NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

Minnesota Town Replaces Cops with Private Security Force

January 10, 2012

A small Minnesota town is set to embark on a radical civic experiment: replacing cops with a private security force.  The new guards started several days ago, wearing uniforms, carrying sidearms, and doing 24-hour patrols every day of the week on the streets of Foley, Minnesota.  The cost-saving move has triggered worry among some that town leaders may have gone too far, taking some life-or-death responsibilities out of the hands of those with the legal authority to enforce the law.  But town council members respond that, because negotiations failed with the police force that Foley had employed for years, they were left with few other options, says The Daily.

  • Foley is a community of 2,600 people situated on approximately 400 square miles of farmland.
  • The contract given to the private security firm, Minneapolis-based General Security Services Corp, was approved unanimously by the town council for $223,226.
  • The council expects $53,000 in annual savings, as well as a 24-hour "proactive" system as opposed to the 17-hour patrols the town had before, according to city administrator Sarah Brunn.

Nevertheless, the guards will be significantly limited by legal concerns.  While they will carry permitted firearms, they will not be allowed on the grounds of Foley's 1,700-student public school complex, have access to police radios or dispatch services, or receive any 911 calls from Foley residents.  These duties will stay in the hands of the few remaining deputies, who will also be responsible for criminal investigations.

Not only will the jurisdiction of the guards be limited, but also their range of possible actions in any given situation.  As county attorney Robert Raupp pointed out, guards will not be able to enter private businesses after hours even if they witness a crime taking place inside, as this would be considered trespassing.  In short, there will be significant roadblocks because the guards do not have as much official authority as traditional police.

Finally, the guards may be limited by a lack of cooperation on the part of the remaining deputies.

Source: Andrew Strickler, "The Force Is Not With You," The Daily, January 2, 2012.

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