Enter Stage Gabbing

web posted October 18, 1999

Why private armies exist

The Canadian Police Association recently issued a press release detailing their concern over "the encroachment of private security on areas of police responsibility."

These days there is a regrettable but understandable trend which sees people -- those who can afford it anyway -- cloister themselves inside gated communities and guarded by private security firms because they no longer trust police to do the job. According to Builder Online there are over 20 000 gated communities in the United States and demand is outstripping the ability of contractors to install expensive gates and security systems.

Canada isn't as "advanced" as its southern neighbour but gated communities and private security firms aren't unknown here as witnessed by the concern expressed by the CPA.

"The private security industry is growing rapidly and uniformed security guards seem to be everywhere," wailed the association in its October 6 release.

"If security personnel are acting like the police and looking like the police, then what they do and how they do it can and will impact both on the public and the police", stated Grant Obst, President of the CPA. "Private security is not the police. They are not trained to the same high standard public police services must maintain, they do not have the appropriate status and authority to enforce all aspects of the law, and they are not subject to the public accountability mechanisms the public expects and demands for the police."

Perhaps, but even in a semi-free market society like Canada, a perceived need is met by the marketplace. Despite what the association -- the same group which supports the federal government's odious Bill C-68, the gun registration legislation -- people increasingly are turning away from traditional law enforcement. I'm also trying to stifle any all too true jokes I could make about accountability and standards when it comes to police.

It is a regrettable trend because law enforcement is one of the few functions which government can legitimately provide to its citizens. In a free society, government is given the monopoly in the use of force which exists in the form of our military, police and courts. That power is used to protect our rights from external and internal coercion and play the role of an independent arbitrator to settle disputes.

Instead of protecting those rights, government -- and police -- often seem hell-bent on destroying as many of them as possible, sometimes for dark purposes, but generally so they can create that safer society we all dream of.

In communities across North America, rather than see police argue for less money to be spent wealth robbing programs like welfare, law enforcement officials are arguing for more money for the installation of surveillance cameras -- ones which will one day be linked together and tied to impressive computer systems...all the better to track us...for our own safety of course.

Instead of arguing against pork-barrelling programs, law enforcement agencies are taking money so that they can build themselves up into paramilitary forces -- complete with armoured personal carriers, assault weapons, helicopters -- all the better to tackle those quality of life crimes we are concerned about.

Many would also trust police if it wasn't for the rampant rights abuses regularly reported across this continent, whether innocent people shot during mistaken drug busts or just because of the general malice of a few cops. Everyone is perceived to be a threat by Officer Friendly at the end of the century and a lot of people are finding it pays to be more worried about the police car driving by slowly then it does the young toughs hanging out at the corner...especially if your skin is darker then mine.

Law enforcement has built itself into an impressive lobbying agency, but only for the results it gets when it bleats in unison about threats its worried about and not the ones we are. People want their police officers to catch the bad guys, not bust down the doors of civilians and shooting before asking questions. People want police officers to uphold their rights and not argue for surveillance systems to spy on them. Argue for tools which will actually stop the crime that we all feel in our neighbourhoods. Your military surplus equipment didn't stop my home from being robbed several years ago.

Until then, Officer Friendly will be replaced by Renta-Cop and a lot of people are happy to pay the bill.

Thanks for reading,

Steven Martinovich

Meanwhile, back at the ranch...

web posted October 11, 1999

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