Putting Revenue Generation Above Public Safety at Las Vegas’ “Money Hungry” Municipal Courts

The Las Vegas Review Journal is the latest media outlet to point out the already painfully obvious tendency toward revenue generation that law enforcement has degenerated into.  Citing current and ex-employees, as well as lawyers and people that have been defendants within the court, the LVRJ states in a recent article:

“It’s a question of priorities.

 

Should Las Vegas’ law enforcement officers arrest criminals, or feed city coffers…?

 

They contend the court’s “money hungry” approach to misdemeanor warrants prioritizes revenue collection above public safety and pressures marshals to take a credit card payment in lieu of locking up violent offenders.

 

Staffers say this collect-at-all-costs mentality tends to place a heightened emphasis on traffic ticket revenue — a practice that disproportionately harms poor, often minority defendants more likely to wind up in jail for failure to pay a speeding or fix-it ticket — all while leaving much more serious offenders on the street.

 

They blame those practices on a pair of top city managers, administrators they say have created a culture of “coercion” to better fund Las Vegas’ courts….

 

Law enforcement authorities…also have been accused of plundering vulnerable residents — most recently, in Las Vegas’ case, as part of a class action lawsuit that claims the now-disbanded Las Vegas constable’s office engaged in the ‘illegal shakedown’ of newcomers to the area.”

This is a photo I took of the Brinks truck that they drive up to the front door of the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas every morning.The reference to the “illegal shakedown” by the constable’s office (which was actually dissolved due to the constant scandals and corruption within it) refers to their practice of charging new residents a $100 fee as “compensation” when they issue tickets for having not changed their license plates, even if they later prove that they were within the 30-day window allotted to do so (a law which itself was modified to shorten the time allowed and quadruple associated fines, based purely on a desire to increase tax revenue). This led to constables (who personally received $65 of that fee) spending most of their time driving around apartment complexes searching for cars bearing out of state license plates.

(The photo to the left is one I took of the armored truck that they drive up to the front door of the Regional Injustice Center in Las Vegas every morning to haul away all the cash they take in.)

The Review Journal article also goes on to explain how the focus on collecting revenue creates an unofficial quota system and leads to favoritism toward those that pad the Las Vegas Municipal Court’s budget within the Las Vegas Marshal’s office:

“Former Las Vegas Marshal Richard Kilgore said a lot of the work of some of his former colleagues amounts to nothing short of ‘extortion.’

 

Kilgore said the court rewards those who bring in the most money, offering additional training and even promotions to marshals who negotiate court-ordered bail amounts with scofflaws in the field.

 

Those who don’t, he said, find themselves out in the cold.

 

‘Officers like myself would get denied training, get stuck in court more,’ Kil­gore added. ‘That’s where I thought (marshals) were supposed to be. I’ve always thought that we’re not there to generate revenue, we’re there to enforce court orders and uphold the decorum of the court.’”

These cash centric policies of the Las Vegas courts create a predatory nature among law enforcement and effect sentencing policies. Plus, the real danger is that actual criminals, who pose a true threat to local residents, are being allowed to run free, as long as they have a credit or debit card to swipe and some dollars in the bank:

“But the court does handle its share of DUI and domestic violence cases.

 

Lately, when a defendant in one of those cases skips a court date or violates a court order, records show marshals have been willing to let them off with a fine — even if the offender is violent and even if it is not that offender’s first brush with the law….

 

State and city audit records show the Las Vegas Municipal Court has implemented several ‘revenue enhancement’ tweaks in recent years, including at least one bail and fine schedule revision in 2003 and a 2012 change that ‘provides defendants options for settling their case in exchange for higher fines and a major bump in the court’s administrative assessment revenue.

 

The court’s fiscal 2012 revenue report notes a similar policy change requiring defendants to pay program fees before fines — a practice that could see defendants spend months or years paying the court hundreds or thousands of dollars in late fees before even starting to pay down an initial past-due fine….

