Armed and Dangerous: Other ‘American Police Forces’

Armed and Dangerous:  Private Police On The March, By Mike Zielinski, Covert Action Quarterly

THE ERA OF DUAL LAW ENFORCEMENT IS HERE AS GOVERNMENT AND CORPORATIONS HIRE RENT-A-COPS TO GUARD BUSINESSES AND GATED COMMUNITIES AND TO BREAK STRIKES. NOW, ABUSES BY THE PRIVATE SECURITY INDUSTRY AND ITS EMPLOYEES THEMSELVES THREATEN PUBLIC SECURITY.

Propelled by public panic over crime, the private security industry is one of the fastest growing enterprises in the U.S., spending more money and employing more guards than public police forces around the country. In 1990 alone, $52 billion was spent on private security, compared to $30 billion on police. More than 10,000 private security companies employ some 1.5 million guards, nearly triple the 554,000 state and local police officers.

And the industry which generates billions in profits is growing rapidly. One congressional advocate of increased regulation says national labor statistics indicate that more jobs will be created in the private security field than any other categories over the next decade. Industry executives estimate that the number of private guards will surge to 2 million by the year 2000.

This rush to employ private guards reflects the militarization of America. Private firms are arming guards at a pace to match the rapid expansion of non-sporting firearms in private hands. America is an armed camp, with an estimated 200 million guns in private hands. The more than 100,000 gun-toting private guards have more firepower than the combined police forces of the nation’s 30 largest urban centers.

 PrivatecopsSRC1At the forefront is the Special Response Corporation (SRC), based in Towson, Maryland, SRC’s ads feature a uniformed agent wielding a riot shield beneath a headline which proclaims: A Private Army When You Need It Most. SRC promises prospective employers that we can provide the security and control measures necessary for the continued operation of the business in the event of a strike. SRC vouches for the professionalism of its agents, stating that they all have prior military or law enforcement experience. In 1990, SRC helped precipitate a melee when its guards used martial arts sticks against striking newspaper workers in New York City.

Among the most outspoken critics to emerge from within the industry is Ira Lipman, president of Guardsmark, the country’s fifth largest security firm. He draws a dismal picture of the industry, asserting that there are security officers in this nation who are convicted murderers and rapists, who are thrilled at the sight of fire, who think that a uniform gives them authority, and that a gun gives them power, who cannot control their urges or contain their wants, who prey on those they are hired to protect. The industry’s greatest weakness, he contends is the lack of rigorous background checks. [Security firms] do not even attempt to check applicants’ criminal records, military service records, personal references, previous employers or educational claims. They don’t test for literacy, they don’t test for drug use, and they don’t evaluate psychological fitness.

Free PeopleThis article is about 10 years old and even more relevant today.  According to statistics we have seen, there is a 5:1 ratio of private police to public police (hired by levels of the government).  As the abuse of our once Constitutional law enforcement expands beyond recognition, it is sobering to think of the abuse we might witness at the hands of these mercenaries.  We have heard the stories from Iraq regarding Blackwater, yet now we are finding Blackwater counterparts cropping up in a small town like Hardin, MT.  Heavily armed, bound by no Oath, this is America’s greatest nightmare. 

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