Full disclosure: While a police supporter, I’m also a proponent of police support personnel like the recently announced “Nola Patrol” for the French Quarter, which is private security as a public safety force multiplier and citizens on patrol.
There’s a certain conditioned helplessness which afflicts Americans regarding public safety. Despite recent complaints about police militarization on both sides of the aisle, the average citizen has been encouraged to be a passive spectator in his own protection.
Criminals don’t share such passivity and, as such, place extra pressure upon the public to assume more ownership of what I call our “safety quotient.” Shrinking public budgets and manpower create opportunities for citizens to assume regulatory and nonemergency tasks as civilian employees of police departments. Unlike England, whose police community support officers possess limited arrest authority, their distant American cousins do not and are also unarmed, thus not crossing a line and infuriating police unions on both sides of the Atlantic.
Civilian police employees performing nonemergency tasks with a shorter training time and lower salaries are touted as cost-effective ways to get more sworn officers out of administrative seats and onto the streets. Private security and citizens on patrol also supplement police by providing more eyes, ears and sometimes hands to address suspicious activities, medical events and actual threats.
Putting the public back into public safety, beyond being 911 callers, adds troops to assist the relatively small number of law enforcement officers. While we can debate whether the Nola Patrol is an end run around well-documented (and legitimate) local police union concerns; at day’s end, freeing more police officers to catch criminals is a goal upon which reasonable people can agree. Perhaps Nola Patrol is a step toward putting the public back in New Orleans public safety?
Time will tell.