Security Versus Law Enforcement

Many (probably most) people don’t think twice when they see an armed police officer patrolling their neighborhood. But if private individuals do the same thing many people will flip out. Words such as vigilante are tossed around and people such as George Zimmerman are brought up. Which is really worse though? Let’s consider the following story about armed individuals patrolling their neighborhood:

SAN ANTONIO, TX – Armed with high-powered rifles, men dressed in fatigues and black T-shirts emblazoned with the word, “Security,” trekked through the streets of a Northwest Bexar County community in the wee hours of one recent morning. Many of their neighbors, meanwhile, slept soundly in their homes.

Members of the group, called the “Armed Volunteer Security Detail,” asked us not to reveal the exact location in which they patrol. However, the neighborhood is located in the area of Loop 1604 and Culebra Road.

The self-appointed keepers of the gated subdivision also were careful to hide their identities, shielding their faces from our camera. What they were not shy about, though, was their purpose—to make their community safer.

“We’re not out here enforcing law. I want to make that real clear,” said one member, who identified himself as Mr. Black. “We’re out here protecting people’s property rights.”

Black and the others formed the group, which is not sanctioned by the Bexar County Sheriff’s Office, in response to what they believe is an increase in crime.

Two guys decided to grabs their rifles and patrol their neighborhood after a perceived increase in crime. They’re basically doing the job we’re told law enforcers are supposed to do. Why do people think of them differently?

Common arguments brought up against private individuals patrolling neighborhoods are that law enforcers are accountable and receive specialized training. I think the recent string of killings by law enforcers that have lead to nothing more than the officers involved receiving paid vacations invalidates the claim that they’re more accountable. At least when a private individual shoots somebody there’s a thorough investigation and in a vast majority of cases if the shooting appears questionable the shooter will stand trail.

The second argument is also wrong in my opinion. The specialized training that law enforcers receive tends to be unrelated to security. They’re often taught how to identify somebody who is on drugs, kidnap people, confiscate property under civil forfeiture, and enforce traffic citations. Their training also tends to include nonsense such as their job being extremely dangerous and that they can’t trust anybody, which breeds paranoid and discourages rational responses to situations.

The two individuals in the linked story very clearly state that they’re not law enforcement. This is important because security and law enforcement are vastly different things. Security is the act of protecting life and property. Law enforcement is the act of enforcing the law no matter how ridiculous it is. Somebody who is providing security won’t give two shits about the cannabis plants you’re growing. They just want to make sure nobody steals your plants. Somebody who is providing law enforcement will toss a flash bang grenade into your toddler’s bedroom, kick in your door, and shoot your family pet (and maybe even you) because they received a tip that you are in possession of a prohibited plant.

I have no problem with security. I do have a problem with law enforcement. The two individuals in the story are doing nothing wrong in my opinion and I’d much rather have them patrolling my neighborhood than police officers. At least I know that they will be held to some level of accountability if they do something wrong and won’t gun down my dog because they heard I was in possession of a cannabis plant.