NHP’s Col. Hood hangs it up
In 25 years with the Nevada Highway Patrol, Mike Hood has held every rank from trooper to colonel and chief of the division.
“I was even a corporal and they don’t even have that rank anymore,” said Hood. “This is the only law enforcement agency I ever worked for.”
He is retiring as chief of NHP at the end of August.
Hood, 46, says a lot of things have changed since he joined the highway patrol.
“When I started working down in Las Vegas, working the Strip, it was a two-lane road,” he said. “We had 122 people and I got paid $348 every other week.”
He said in those days, the entire NHP night-time force on I-15 from the California line through Las Vegas to the Arizona line was three troopers.
“We’d get one call outside of Mesquite and then the next call would be down near the California line,” he said. “We drove and drove and drove.”
Hood estimated he’s logged well over 1.5 million miles behind the wheel of a patrol car.
The department has since grown to 446 sworn officers and another 160 civilian personnel. Top pay for a trooper is now more than $50,000 a year and there might be two dozen cars on that 130-mile stretch of road at night.
But Hood said the biggest changes are in the complexity of the job itself.
“It was different when I came on 25 years ago,” he said. “Now we are a kinder, more public service organization. We enforce the laws vigorously, but now we’re more a service agency.”
Hood said changes in the law, society and demands on NHP troopers have made the job more difficult and complex, yet many of them are for the good.
“We used to be more tolerant of mistakes – especially those that dealt with excessive force,” he said. “Today we’re not tolerant at all of that. We will terminate for excessive force and we will terminate for dishonesty.”
He said NHP has done well and it shows in the relatively low number of lawsuits against the department.
“Hell, I’ve been sued for things I didn’t even know happened, but we’re one of the least sued highway patrols in the western part of the country,” he said.
While he says law enforcement has been his life, that part of his life comes to an end Aug. 31.
In his five years as colonel, the patrol has grown by about 100 troopers. He said today’s troopers are better trained and have first-class equipment. And he said the patrol finally got a new radio system during the last Legislature.
“It’s state of the art,” he said. “Before, we had an antiquated radio system that was going to kill someone.”
That system was famous for having “dark spots,” places where a trooper couldn’t reach dispatch or any other troopers by radio.
“It was dangerous,” said Hood.
He said he’s also pleased his troopers are getting not only 4 percent more each year but an extra longevity step and a grade increase in their pay. Altogether, that will come to 18 percent during the next two years.
He said the policies and procedures manual has been rewritten under his command and he instituted a seniority bidding system for line and supervisory staff for shifts and days off, “so that seniority would mean something.”
“It’s been a great career. I’m leaving on a good note,” he said. “I’ve got support from the director’s office and that’s how careers should end. But I would like to do something different.”
The only problem is he doesn’t exactly know what he wants to do yet.
“To sit around and do nothing – that’s not me, not my style,” he said.
But his job has, in effect, been his hobby as well.
When he retires, he said, he expects to move back to his hometown – Las Vegas – because he has friends there and there are more job opportunities.
“The real story is I’m tired,” he said. “I’ve got 25 years and I can retire without penalty. I’m young enough to start something else.”
Whatever that is, he said it might involve driving because he said that’s one of his favorite ways to relax.
“I’ve got this BMW and I love to take it out and just drive. That’s one of the reasons I joined the highway patrol in the first place – I could drive and get paid for it.”