Privatized Cops

After a wealthy New Orleans businessman complained publicly about how the police were handling crime in the French Quarter, the chief of police responded by saying if the man thought he could do a better job then he should try it. The businessman took up the challenge, establishing a privately funded security force that won the trust and respect of residents, and successfully reduced crime in the Quarter. The interesting story is told HERE.

I’ve blogged before about the privatization of the prison system, outsourcing of the military through private contractors and the militarization of police forces. Those things concern me. I object to them; but notwithstanding my objections, I expect we’ll see traditionally public functions increasingly privatized and put in the control of corporations.

But the New Orleans story feels different to me. This isn’t a case of a government hiring a corporation to do its job for it. Rather it is a case of a community offering citizens an alternative law enforcement system, sort of like having the option of a private school instead of a public school, or federal express instead of the postal service.

But just as with the other privatizations I mentioned, whether we like it or not, this is probably something we can expect to see more of in the future, as the line between public and private continues to blur.

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20 comments on “Privatized Cops

  1. I don’t know, I feel like the experiment in New Orleans could have gone really really wrong.

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    • Bill says:

      They must have felt it was worth that risk, given how badly things were going. They were innovative in some ways, but nothing they did seemed particularly radical.

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  2. Sue says:

    I just see a whole lotta lawsuits when these rent-a-cops do their job.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      I was surprised to read in the article that there are 3 times more private security personnel in the U.S. today that there are public police. And in this case they were all uniformed off-duty New Orleans police officers, so they’d probably be no more prone to lawsuits than when on regular duty.

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  3. Laurie Graves says:

    I see your point, but I hope privatization is a phase that will pass when people start to realize that one big role of government is to provide essential services.

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    • Bill says:

      It seems that government is increasingly outsourcing its roles to corporations and private businesses. If military and prison functions are hired out, I expect things like police will follow. I suppose the politicians who do it would say they are providing the services by hiring them out. In our county our jail is outdated and too small. But instead of building a new one (probably necessitating a tax increase) they’re just sending the prisoners to privately owned prisons, which creates lots of problematic issues in my opinion.

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  4. shoreacres says:

    Public or private seems beside the point to me today, as Houston pays its final respects to Darren Goforth, the Sheriff’s Deputy who was assassinated while filling his patrol car with gas.

    As of yesterday, the Houston mayor had not yet made a statement or extended condolences to the Goforth family. Until our elected officials, from the President down, make clear that this sort of behavior will not be tolerated, it’s only going to get worse. I’m tired of so-called leaders — elected and otherwise — who seem to delight in setting citizens against one another.

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    • shoreacres says:

      Add: Mayor Parker did order flags to be flown at half-staff.

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    • Bill says:

      There’s a lot I’m tempted to say about the narratives surrounding things like that. But I’ll pass other than to say that a good start to ending it would be for us to stop assuming the worst possible motives when interpreting an event. I’m convinced that we’re not as bad as we seem to assume we are.

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  5. bobraxton says:

    How long before there will be an “unfortunate incident” (like a shootout) between the private police force and the public?

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    • bobraxton says:

      from Wiki: The Guardian Angels is a non-profit international volunteer organization of unarmed citizen crime patrollers. The Guardian Angels organization was founded February 13, 1979 in New York City by Curtis Sliwa and has more than 130 chapters … (worldwide)

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      • BeeHappee says:

        I seem to remember, even in Soviet Union, there was a ‘community patrol’, I remember my dad doing it. Of course the Soviet Police, which was actually named “Militsiya” was operated by the state. They called it Militsiya – meaning protecting the masses, vs. Police which they said only protect the bourgeois. The community patrol however, was either a volunteer or ‘forced volunteer’ (where you have to ‘volunteer’ whether you want or not) organization, the government forces would support and train the volunteers: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Voluntary_People's_Druzhina

        Liked by 2 people

    • Bill says:

      In this case the private police force is composed of uniformed off-duty New Orleans police officers. Unfortunately it’s fairly common in that city for cops and non-cops to shoot at each other.

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  6. The city’s most valuable real estate. For me this is a key phrase in this story. Later in the article, the mayor points out that fewer people live in the French Quarter than other sections of the city. The crime in Torres’ neighbourhood is attributed to the socioeconomic disparity between there and the surrounding neighbourhoods, undoubtedly “less valuable” and more densely populated. Why should residents there get less police protection than the French Quarter?

