You Paid For It Mailbag: School police spending
In the midst of a budget crisis, why are school police are buying brand new uniforms, badges and some big bad guns?
That's the question Contact 13 Chief Investigator Darcy Spears asked in a "You Paid For It" special report earlier this week.
Since that investigation aired we've heard from many of you who are very passionate about both sides of the issue.
You paid for it, now here's what you're saying about it.
Clark County School Police Spokesman Lt. Ken Young says, "When you're looking at education dollars, there's always a crisis."
Which is exactly why many of our viewers question the school district's approval of hundreds of thousands of dollars for school police over the last few years.
It's money that's been spent on a uniform style change, special dress clothes for a ceremonial honor guard, and a weapons cache of semi-automatic assault rifles and tactical shotguns used for training, but not issued to officers.
"They do train with the weapons but they don't carry the weapons," confirms Clark County Board of School Trustees President Carolyn Edwards.
Officers can carry them if they buy their own, which a handful have chosen to do.
Viewer Bud wrote: "School police and all police departments need to have the best weapons possible for training and use."
Bubu echoes that, writing, "If they want fully-automatic weapons, more power to them. I want my child to feel safe at school and I want to know there's someone there to protect her."
But others, like retired federal firefighter Bruce Moran, question the gun purchase.
"Are you gonna be using this in a school environment?"
A man who says he's a CCSD employee wrote, "There is no reason a school police department (at least in Las Vegas) needs to have AR-15s and riot shotguns and a new toy to just try out."
He's referring to the $800-dollar Beretta semi-automatic carbine school police bought just to check it out.
"It's like somebody's trying to develop their own little army," Moran says.
Viewer Aldo wrote, "When did the school police start taking on the drug cartels? This is a joke. Here I am buying extra school supplies to try and help out my kids' teachers and they're buying high-power assault weapons?!"
"Any time you're spending outside the classroom, there's always gonna be a question, is it the right time to do it? There's never really a right time to spend money," says Lt. Young.
Some viewers think there's no right time to be buying new badges, no matter what.
School police spent more than $20,000 on new badges, some even for retirees.
"Are the badges cheaper? The new ones?" Darcy Spears asked Lt. Young.
"I don't know that they're cheaper."
And were they even necessary?
School police have been using the 7-point star badge since their inception in 1989.
The change was all about style--going from a sheriff's style to a police style badge.
Scott wrote, "This is a department that's gotten out of control. Changing badges? OMG!"
But Marc wrote: "You cannot have security without spending money or giving up some of your freedoms."
Some of that spending is for an $8,000 dress wardrobe bought in the last two years for just seven officers to attend funerals, parades and other ceremonies.
Emily, who says she's a student in the Clark County School District, wrote: "I think they should spend the money on us kids rather than new outfits for school police officers. They don't need to look stylish when protecting us."
But Phillip believes: "It's important for police, soldiers, and other protective service agencies to project strong images."
Viewer Alice sums it all up, writing: "I'm not sure why there are school police to begin with, but this fancy clothing? And machine guns? This is over the top."
School police get new uniforms every year per their contract with the District and say the new style will save money in the long run.
That savings will have to be just the beginning as the school district is facing a $250 million dollar shortfall under the governor's budget proposal.
All the money for police, teacher salaries and students' education comes from the same general fund.
We'd like to thank all of you who wrote in about this story. And we invite you to continue sharing your concerns about how your tax dollars are spent. Please email 13Investigates@KTNV.com or call 702-257-8440.