 

City employees who spoke with the newspaper recall instances in which marshals collected as much as $1,500 on a $187 speeding ticket, or were called out to cuff a defendant facing multiple DUI charges, only to see those infractions washed away with one swipe of a credit card. Still others said marshals had been directed to collect hundreds of dollars in fines over a ticket for suspended vehicle registration.

 

They said the system is designed to ensure that defendants who owe the court money continue to owe the court, and that those same defendants never land in jail.

 

‘There are thousands of violent criminal warrants in the system to be worked,’ said one employee, who declined to be identified for fear of retaliation. ‘Instead, they’re putting more emphasis on traffic warrants or just letting these people go.'”

These type of tactics by Las Vegas revenue collectors can’t help but beg for a comparison to the NYPD’s famous unofficial strike, in which they vowed to only harass or arrest people “when necessary.” That didn’t quite work out how they had expected though, when everyone pointed (happily) to the enormous drop in “crime” and pretty much nobody missed them one bit. The biggest lesson learned during that exercise in cutting off your nose to spite your face was when reporters asked people in New York why they were less than brokenhearted over their absence. A good percentage of them explained, that while cops were constantly stopping them for minor, money based infractions or with thinly veiled excuses to harass people they didn’t like the looks of, when they called them for an actual violent crime or legitimate threat, they were often nowhere to be found.

And of course, no story about police or politicians in Las Vegas would be complete without a healthy dose of corruption and inappropriate behavior being involved:

“Three city staff members blamed marshal’s office management for most problems associated with that department’s renewed emphasis on revenue collection, particularly marshal’s office chief Lt. Manning.

 

They said the 20-year marshal’s office veteran has been named in no fewer than three formal workplace conduct and sexual harassment complaints, two of which are still pending.

 

The city wouldn’t say whether Manning has ever been investigated or disciplined in connection with those allegations. Manning’s wife, Cheryl, has served as the city’s chief internal affairs officer since 2007, a post officials say does not include investigative authority over Municipal Court marshals.

 

Las Vegas employees suspect City Hall is aware of some, if not all of the questions surrounding Manning’s workplace conduct, but chooses to ignore them because he generates “a lot of money” for Las Vegas in fines and fees.

 

Staffers contend that one way Manning manages to boost those returns is by manipulating warrants ‘ordered’ and ‘issued’ by the court.

 

A warrant ordered by one of Las Vegas’ 20 Municipal or Justice Court judges can still be voluntarily tidied up through a defendant’s court appearance before a set date.

 

Marshals can’t make an arrest or collect a fine on such a document until it is put into issued status — a designation that’s not supposed to be approved by anyone but a judge.

 

Multiple city employees said marshals have been instructed to seek out defendants with an ordered warrant and, if found, call the court clerk to have the warrant switched to issued status, effectively pre-empting a judge’s order on the matter and dangling the specter of jail time in front of defendants being served with a warrant.

 

Staffers likened the practice to coercion — the equivalent of treating Las Vegas’ most vulnerable residents like an ATM.

 

‘It’s pay or go to jail…’ one employee said.”

So the next time you see eight LVMPD cops arresting one elderly homeless woman on Fremont St., remember they’re keeping you safe and they need to raise your taxes, so they can hire more cops to keep you even more safe from the dangers of having too much money in your pocket.

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About Kelly W. Patterson

a lifelong resident of Las Vegas, who's been very active in local grassroots activism, as well as on a national level during his extensive travels. He's also the founder/main contributor of Nevada Cop Block, served as editor/contributor at CopBlock.org and designed the Official Cop Block Press Passes. ____________________________________________________________________________ Connect with Kelly at these social networks; Facebook, YouTube and Twitter.

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21 Responses to “Putting Revenue Generation Above Public Safety at Las Vegas’ “Money Hungry” Municipal Courts”

  1. RAD April 9, 2015 at 2:45 pm #

    It’s a shakedown racket. They just use the government religion to make it seem legit. The difference between an extortion mafia and a government is that a government has its own religion.

