Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Would You Trade Cops For Security Guards?

The nation's economic woes have hit quite a number of city governments. We've seen a bunch of drastic measures that cities have taken in order to cut expenses and stay afloat. Employee layoffs, reduced services and program cuts have all been tried by various cities. USA Today had a story yesterday that detailed plans by the city of Foley, Minnesota to replace their police force with private security guards.
Since it disbanded its police department in 2003, Foley has contracted with the Benton County Sheriff's Office to have three deputies patrol the city, providing coverage for about 17 hours a day. This year, the city paid $24,694 a month for the contract. 
After cuts in state aid and uncertainty about future funding, the Foley City Council started looking at options to save money on policing. The city decided to contract with General Security Services Corp. to provide 24-hour coverage starting in January for about $16,000 a month.
Apparently not everyone thinks this is a real good idea. The story also had this bit about the plan:
In an Oct. 25 letter, Minnesota Attorney General Lori Swanson warned that the city is opening itself up to "financial exposure." She cited the potential for lawsuits for false imprisonment as one example. 
Swanson wrote that private security employees may carry a firearm but can use it only in self-defense. Private guards do not have the authority to make arrests other than citizens' arrests, cannot pursue fleeing suspects, make DWI arrests or even traffic stops. There's also the issue of whether self-incriminating statements or evidence taken from a suspect by a security officer could be used in court, she wrote.
Of course this brings up the subject of who is going to investigate and/or prosecute crimes that are discovered by these rent-a-cops. If there is a murder in Foley can the Sheriff's Office really refuse to investigate it? All the security guards can do in that situation is call for real cops. It seems that the Sheriff's Office is going to be forced to handle it even without the contribution they were getting when the city was paying for Deputies to provide policing services. It looks like the city is going to get off on the cheap and the Sheriff's office is going to end up having to deal with it anyway.

I sure hope that we don't see more of this kind of thing.

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