Nevada lawmakers are considering allowing noncitizens — such as green card holders or DACA recipients — to become police officers in order to combat staffing shortages.
Assembly Bill 30, sponsored by the Assembly Committee on Government Affairs, was recently introduced to allow documented noncitizens to become police officers if they pass a background check.
Under the legislation, noncitizens who wish to become a police officer must be federally authorized to work in the country and must have proper documentation.
Republican Governor Joe Lombardo, a former sheriff, would need to first sign off on the bill if passed.
The legislation could make 140,000 green card holders and 15,000 Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) recipients in the state eligible to attend police academy and be recruited into law enforcement agencies.
The measure comes after the city of North Las Vegas became the first city in the state to allow noncitizens to enroll in their youth explorers program — a program for young adults with an interest in a career in the law enforcement.
Proponents of the bill say it will help improve staffing shortages and widen the applicant pool.
“There’s a crisis right now going on nationally,” said Jared Luke, the North Las Vegas director of government affairs and economic development.
“It’s not just a Nevada thing, it’s not just a North Las Vegas thing, where recruiting numbers for police officers and police departments nationally have fallen.”
Whereas other states have chosen to offer bonuses and other benefits to attract officers, Nevada is looking to increase the number of applicants by removing the barriers for noncitizens.
Luke said that officers will still be subject to pre-screening background checks and physical tests.
“That’s a major pool of potentially qualified candidates who want to serve in the community, where they live and who want a better community,” Luke said. “But they’re prohibited to do so even though, legally, they have the authority to work in the United States, so that’s really the genesis of AB 30.”
Luke said the legislation is modeled after a 2015 bill that allowed noncitizens to become public school teachers.
“When we started looking at what the state had done in 2015 for teachers, we said ‘Why don’t we just do the same thing for police officers?’” Luke said.
North Las Vegas Police Officer Teodoro Mede Jr. was supportive of the measure.
“[It will] get our recruitment numbers up for sure, but more importantly, just be all-inclusive for the community.”
California and Utah have passed similar legislation to boost recruiting and staffing numbers.
Sergeant Jared Wilson, president of the San Diego Police Officers’ Association, was in favor of the move in California.
“The San Diego Police Department has lost over 500 officers since July 2020. That’s drastic. We need everyone we can to be able to be a police officer. However, we are not in favor of reducing the requirements and lowering the standards,” Wilson said.
Senator Nancy Skinner said the California law was formulated after the military removed similar restrictions.