Nevada officials are moving to nearly double the protective detail assigned to Gov. Steve Sisolak and his family, following a growing number of threats against elected officials nationwide and recent highly publicized verbal threats made against the governor.
The funding request for three new dignitary protection positions, at a cost of $373,000, was approved unanimously during a Tuesday meeting of the state Board of Examiners, a panel that ratifies and oversees state contracts and spending and is composed of Sisolak, Attorney General Aaron Ford and Secretary of State Barbara Cegavske.
There was no discussion on the motion except for Sisolak confirming with legal staff that he could vote on the item, as it related to his security team. Because the funding request would pull from a contingency account maintained by lawmakers, it will next go before the Interim Finance Committee for approval at a May 5 meeting.
Members of the dignitary protection team typically accompany Sisolak at official and campaign events throughout the state, and provide 24-hour, seven-day-a-week security at the governor’s mansion in Carson City and all necessary advance security work for events on the governor’s schedule.
The dignitary protection division’s budget is about $1.2 million per fiscal year and pays for five full-time positions. The new positions would add an officer to the Carson City office and a sergeant and officer to the Las Vegas office, for a total of eight positions.
A memorandum prepared by the state Department of Public Safety stated that a “recent assessment” of dignitary protection operations “revealed the need for expanding the protective team due to various national threat alerts and anticipation of additional potential threats associated with the coming elections.”
A separate memorandum cites a joint intelligence bulletin released last year that highlighted the threat posed by so-called “domestic violent extremists,” described as groups motivated by “perceptions of election fraud and perceived government infringement on their constitutional rights, as well as conspiracy theories surrounding the presidential election and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.”
It also noted a massive increase in threats to Congress over the last two years, and recent “verbal attacks” against elected officials in public places. Sisolak and first lady Kathy Sisolak were verbally accosted and ran out of a restaurant last month by a far-right video blogger, who at one point said “We should string you up by a lamp post right now, p—— boy.” The governor’s security detail was not with him at the time of that incident.
“Based on these factors, examining our current protective posture for the Governor is prudent,” the memorandum states.
Asked about the request, a spokeswoman for Sisolak pointed to that recent security assessment “which showed the need to expand the protective team.”
The budget request notes that the agency can fulfill the cost for the 2022 fiscal year, but additional funding is needed for the 2023 fiscal year and will likely be included as requests in future budget cycles.Lawmakers in February 2020 approved an additional $15,500 for travel expenses for the governor’s security detail.