The Nevada Highway Patrol Association, or NHPA, has filed for recognition as the exclusive union for state police officers.
The association on Thursday announced it had been designated as the collective bargaining group for thousands of highway patrol troopers, parole and probation officers, fire marshalls, detectives, game wardens, park rangers and university and capitol police.
It’s the third group of state employees to unionize after the Democrat-dominated Legislature in June passed a long-awaited measure that allowed some state workers to collectively bargain.
State mental and behavioral health workers — a group that includes nurses, mental health technicians and pharmacy technicians — last month announced they planned to organize as part of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, or AFSCME, union.
In a statement, the NHPA said its unionization will help reverse “a drastic pay disparity” between local and state police.
“Filing for recognition is the first step in the process to begin negotiating appropriate compensation and working conditions for state police,” said NHPA President Matt Kaplan, a 14-year veteran of the Nevada Highway Patrol. “We are thrilled with the growth of our membership to accomplish this recognition and our goal as a union will always be to ensure our communities receive the highest level of service from our members.”
The NHPA reports its members are paid roughly 25 to 35 percent less than their counterparts working for cities and counties, a pay gap that it says has “negatively impacted organizational culture and the ability to attract and retain officers.”
The union said it costs the state approximately $60,000 to $80,000 to train and prepare officers for the field, though more than half of state cadets leave within two years for a higher paying job with a local police department.
“When we start the negotiation process, the state will see how the pay disparity is negatively impacting the sustainability of our police force,” Kaplan said. “We believe pay parity and an improved working environment will create a cost savings for the state when you account for the training costs that are spent addressing our high employee turnover rate.”
The NHPA also plans to rename itself to reflect new members from the Nevada Department of Wildlife, Nevada State Parks, and the Nevada System of Higher Education.