Senate Majority Leader Arlan Meekhof is the mind behind a new and very controversial two-bill package that has been introduced. If SB 0594 makes it all the way through the legislature and past the governor’s desk, Michigan would be allowed to authorize private, and potentially for-profit, police agencies which would have full arrest powers. But what does that mean exactly, and what does law enforcement have to say about it?
According to Meekhof, this legislation would allow Michigan corporations, associations, school districts, among others, to hire private police agencies for specific time and places, where they would provide legal law enforcement services. This includes all of the protections and authority granted to public police officers. The reason, he explained, is because MIchigan’s need for law enforcement services is at an all time high, whereas our police departments are spread thin and working at capacity.
Current law enforcement, however, thinks it’s a terrible idea! In an interview with Michigan Radio, Bob Stevenson, executive director of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police and former Livonia police chief explained why so many local police agencies are upset about the bills. “The best police are local police. We wouldn’t want private police to start taking the place of public police.”
But why, you may wonder? Well, according to Stevenson, “There are some things you have to pay for, and professional police officers are one of those.” The reasons, he explained, have a lot to do with the total lack of adequate training and accountability required for private police officers by the proposed laws. A lack that Stevenson called “appalling.” And he’s not the only one.
Howell Police Chief George Basar also spoke out against the bills, saying that it felt to him that “We’re creating a Blackwater for police in the state of Michigan.” Blackwater, now known as the Academi, was founded by retired Navy Seal Officer Erik Prince, and provides contractual security services to the United States Government. “It almost feels like we’re putting together a mercenary force to police in some of our communities.” Basar said, a point that Meekhof took offense to.
Meekhof is fiercely behind these bills, saying that he would do whatever it took to make them happen.
Meekhof referred to Basar’s commentary on the matter “out of line.” Although the accountability of these private police forces is currently a point of contention, Meekhof has gone on the record to say that his bills do in fact include numerous accountability standards for the proposed private police forces. What he isn’t discussing, however, is who wants these police forces.
Meekhof has said that many groups, including corporations, homeowners associations and large condominium complexes have all come forward to say that they want access to private police forces. However Meekhof refuses to name names. Because the Michigan Legislature is not subject to public records requests under the state Freedom of Information Act, numerous media sources have tried and failed to find out who is the driving force behind the bills.
Many questions are still unanswered – a point that Michigan Association of Sheriffs Executive Director Blaine Koops points out in an interview with WWMT. “Who does the prosecution on the cases, is it done through the city, is it done through the county prosecutor’s office? How are these units dispatched, is it done through a public entity such as a centralized 911? If they make an arrest, who is responsible for that arrest? Do they take them to the local county facility or jail on tax payer dollars?”
All in all, these bills have caused a great number of people to draw lines in the sand, picking sides in favor of what they believe is right for Michigan’s residents. Attorney Chuck Kronzek reminds readers that, “Michigan already has lots of private police forces with the same powers as municipal law enforcement officers. For example, Wayne State University, Central Michigan University, Michigan State University and the University of Michigan all have their own private police departments. Many local school districts also have their own private police departments. The concept of privatizing law enforcement is nothing new. Similarly, private, for-profit prisons have existed in America for decades.”
This controversial bill package has a long way to go before it becomes law, assuming it ever makes it that far. Until then, if you or a loved one have been arrested for a crime in MIchigan, or believe that your rights have been violated by a police officer who handled your case badly, call The Kronzek Firm at 866 766 5245. Our experienced criminal defense attorneys have spent decades defending and protecting the people of Michigan against trumped up charges. We can help you too!