The job of policing should be left to police officers |

The job of policing should be left to police officers

by Claire Fortier, Tribune Opinion Page Editor

Let’s jump to the obvious – like why are security patrols, and not city police, are patrolling city-owned parks and beaches – as we strive to understand the truly absurd.

In a City Council meeting Tuesday, High Sierra Patrol requested the city allow the company to arm its security guards while patrolling places like Bijou Park.

The surprise of the request isn’t that security guards are armed. Security guards, hired through High Sierra Patrol, have been armed for many years – just not formally.

The surprise is the major rear-end covering that is transpiring.

If the council formalizes an agreement to arm security guards, High Sierra would have to fork out more money for liability insurance, which, of course, would be passed onto the city to the tune of $5,000 a year. In short, a security company already under scrutiny for arming the wrong guy is asking the city to pick up the increase in insurance coverage to put armed guards out in highly public places.

The request from High Sierra, just three months after one of its security guards allegedly killed a 16-year-old with a gun the company had assigned to him, seems, at the very least, bad public relations. But to assume all employees of High Sierra are gun-toting idiots is unfair and unwarranted. The level of training required for those security guards has already been established by the city and supported by the chief of police.

Nonetheless, to arm security officers – no matter how well trained – to patrol public parks and beaches is asking for trouble. Places like the skateboard park are likely to be frequented by teens and young adults. Guards were hired to keep an eye on things, not to act like policemen. Policing an area is very different from patrolling it.

The real issue here is not why council would consider arming security guards. The real issue is accountability.

Why are security officers doing the job of police officers?

When the city put in the skateboard park at Bijou a couple of years ago, the pitch was made to hire some extra security coverage to keep down vandalism and other petty crimes. An extra pair of eyes is fine, but to let security officers replace police officers, particularly when dealing with young adults, seems very much like abducting our civic responsibility.

The responsibility of policing should be left to police officers, who are backed by a police hierarchy and supported by the city. If a police officer had pulled the deadly stunt that a former security guard has been accused of pulling, Chief Brad Bennett would no longer be chief. And city, which is considering paying the increased premiums for the upgraded $3 million insurance policy High Sierra is proposing, could hardly cover the lawsuit it would be slapped with if a police officer played a little Russian roulette.

The safety and protection of its citizens, even those with tattoos and skateboards, should be the responsibility of the police department.

But, the police department will whine, we can’t be everywhere all the time. We need more officers, higher salaries, more money.

How much does it really cost to do more routine cruises of Bijou Park?

Maybe it’s time to turn in those seven new Ford Expeditions for a couple of new bicycles and some sturdy shoes.

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