    Extortion mafia + Religious Cult = Government

  2. JC April 9, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    What a bunch of BS. If you get a ticket, you can fight it in court. If you lose you pay the fine. It’s not a racket. The only people complaining are those who loss in court and had to pay a fine.

    • t April 9, 2015 at 6:04 pm #

      Thanks for clearing that up, you obviously spent a lot of time investigating the matter. I know you hate the United States and the Constitution and everything, but debtor’s prison is still illegal in this country because of it.

    • Shawn April 9, 2015 at 7:39 pm #

      How do you fight it in court, if the bastard on the bench is motivated by money? Tell us, how to convince that person to be objective.

      The profit motive of fines is very real. Look at the abuse of red light cameras, where they’ve been caught shortening yellow lights to increase offenders.

      • t April 9, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

        Shawn:
        You never been to court have you?
        It don’t work like that guy. Not by a long shot.

        • RAD April 10, 2015 at 1:17 am #

          Those funds the priest/auctioneer in the black robe racks up during the ritual known as “court” go into a “state” “slush fund”. Similar to how in the ancient Roman government religion, their legal system recognized that religious deities had property rights and could own their own property, in today’s legal system, it is recognized that the supernatural entity known as “the state” can have its own bank account.

          • RAD April 10, 2015 at 1:26 am #

            And where does the money come from that pays Judges, Cops, and Prosecutors? Where does their paycheck come from? Simply laundering the money through these corporate shell accounts doesn’t change the reality that cops, lawyers and judges all personally profit off this system. It’s a scam based on religious superstition. They use this religious belief in the supernatural power of “the state” to rationalize their financial scam.

        • ymygody April 10, 2015 at 5:36 am #

          Yep, no judges ever found guilty of corruption or taking bribes. Perfect people they are.

        • Shawn April 10, 2015 at 6:32 pm #

          Why? Because you say so? You’re so full of shit.

          I suppose you also think a judge won’t issue a warrant for anal probing over clenched butt cheeks? You do know that happened, right?
          Judges are even less accountable for fucking up than cops are.

        • Shawn April 10, 2015 at 6:33 pm #

          Oh, I thought you assumed I was a criminal, and that explains my problem with cops? Because in your arrogant stupidity, only criminals have a problem with what is going on.

    • ymygody April 10, 2015 at 5:38 am #

      and everybody knows no innocent person has ever been found guilty.

  3. Robin Johnson April 10, 2015 at 2:15 am #

    Wow and people are worried about terrorists and gang bangers when the cops and the courts are becoming a corporate Mob.

  4. KW April 10, 2015 at 3:05 pm #

    I got a ticket in Las Vegas for my car registration being suspended. Come to find out the DMV had suspended my registration for not having insurance, even though I’ve ALWAYS had insurance on my car the entire time I’ve owned it.

    So I go to court with documents from the DMV showing they suspended it for no insurance, and documents from my insurance company showing I actually did have insurance (and have had continuous insurance for years). Seems like a simple case, the DMV made a mistake and I expected the case would be quickly dismissed.

    The reaction I got from the judge however was mind blowing. He didn’t care about the documents I was trying to show him and said (after barely looking) that it wasn’t really evidence. He made it very clear that there was NO way it was going to be dismissed and said I’d have to pay the fine or go to trial.

    And the kicker? He says if I go to trial this ~$250 ticket gets jacked up to over $1,300 and judging from his attitude it seemed very unlikely I’d actually win at trial. I can’t hire a lawyer to fight a $250 ticket and I also couldn’t afford getting hit for $1,300 if I went to trial and lost (even the $250 hurt bad at the time).

    I went to court on 3 separate occasions (a huge pain in the ass), brought in as much evidence as I could find trying to get it dismissed and got absolutely nowhere. Finally, I caved and paid the $250 even though I had done nothing wrong as I saw no other option. Thanks Las Vegas.

    • Shawn April 10, 2015 at 6:30 pm #

      I have a pastor friend who ran into that with his teen son. Same thing. Judge didn’t care how much proof was brought that THEY screwed up.

      The only thing more irresponsible than a cop is a judge.

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