Are private police on the rise down in the deep south? In Alabama, it’s a possibility. Alabama Governor Kay Ivey recently signed legislation allowing Briarwood Presbyterian Church to establish its own private police force. While this may not be a full embrace of non-government policing state-wide, it sets a substantial precedent for the state of Alabama and private security.
Alabama Law and the Church
2,000 attendees use Briarwood Presbyterian Church, as well as 4,000 parishioners. To protect such a large population, the church often hires off-duty police officers to protect their campus. However, they are not always available. Thus, the church is getting its own private police force.
Alabam code section 16-22-1 already allows schools (including private ones) to hire their own private police forces. It seems that the language of the new legislation is remarkably similar to that of sections 16-22-1. Both laws allow institutions to hire their own police force, trained in non-lethal force, and certified by Alabama Peace Officers’ Standards and Training Commission.
Moreover, this legislation does not give the church its own jail. There will be a peace officer and car on the church campus, but if officers make any arrest, they simply turn them over to the local police.
Why People Are Against Private Police
The ACLU came out against the legislation with a seemingly knee-jerk reaction. The Alabama ACLU says that the law will help the church cover-up illegal activity that occurs on church campuses. However, public police officers aren’t exactly sacred defenders of the law. Rather, they commit abhorrent crimes quite often. Studies find that there is a serious epidemic in regards to police officers beating their wives. They also kill dogs illegally quite often. According to research from Bowling Green State University, over 400 cops were convicted of rape over a nine-year period.
Although being a private police officer doesn’t make them immune to abhorrent acts, they are now accountable to a private employer. Public police officers can get away with terrible actions because they are agents of the government with no direct accountability. Private police, of a church nonetheless, on the other hand, need to uphold the moral code of the church as well as their safety if they wish to keep their jobs.
In addition, the ACLU worries that the law is a violation of the first amendment. They think this because “It establishes a singular religion that is favored above all others in the state of Alabama and it gives them the authority of state government.” However, the authority that Alabama is giving to churches it has already given to schools. In addition, if we look at Alabama law we can clearly see that the authority of the private police to make arrests is very similar to the ability of citizens to make arrests.
A Freer Future
Taking the government out of the equation is always a good idea. When we don’t involve the government, there is more safety, less violence, and far more accountability. However, there will always be detractors that cannot understand that we don’t need government for all of the functions that they provide. Lovers of liberty should celebrate every in which government is lacking. Alabama may not be making a full public to private transition, but of course, we should celebrate this action.
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