It seems like just yesterday I was saying that 2022 had flown by, and now here we are, publishing our last issue of Vegas Beat for 2023. This has certainly been another busy year, and as we enter the holiday season and focus on giving thanks for the many gifts in our lives, I’m filled with gratitude for each and every one of our PPA members; our Board of Directors, delegates and staff; and all of our partners and supporters who have helped to make it a very successful one as well.
We started 2023 on an optimistic note, as the induction of our first new sheriff since 2015 promised a new direction for LVMPD. I wrote in my January message that I believed our new leadership was committed to truly listening to our line-level officers, and six months later I was pleased to report that most of our interactions with Sheriff McMahill and his administration have been positive and have resulted in good outcomes for our membership. While no one can wave a magic wand and fix every problem instantaneously, we have seen many welcome changes, and I am hopeful that trend will continue throughout 2024.
Of course, that did not mean the PPA simply rested on our laurels this year. There was still more than enough work to be done in our ongoing efforts to preserve and promote our members’ rights, benefits and well-being within the Department, as well as in our community and in the political arena. Although we didn’t have to contend with as many misguided police reform bills as we encountered in recent past legislative sessions, it remains clear that the public policy conversation is in dire need of powerful, unified and informative law enforcement voices at both the state and national levels to educate our elected officials about the challenges and dangers that our officers face, the real-world impacts proposed bills would have on public safety and what needs to be done to protect our communities.
While rising crime in some areas has led many municipalities around the country to see the error of their ways and back away from more extreme “reform” steps such as defunding the police, this is still an extremely difficult time for our profession. The damage to morale caused by the intense scrutiny of law enforcement, combined with the chaos of the COVID era, has resulted in a major police officer shortage in the United States. In April, the Police Executive Research Forum reported that although hiring efforts have picked back up after declining during the pandemic, agencies are losing officers faster than they can hire them. PERF’s survey found that retirements are up 19% compared to 2019, and resignations have jumped a whopping 47%. In addition to veteran officers leaving in droves, fewer young people are willing to enter the profession, leaving departments struggling to fill open positions. Some are lowering qualification standards or offering increased pay, benefits and other incentives. Some small agencies that cannot afford to compete for applicants have been forced to dissolve.
All of this leaves our communities shorthanded at a time when law enforcement is critically needed. Although homicide and other violent crimes declined in the first half of 2023, according to a study of trends in 37 American cities conducted by the Council on Criminal Justice, they are still higher than the levels seen before the pandemic. In addition, some types of crime are skyrocketing, including motor vehicle theft, which rose 33.5% overall and more than 100% in some cities, such as Cincinnati (162%) and Rochester, New York (355%!). Spikes in other types of property crimes, such as smash-and-grab robberies and other organized retail theft, have terrorized businesses and citizens in many cities. Add to that the horrors of the fentanyl crisis and the tragic frequency of mass shootings nationwide, and this is no time to fail to invest in law enforcement. When personnel are stretched thin and agencies try to do more with less, it not only endangers our communities but also leads to plummeting morale and rising burnout and traumatic stress among officers — which in turn only increases the attrition.
In addition to the serious risks to officers’ mental and emotional health in this hostile environment, there are the very real physical dangers we face each and every day. Multiple times each week on our social media platforms, we share the heartbreaking stories of brave and dedicated officers from across the country who will never return home to their families. And this year during National Police Week, we honored five of our own who lost their lives in the line of duty in the past two years. We are thankful that overall line-of-duty deaths are down significantly from last year (56% at the time of this writing, according to the Officer Down Memorial Page), largely due to substantial reductions in deaths from COVID-19. We have been fortunate to lose fewer officers to gunfire, but the number of officers who have been shot remains alarmingly high: 290 so far this year, which is 22% higher than in 2020. In particular, there have been 92 ambush-style attacks on law enforcement officers thus far this year, resulting in 109 officers shot and 16 killed. Every attack on an officer is disturbing, but these premeditated, targeted surprise attacks are especially troubling.
The problems facing our profession are daunting, yet I believe in our law enforcement family and know that we will persevere in protecting our communities to the best of our ability, whatever it takes. There is strength in numbers, and our PPA stands as an example of all that can be accomplished when we unite for a common cause. As we look back at the year, now is the time to celebrate our many successes — including our new contract, which went into effect July 1 and includes longevity pay, a benefit we have long fought for. Other highlights included another successful Police vs. Fire charity football game, two LVMPD officers being presented with Top Cops Awards during National Police Week and our own magazine winning a Communicator Award. We introduced a legislative bill tracker on our website to help keep our members apprised of what’s happening on the political front, and as 2024 is an election year, I urge you to stay up to date and involved on the issues that affect our Department and our profession as a whole. We also loved being able to host a variety of gatherings where our members and their families could enjoy a fun and relaxing time together, from sporting events (including celebrating our Golden Knights bringing home the Stanley Cup!) to Easter to Oktoberfest to our upcoming Santa Day on November 19.
I want to wish each and every one of you a wonderful holiday season and a very happy, healthy new year. Rest assured that whatever 2024 brings us, your PPA will continue to be here to support you and fight for you.