Nevada Supreme Court seeks its own security force
Nevada’s Supreme Court justices will present their budget at a hearing before the money committees Wednesday, and the center of attention is expected to be the plan to create their own security force.Justices are expected to tell the Nevada Legislature that they want, in effect, a divorce from the capitol police because they don’t think they’re getting adequate security coverage, Justice Jim Hardesty said.“We have had a lengthy history with the capitol police in which we had attempted on numerous occasions going back at least six to seven years where we asked them to provide coverage,” he said. “They have on repeated occasions cut back coverage without notice to the court, failed to provide coverage for the court when offsite or provide coverage for our offsite buildings.“We’re supposed to have three officers in that building,” he said.The court wants to take the money it now pays Buildings and Grounds for security and use it to pay its own force of three officers, Hardesty said.He said he was told that would free up about $300,000 the court could use to pay its security force.He said they did something similar, hiring the Clark County marshal’s office at the Regional Justice Center in Las Vegas and not only saved money but improved security.But Director of Administration Jeff Mohlenkamp said last week the cost allocation they pay B&G doesn’t just pay for police but also maintenance, janitorial and other services the court receives. He said, in fact, the Supreme Court isn’t paying anything extra for the two officers currently assigned there on a daily basis.Capitol Police Chief Tom Navin pointed out that with his two officers at the court 12 hours a day and the court security officer they hired this fiscal year, they have the three bodies they are asking lawmakers to approve.Hardesty said they met with Navin this past year to argue that security is insufficient and that “assurances were made that corrections would take place and they have not.”“They don’t provide adequate cops,” he said.Hardesty emphasized that isn’t a criticism of the officers assigned at the courthouse now, just of the level of security.One of Hardesty’s and Chief Justice Kris Pickering’s big complaints was the lack of security when the court meets “off-campus” at places such as high schools.State statute provides for capitol police coverage of court business off campus, however, Navin said.“When you talk about traveling security, that exists today,” he said. “They can have that. They just have to fund it over and above what they fund now.”The Capitol Police already provide officers to the governor and at the Governor’s Mansion, Hardesty said.Navin countered that is paid for in a specific dignitary protection budget that provides officers at the governor’s mansion and covers the governor and first lady at different official events. He said the court can have the same type of security through his department.“We will make personnel available,” he said. “Someone has to pay for it.”Why are there concerns about security? Hardesty said “there have been incidents” and declined to be specific. Pickering pointed to the law library on the ground floor, where disruptive people have showed up.“We would like to have some appropriate security measures we can call upon when the justices and their staff are subject to threats,” she said.”They have 14 of 22 Capitol Police in the north,” he said. “We get one guy in the morning and one in the afternoon.”Navin said it makes no sense to create what he says would be a fourth or fifth police force in the capitol complex. In addition to Capitol Police, there are the Legislative Police and, Navin said, the Carson Sheriff’s Department just two blocks away, as well as Nevada Highway Patrol he can call on.“If the need arises, we’re no more than a phone call away,” he said. “Somebody can get there in minutes.”The two officers assigned to the court now provide 12 hours of coverage Monday through Friday with a four-hour overlap, he said.To protect court staff, he said, there is a Capitol Police vehicle on Stewart Street when they arrive in the morning and when they leave most evenings.“But adding staff over there, I don’t have the staff,” he said pointing out his officers must cover all B&G buildings in Carson City all the way from offices north of the Capitol south to Stewart complex.A bigger issue, Navin said, is “what happens after hours since it (the court) is no longer under control of the Department of Public Safety? Who provides security for the building and people in there?”He said if lawmakers agree to the court’s plan, “I’m just going to transfer those two positions.”“The net effect is I have two less positions for overall security,” he said.But he said the new Supreme Court detail would have “every start-up cost of a new police department.”Navin and Mohlenkamp both said it would make more sense — if politics didn’t interfere — to combine the Capitol and Legislative police into one force covering everything.“Then do it,” Hardesty said when asked about that idea. “But by goodness, provide adequate coverage. Don’t build a single police force, then only cover the Legislature or the cover the executive branch.”
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