FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Cops For Sale

Alarms went off when it was revealed that the armed forces of the United States were using increasing numbers of private contractors to provide everything from transportation to security in war zones around the globe.

Those alarms clanged louder when the indiscriminate slaughtering of unarmed Iraqi civilians by the notorious security firm formerly known as Blackwater were exposed.

Now, the war has come home as wealthy private corporations hire not only security firms, but also public law enforcement officers to ensure that the riff-raff, formerly known as citizens of the U.S., stay out of the way of their money-making schemes and political manipulations.

The Praetorian Guard was established by the emperors of Rome to ensure that neither citizens nor disgruntled military units could harm them. While it may have made sense at first, the story soon changed as the Praetorians became less of a security force to protect Rome’s rulers than hired killers for those who could afford them.

Now a new and dangerous Praetorian Guard is emerging in the U.S. What makes it even worse is that our new Praetorians are not simply hired killers like Blackwater, but officers of public police forces whose salaries and pensions are provided by taxpayers until such time as they are needed by those with the wealth to hire them for private purposes.

If that sounds far-fetched, consider the actions of the “white shirts” I mentioned in last week’s column, in the ongoing Occupy Wall Street protests. A New York City policeman wearing a white shirt, which is supposed to differentiate supervisors from the blue-uniformed line officers, walked up to several women who were already corralled in a police barricade and blasted them in their faces with pepper spray. The women collapsed screaming in pain as the officer who sprayed them turned away smiling.

Shortly after that incident, it was revealed that JP Morgan Chase, one of Wall Street’s most powerful players, had donated $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation, the largest such donation ever. JP Morgan Chase CEO and Chairman Jamie Dimon could not have been more revealing, saying, “These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe. We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.”

The donation is supposed to pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops and security monitoring software for the NYPD main data center. Surely such a donation couldn’t buy off the cops, could it?

Consider that last week’s column also noted that 700 citizens were arrested trying to cross the Brooklyn Bridge. Where were they headed? To protest in the Chase Manhattan Plaza.

Maybe the donation and the arrests aren’t connected. But if you believe that, perhaps you’d be interested in buying that bridge.

There’s no need for speculation as to whether those with enough money can buy public police protection. They can. In a program started by former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani called the “Paid Detail Unit,” private corporations can hire New York City policemen to protect their interests for a mere $37 per hour each, with a 10 percent “administrative fee” paid directly to the police department.

According to a recent CounterPunch article by Pam Martens, not only do these hired cops get to carry guns and handcuffs, they also have the authority to arrest citizens at the behest of the private wealth that hired them. In 2010, corporations such as Goldman Sachs, the World Financial Center and the New York Stock Exchange spent almost $12 million doing just that.

There’s no need to look to the East Coast, though, when we have examples right here at home.

Remember those mega-loads Exxon Mobil wanted to ship through Idaho and Montana on narrow, two-lane roads? Guess whom they hired to ensure that no protestors barred their way?

Our own Montana Highway Patrol.

Like most Montanans, I’ve always respected our Highway Patrol officers. So how is it that they are now for hire by anyone with the money to do so, and they can sweep the citizens who normally pay their wages out of the way of private corporations?

Exxon Mobil is “required to pay for a two-car safety escort by the Montana Highway Patrol,” the Missoulian noted recently. Yet the corporations aren’t even required to tell the Highway Patrol before they move their loads. “‘To be honest, we’re kind of lost, too,'” Montana Highway patrol Sgt. Jason Holdenstab told the paper. Holdenstab, based in Helena, is in charge of scheduling the safety escorts. “I’m at the mercy of [transport company Mammoet] when they send me a schedule,” he said.

Having our Highway Patrol “at the mercy” of a mega-corporation doesn’t sound like a very good idea.

Nor does getting beaten, gassed or arrested by privately hired cops.

But that’s the state of America today, as the new Praetorian Guard emerges to stand between citizens and the corporations who plunder them. And the silence from our political leaders is deafening.

