overall, the Highway Patrol budget seeks a total of $10.7 million more over the two-year budget — a total budget of $115 million. The money comes from the highway fund.