The Problem With Private Police

Last year I ranted and railed about the Illinois Supreme Court allowing Homeowners Associations to hire untrained security guards who are allowed to make traffic ‘arrests.’ It was an idiotic decision because it put no limits on the police powers given to these ‘wanna-be’ cops. Anyone who’s covered news events for as many decades as I have knows that untrained guards cause many problems, not the least of which is unlimited liability to their employers.

Legitimate police officers are in constant training, their skills are always being honed, they’re repeatedly learning new law enforcement techniques, going to legal seminars and qualifying at the shooting range. Under the Illinois decision any 18 year old punk could put on a uniform, badge and gun, and even brandish an AK-47 if he so wished. There are no rules!

Now we read that it’s common practice in Homeowners Associations in Virginia. Fake cops there can even ‘invent’ fake police departments. After a number of incidents involving private cops, the Virginia Legislature is trying to give them some mandatory training.

But imagine the liability to the individual homeowner! A sex assault, a car accident during a chase, an accidental discharge of a weapon and a multi-million dollar lawsuit could be filed against the HOA that hired the fake cop. All those homeowners could be hit with special assessments to cover legal fees and liability judgments.

Very scary.

(link to Washington Post story on Virginia’s private cops)


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Ward Lucas is a longtime investigative journalist and television news anchor. He has won more than 70 national and regional awards for Excellence in Journalism, Creative Writing and community involvement. His new book, "Neighbors At War: the Creepy Case Against Your Homeowners Association," is now available for purchase. In it, he discusses the American homeowners association movement, from its racist origins, to its transformation into a lucrative money machine for the nation's legal industry. From scams to outright violence to foreclosures and neighborhood collapses across the country, the reader will find this book enormously compelling and a necessary read for every homeowner. Knowledge is self-defense. No homeowner contemplating life in an HOA should neglect reading this book. No HOA board officer should overlook this examination of the pitfalls in HOA management. And no lawyer representing either side in an HOA dispute should gloss over what homeowners are saying or believing about the lawsuit industry.

2 thoughts on “The Problem With Private Police

  1. Deborah Goonan

    Ward, this has been going on in Florida, Missouri, Pennsylvania, and other states as well.

    The fact that local governments are limited in the tax revenue they can generate, because of the shift to HOAs with private assessments, in my opninion, is one reason we have this move to privatization of security and police protection.

    All you have to do is remember two names, George Zimmerman and Trayvon Martin, as a prime example of what can go terribly wrong and liability to HOA members. The Neighborhood Watch thing has also gotten out of control, blurring the lines between wanna-be police and true public law enforcement.

  2. Nila Ridings

    Exactly Deborah. George Zimmerman vs Trayvon Martin.

    Another reason to never own property in an HOA!

    My HOA has a woman as the ‘Neighborhood Watch’ person. I personally caught her stalking another neighbor and gave a statement to the police. I also caught her in her bath robe snooping around another neighbor’s house early one morning. And another neighbor caught her and her husband filming my house with a video camera on a tripod while hiding in their garage with the door up. He even took pictures of them doing it. I’ve said many times, thank goodness this woman is not carrying a loaded weapon!


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