You Paid For It: School police shopping list
Clark County schools are cutting teachers.
But school police have brand new uniforms, badges, and some big bad guns.
Is this the price we pay for safety in our schools or is it overkill? You decide, because you paid for it.
A $400-dollar dress blouse.
"Is this bullet-proof?" asks local taxpayer Bruce Moran. "It better be."
A $130-dollar belt buckle.
"This was ridiculous."
And how about a $750-dollar semi-automatic assault rifle?
"Are you going to be using this in a school environment?"
Those are just a few of the things Clark County School Police are buying with your tax dollars.
Moran thinks, "It's total fiscal irresponsibility."
More on the clothes in a minute.
But first, let's talk guns and ammo.
Bruce Moran is a retired firefighter whose two kids grew up in the Clark County School District.
He's also a gun enthusiast who strongly believes in the right to bear arms.
But he's got big concerns over some of the arms School Police are buying.
In particular, he questions the purchase of AR-15s.
School Police wouldn't show us any of those guns, but confirm that over the last few years they bought 14 AR-15s for training.
Add in the weapons maintenance kits and the grand total comes to nearly $13,000, plus another $23,000 for bullets--just in the last two years.
Even though they train on the assault rifles, if patrol officers want to carry them, they have to buy their own.
Out of 170 officers, only 20 have opted to do that.
"There are some very strict guidelines related to deploying those weapons," explains Lt. Ken Young, spokesperson for the CCSD Police Department.
"So for the most part, the public may never ever see a school police officer that deploys that AR-15."
"And we know from the Columbine incident that students can get hold of fully automatic assault rifles and bring them to school," adds Carolyn Edwards, President of the Clark County Board of School Trustees.
To Bruce Moran, it "looks like they're buying toys..." in the midst of a budget crisis.
"Any time you're spending outside the classroom, there's always going to be a question, is it the right time to do it? There's never really a right time to spend money." says Lt. Young.
In February 2010, they spent almost $4,000 for 10 Mossberg 12-gauge shotguns--again for training purposes.
And then there's the $800-dollar Beretta semi-automatic Carbine Lt. Young says they bought just to check it out.
"Is there a type of gun or a point at which you would say no, we can't afford that right now?" Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asked Trustee Edwards.
"I don't know how you would say we can't afford to be safe," she responded.
But can we afford the nearly $123,000 School Police spent several months ago?
That was for just one of their new uniform orders after deciding to change the color and style.
And that's not including more than $20,000 for new badges.
Some were even for retirees.
Darcy Spears: "In this time of budget crisis, why are we deciding to change uniform color and style and spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to do that?"
Carolyn Edwards: "You would have to take that up with the officer."
Darcy Spears: "Of course, it's an expense that's approved by the Board."
Carolyn Edwards: "Yes."
Darcy Spears: "So...?"
Carolyn Edwards: "Many expenses are approved by the Board. We don't go through every expense with a fine-toothed comb."
Darcy Spears: "But don't you think the taxpayers expect that?"
Carolyn Edwards: "Well... they may expect that, but the purchase orders that we see every month, every Board meeting, is hundreds and hundreds of pages."
And in those hundreds and hundreds of pages is the nearly $8,000 spent last year on dress clothes for a 7-man Honor Guard to attend parades, funerals, school openings and other ceremonies.
Remember that $400-dollar dress blouse?
It's actually a jacket, but referred to using the military term "blouse."
The ones for command staff cost $450, and that's what the Honor Guard wears, along with $90-dollar hats and $130-dollar belt buckles.
Carolyn Edwards: "A police department is an important safety concern for our students."
Darcy Spears: "Is a $450-dollar jacket for safety?"
Carolyn Edwards: "I would have to look at why that's a $450-dollar jacket. I don't know why it is, but if it is, I would say it's probably for a good reason."
But when the money comes from a budget that also funds teachers and classroom materials, parents may feel differently.
"I don't think that the public would mind honoring anyone that's been slain in the line of duty," says Phil Gervasi, president of the School Police union.
Darcy Spears: "And do you think the public would care what you're wearing?"
Phil Gervasi: "Well, if we want to get down to that I think that we'll let the public decide that."
Bruce Moran would rather not have his tax dollars spent on the dress-up uniforms.
And, he really questions the badges.
"That just seemed to be the most ridiculous thing I've seen yet."
School Police spent tens of thousands on new badges last year because they say they'd been using Sheriff-style, not Police-style badges since their inception in 1989.
So what was the problem?
"It was just a style change," Gervasi explained.
Lt. Young says the new uniforms will save money in the long run and wants everyone to remember this...
"Everything that we've done has always been in budget."
But in a budget that's rapidly disappearing.
"The fact is that we don't have enough money to run this school district right now," Edwards says. I think there are some areas where we could probably do a better job."
As a result of our investigation, the School Police union has offered to help offset some costs.
They're volunteering to reimburse the taxpayers for all the honor guard expenditures.
We'll be waiting to see whether the District takes them up on that.
We want to know what you think: Are the new uniforms, badges and the expensive Honor Guard clothes worth it? And what about the weapons?