November 22, 2006

Public Security vs. Private Security

A New York State investigation has concluded at least one Southampton Village Police officer was "operating an unlicensed security business."

This is nothing new around here. Many of our town, village and county police officers routinely moonlight as security officers for the rich and famous. Our ruling bodies have ignored the obvious conflict of interest for years. In East Hampton Village, illegally parked cars were getting "booted," and the vehicle owners were charged a hefty fee to get their vehicles back. The company was owned, in part, by a higher-up in the local police department.

In East Hampton Town, a reportedly unconscious girl who needed to go to the hospital was transported from a party at Puff Daddy's house via car to a public location where she was met by an ambulance. The driver? An off-duty East Hampton police lieutenant.

In Southampton Town, a wild party over on Brick Kiln Road, also involving the ubiquitous P. Diddy, literally blocked public streets with the cars of attendees. The party was so loud the noise could be heard miles away, but as complaining neighbors later learned, the hosts were being "protected" by off-duty town cops. On-duty officers who responded were met at the door by their peers and in some cases, their superiors.

There is a correlation here that goes well beyond the ethical dilemma. Narcotic arrests are made almost exclusively in our minority communities. Do we really believe the rich and famous don't indulge? We have heard of open drug use at ritzy parties where off-duty cops were in charge of security — and did nothing but shut up and collect a check.

Our municipal police are paid quite well. If they want to start a security business after they retire — and many have — that's well and good. But current police officers should not be doing private security, under any circumstances. And town boards should pass legislation to ensure they don't.

With the costs of health insurance rising rapidly, and retirement benefits in the private sector drying up, one would think people lucky enough to have jobs funded by the public, and all the benefits that come with those jobs, would be grateful. Instead, more and more, they feel entitled to cross the line, and do so with impunity.

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