    Tell me there won’t be corruption in a private force where members are rewarded with gift certificates and potentially more, when they have a successful – what – arrest? Kill? And what about moonlighting police officers? I know police officers here don’t get big salaries either, and that many moonlight, but it seems to me that any cop who moonlights in the same role in a different “company” isn’t giving their nerves, emotions and brain the break they need from a job that involves a lot of stress, fear and adrenaline – it will eventually affect their ability to perform their job well, and may harm their health and perhaps their families.

    Nothing will be tolerated – another phrase I found jarring. What causes all this crime that drives the need for more police presence? Why not work at reducing that, preventing it from even starting – not by eradicating people or evicting them but by working with them to change their situations? I realize how Pollyanna that sounds, but it’s true. That’s where private enterprise could be useful, but it’s less sexy than blue flashing lights on a Polaris.

    At the same time, I think Torres makes some good points. Their city force is clearly swamped, and needs augmentation. Bureaucracy can and does hinder effectiveness – his example of calling the SPCA about the dogs is a good one. Good ideas like his app are slow to be acquired thanks to unwieldy decision making processes in purchasing departments.

    You’re right, Bill, that private enterprise is going to take on such roles whether we want them to or not, but I think it’s going to increase situations like Ferguson. Ray Lewis,, quoted in the article, nails it – privatized police forces are little more than mercenaries, working for the privileged few.

    Liked by 2 people

    • bobraxton says:

      Hessians

      Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Those were some of my initial reactions too. Only the wealthier communities will be able to afford private police like that. But does that mean they shouldn’t be allowed to have them? Wealthy people can opt out of public schools for example. And I wondered how I would feel if I lived there. I suspect I’d want my community to be a safe place to live and if the public police were incapable of doing that I’d be in favor of this sort of thing. We have a volunteer fire department in our community, thanks to volunteers and community support. But plenty of communities don’t have one. So is it unfair that we do? Should we not be allowed to have it?

      I don’t like the idea of private police any more than I like private prisons or taxpayer funded mercenaries in Afghanistan. But my guess is that we’ll see more of this in the future as public resources are stretched and citizens step up to fill the gaps.

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  7. nebraskadave says:

    Bill, Hmmmm, to me private police force could easily shift to vigilante. All things in the beginning have good intentions and do work for a time but corruption has a way to creep in. I have to wonder just what exactly would the privatized security force be able to do that’s unregulated? Once we start taking people off the streets simply because we don’t like how they look ….. it’s a slippery slope in my estimation. How long will it take before I’m the one that doesn’t look good enough to be sitting some where on a park bench.

    Speaking of government police forces, has anyone else noticed cars marked home land security that look a lot like police cars? From a visit to my city’s website, it looks like they are involved in just about every thing. There even looking for a few good men to hire.

    My neighborhood has a watch that patrols the area and reports and suspicious activity to the police. It’s a neighborhood organization that is run and staffed with all volunteers of the neighborhood. I can remember my Dad was part of a group of farmers that would patrol the farms at night. Each would take there turn to just drive the roads in the area watching for any thing that didn’t look right. No one carried guns and just patrolled the area.

    Have a great private security day.

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    • Bill says:

      I like the idea of people in communities helping to look out for each other. We have that too. To me that’s just being a good neighbor and citizen.

      I share some of your concerns, but I did smile at the thought that a police force in New Orleans might become corrupt. Really? In New Orleans? 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Somebody recently said that we should always say “we” rather than “the government”. I might change that to “our” rather than “the”. Because if it’s The Government, then what responsibility are we taking for Our Govenment’s actions–local, state or federal?

    And in opting out, it seems that we are evolving socially in the wrong direction. I’m pretty sure the poorer areas want a safe environment in which to raise their kids and take out their garbage just as much as the wealthier ones. Seems to me that it’s maximizing the best bang (not intended as a pun) for the buck–new and creative ways of thinking and working together as a true community invested in each other’s welfare.

    You’ve involved us all in thinking deeply this past week. I’m still struggling with finding the benefits in a sharing economy–I’m a traditionalist, I guess.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Bill says:

      Great points. I can recall being at someone’s house (an older couple) when they were watching the news. It seemed that with every news item their reaction was “The government should do something about that.” It was as if they thought of “the government” as some sort of omnipotent entity, responsible for and capable of solving every problem. I suspect lots of people think that way. They see a problem and expect “the government” to fix it, or they believe that if only their party were in charge, then the problems wouldn’t exist.

      Suppose instead of saying “The government should do something about that,” we said, “We should do something about that.” I think that would be a much more productive and effective way of thinking.

      thanks for the thoughtful post.

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