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Serve and Protect

County Commission task force studies law enforcement consolidation.



When the Las Vegas Police Department merged with the Clark County Sheriff's Office 35 years ago, departmental pride kept some officers apart.

"You'd go into a room and the city guys would be on one side and the county guys would be on another side," said Tom Roberts, director of intergovernmental services for the Las Vegas metro department. "But that problem fizzled out over time."

Roberts presented an overview of Las Vegas' consolidated city and county police force to the Shelby County Commission's law enforcement task force last week. The task force, headed by Commissioner Mike Carpenter, also heard from representatives of the Shelby County Sheriffs' Association.

"Our investigators and specialists are concerned that consolidation would cause there to be too many people in investigator positions," said association vice president Dan Chapman. "They're afraid they'd be put back into patrolmen positions after they've worked years to get the jobs they have."

Other association members are worried that consolidation would concentrate more resources on crime inside the city limits, leaving residents of Arlington, Lakeland, and other unincorporated areas with less police protection.

"Some of our guys have worked in the same areas for a long time, and they've developed relationships with the people who live there," Chapman said. "We're afraid the people they've faithfully served over the years would find they're no longer enjoying the level of service they're accustomed to."

But not all sheriffs' association members are against consolidation. Association president John Kraemer said he's heard several members say they wouldn't mind consolidating the two departments because Memphis police officers get better benefits.

"Many of our members have made it clear to me that they're all for consolidation, but they don't want [Sheriff Mark Luttrell] in charge," Kraemer said.

County police officers have had two significant pay cuts in the last two years, Chapman said. "So our guys think, if we consolidate, at least we'll get a raise."

Tommy Turner, president of the Memphis Police Association, said his group will only support consolidation if the Memphis department is the lead agency.

"Our contract is with the city of Memphis and the police department, and we will not relinquish it," Turner said.

Turner said the agreement with the city provides better compensation when officers have to go to court or work overtime than the sheriff's office. MPD officers also make higher wages.

The task force has four more meetings before it is expected to make any proposal for or against consolidation. Carpenter says the commission will keep all issues in mind.

"If we decide to go in this direction [toward consolidation], we can balance those concerns," Carpenter said. "Is everybody going to be happy? No, they never are. But I think we can make sure the officers are taken care of."

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