George Ochenski rattles the cage of the political establishment as a political analyst for the Missoula Independent, where this column originally ran. He lives in Helena, Montana. He can be reached at: opinion@missoulanews.com.

More articles by:

George Ochenski is a columnist for the Missoulian, where this essay originally appeared.

Weekend Edition
September 21, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Paul Street
Laquan McDonald is Being Tried for His Own Racist Murder
Brad Evans
What Does It Mean to Celebrate International Peace Day?
Alexandra Isfahani-Hammond
Hurricane Florence and 9.7 Million Pigs
Nick Pemberton
With or Without Kavanaugh, The United States Is Anti-Choice
Andrew Levine
Israel’s Anti-Semitism Smear Campaign
Jim Kavanagh
“Taxpayer Money” Threatens Medicare-for-All (And Every Other Social Program)
Jonathan Cook
Palestine: The Testbed for Trump’s Plan to Tear up the Rules-Based International Order
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: the Chickenhawks Have Finally Come Back Home to Roost!
David Rosen
As the Capitalist World Turns: From Empire to Imperialism to Globalization?
Jonah Raskin
Green Capitalism Rears Its Head at Global Climate Action Summit
James Munson
On Climate, the Centrists are the Deplorables
Robert Hunziker
Is Paris 2015 Already Underwater?
Arshad Khan
Will Their Ever be Justice for Rohingya Muslims?
Jill Richardson
Why Women Don’t Report Sexual Assault
Dave Clennon
A Victory for Historical Accuracy and the Peace Movement: Not One Emmy for Ken Burns and “The Vietnam War”
W. T. Whitney
US Harasses Cuba Amid Mysterious Circumstances
Nathan Kalman-Lamb
Things That Make Sports Fans Uncomfortable
George Capaccio
Iran: “Snapping Back” Sanctions and the Threat of War
Kenneth Surin
Brexit is Coming, But Which Will It Be?
Louis Proyect
Moore’s “Fahrenheit 11/9”: Entertaining Film, Crappy Politics
Ramzy Baroud
Why Israel Demolishes: Khan Al-Ahmar as Representation of Greater Genocide
Ben Dangl
The Zapatistas’ Dignified Rage: Revolutionary Theories and Anticapitalist Dreams of Subcommandante Marcos
Ron Jacobs
Faith, Madness, or Death
Bill Glahn
Crime Comes Knocking
Terry Heaton
Pat Robertson’s Hurricane “Miracle”
Dave Lindorff
In Montgomery County PA, It’s Often a Jury of White People
Louis Yako
From Citizens to Customers: the Corporate Customer Service Culture in America 
William Boardman
The Shame of Dianne Feinstein, the Courage of Christine Blasey Ford 
Ernie Niemi
Logging and Climate Change: Oregon is Appalachia and Timber is Our Coal
Jessicah Pierre
Nike Says “Believe in Something,” But Can It Sacrifice Something, Too?
Paul Fitzgerald - Elizabeth Gould
Weaponized Dreams? The Curious Case of Robert Moss
Olivia Alperstein
An Environmental 9/11: the EPA’s Gutting of Methane Regulations
Ted Rall
Why Christine Ford vs. Brett Kavanaugh is a Train Wreck You Can’t Look Away From
Lauren Regan
The Day the Valves Turned: Defending the Pipeline Protesters
Ralph Nader
Questions, Questions Where are the Answers?
Binoy Kampmark
Deplatforming Germaine Greer
Raouf Halaby
It Should Not Be A He Said She Said Verdict
Robert Koehler
The Accusation That Wouldn’t Go Away
Jim Hightower
Amazon is Making Workers Tweet About How Great It is to Work There
Robby Sherwin
Rabbi, Rabbi, Where For Art Thou Rabbi?
Vern Loomis
Has Something Evil This Way Come?
Steve Baggarly
Disarm Trident Walk Ends in Georgia
Graham Peebles
Priorities of the Time: Peace
Michael Doliner
The Department of Demonization
David Yearsley
Bollocks to Brexit: the Plumber Sings
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail