Private Police: Public Safety for Profit

If anti-government, anti-public interest Republicans have their way, eventually everything will be privatized: health care, education, the military, our national parks, and yes, even police protection. In fact, private police protection is already well underway, as demand for security increases and the ability of local police departments to serve and protect is further diminished by budgetary shortcomings and increasing lawlessness.

Private security guards are increasingly performing functions that until recently were the exclusive province of police. In a world of organized terrorists and overburdened cops, the private security trade is booming. Security companies now patrol and make arrests at housing projects, both poor and rich (read: gated communities), as well as malls, office buildings, airports and business districts. They guard naval ships and nuclear plants and investigate all manner of crime, including murder and fraud. Towns are contracting with private firms for non-emergency duties, like crime-scene security, alarm response and ticketing.

Yet there are fundamental differences. There is no oversight or accountability to speak of. Government regulation is weak to nonexistent. And security workers are not beholden to the public. They take orders from company and property owners, who have their own priorities. The distinction contradicts a central tenet of public policing as well as traditional democratic theory: Government serves the community at large, for the good of the whole, regardless of class. But that was the way it used to be. Today, social services must pay their own way. Just like the health industry - formerly known as the medical profession - and the education system, police departments are in the process of being commodified. As a result, much to the consternation of taxpayers, one finds even public safety is often limited by one's ability to pay.

It's going to be a brave new world, folks. Is this what everyone really wants?

More on Bush Action Figure

In his latest column, "Action Figures For Imbeciles," Mark Morford has some choice words for those who would cynically market pseudo-heroism in the guise of "The Terminator" for California Governor or the George Bush "Elite Force Aviator" action figure to an insufficiently critical public:

Country's in shambles and economy's gutted and schools are shot and Iraq's a violent bloody mess and joblessness is rampant and it's a proud time indeed to be an American, and hence you might be asking yourself, what, pray what, can I give the hardcore lockstep pseudo-Christian homophobic Republican on my gift list?