After the lighthearted piece about two Boise coppers traveling with the football team as quasi baby-sitters, we got a note about the police providing private security for multi-millionaire Larry Johnston.
Turns out the BPD drew up their own contract and Albertson’s paid the tab. Chief Mike Masterson told the GUARDIAN it was for a limited time and limited service performed by otherwise off duty officers. He hinted the reason for the extra service was due to threats during the merger talks earlier this year.
If there were threats made, Johnston deserves the same protection afforded ex-wives and girlfriends who are threatened–for free. Is private bodyguard work the proper role for Boise cops–at any price?
The role of the police in Boise–and many communities–has gone far beyond the usual public safety role of “protect and serve.” Police work has become a real business with fancy web sites, media spokesmen, recruiters, and now a fair amount of “outside sales.”
One of the potential new clients for the BPD is the Airport which operates sort of like a business under what is called an “enterprise fund.” That means it is owned by the city, the employees work for the city, but it is funded by user fees which are public money. Currently there is a seperate “airport police,” but there is a good chance Boise PD will take over the duties–which is probably a good idea.
A Boise Cop owns a security business that hires off duty cops from several departments. The chief concedes non-policemen would have a rough time getting hired at the private firm which sells security services to the Quest Arena. He even says it is easier dealing with “real cops” when on-duty officers have to respond to a call. Is there a conflict with a private job that employs mostly, if not all sworn officers?
The ethical question would be a good one for Team Dave’s ethics panel. “If an off duty policeman is working for a private company doing work for a private arena, where does his loyalty lie–with his private boss, the arena, or the citizens of Boise?” Does the private employer expect these guys to enforce the law if they see a violation? Do we citizens expect them to arrest the arena staff for violations? Who pays for “self activation.” What about liability issues when force is used.
BPD contracts with Boise State to be the Campus Police, and as we wrote earlier they offer two unarmed plain clothes officers for football road trips. Boise officers are also hired through the department for crowd control at games on overtime funded by BSU.
All of these activities pose some ethical problems for the chief and the command staff. The situation begs for a “Police Commission” of citizens to establish policy–policy that is not in place under the present system. Citizens would act as an advisory panel just like the library board, airport commission, or park board. The experts would implement that policy.
The line between OFFICIAL business and just plain business is quite blurry.
Ada County Assessor Bob McQuade will not allow appraisers to do any “off duty” work, especially in Idaho. He considers it a conflict. Deputy attorneys general are not allowed to do outside legal work within or outside Idaho.
Yet, there are BPD officers who work for personal injury lawyers selling the skills they learned–often at taxpayer expense–reconstructing accidents in big buck lawsuits or appearing as “expert witnesses” based on their police training and experience.
This practice is most in the public eye with cops, but we reported on conflicts in the Boise Public Works Department in the past and a former fire inspector came into conflict doing arson investigation for an insurance firm.
The GUARDIAN offers this space as a forum about public employees selling their skills in the private marketplace while employed by government.
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