Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Outsourcing the police?

King Emperor Mayor-for-Life Richard Daley of Chicago has come up with a hare-brained new scheme to save his city some money (and, probably not so coincidentally, a great way to royally piss off the CPD, which has been working without a new union contract for more than 18 months) - he's proposing allowing private armed security guards to take over many routine police functions, including writing tickets for parking violations, graffiti "and other minor infractions", whatever that means. Drug possession? Burglary? The possibilities seem endless.

That's a really great idea, isn't it? Let's let people with Lord only knows what kind of training and accountable only to their corporate employers roam the streets looking for jaywalkers and other minor miscreants to prey upon. We say "prey upon", because one has to realize that quotas would almost certainly be a necessary part of such an arrangement, in order to ensure that such a plan would be potentially profitable enough for a private company to strike such a deal, which is kind of why law enforcement isn't a for-profit enterprise in the first place, as nasty personal enrichment operations at the expense of the peasants they're supposed to be protecting and serving occur all too often even among regular sworn officers. Imagine now being a minimum-wage guard who's told that he or she must write, say, $500 in tickets per shift in order to keep their position. The abuse of such power, particularly in a city already famous for its systemic corruption, would be enormous, to say the least.

We haven't even mentioned the unfairness of one private citizen enforcing the law on another one. How would appeals and court appearances be handled? Police officers are sworn for a reason - to let them (as well as us) know the deadly seriousness of the job that cops do, and that they carry the weight of the legal and criminal justice systems behind them. Exactly what would keep non-sworn, poorly-trained private contractors from deciding to just do whatever they felt like? They haven't sworn an oath to uphold anything or protect and serve anyone, and wouldn't be beholden whatsoever to the peasantry they'd be let loose on.

What about insurance and indemnification issues? If a police officer wrongly harms someone in the performance of their duties, one can sue the city for damages. What happens when a security guard shoots someone because they were scribbling on a wall and didn't put down the paint can fast enough, and the company simply goes out of business to avoid responsibility? How does the harmed citizen then get redress for their complaint? For that matter, how much of the tax money supposedly "saved" by this ridiculous plan would go to paying out claims made by victims of these ill-prepared guards?

The privatizing of law enforcement is a terrible idea, for these and many other reasons. Daley should redouble his efforts to give Chicago cops a workable contract agreeable to all sides, and let them go back to (for the most part, with a few notable exceptions) properly policing the city.

1 comment:

Bike Bubba said...

How exactly are they going to get armed security guards to do police work in officially handgun-free Chicago?

Yeah, Hizzoner can't afford paying his police officers, which is why he's hoping to drop a cool billion or two building an Olympic style stadium, and then another billion or so getting the Games, and then another billion or so to lure a bankrupt football team (maybe the Viqueens?) there. Yeesh.