Controversy: Mercenaries Training US Local Police Officers

There are many police and law enforcement officials who are concerned with the growing trend of using military-trained mercenaries to train and work with local police officers in the United States, but there are many who believe the events of September 11, 2001 dictate the need for a new paradigm.

For example, Kentucky’s Lexington Police Department contracted Blackwater Security International to provide what’s described as homeland security training. Meanwhile that city’s Mayor Jim Newberry and its chief of police Anthony Beatty refused free training provided by the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement federal program that prepares police officers to enforce immigration and border security as part of their duties.

Lexington is on the nation’s list of so-called Sanctuary Cities in which police officers are prohibited from working with ICE or Border Patrol agents in the United States. Critics are angry over the use of local tax dollars to hire Blackwater personnel to train the police.

But Lexington isn’t the only city using hired guns to help local police officers. In New Orleans, heavily armed operatives from the Blackwater private security firm, infamous for their work in Iraq, are openly patrolling the streets of that beleaguered city.

Some of the mercenaries were reportedly “deputized” by the Louisiana governor and were issued gold Louisiana State law enforcement badges to wear on their chests and Blackwater photo identification cards to be worn on their arms.

While they are working in Louisiana, Blackwater officials say they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority to use lethal force if necessary. Some of the mercenaries assigned to patrol the streets of New Orleans recently returned from Iraq, where they provided personal security details for the former head of the US occupation, L. Paul Bremer, and the former US ambassador to Iraq, John Negroponte.

Blackwater, which is based in North Carolina, is one of the leading private security companies providing security personnel in Iraq and Afghanistan. Along with other companies such as Wackenhut Security, Inc., it has several lucrative US government contracts and provides security services-including bodyguard work-for many senior US diplomats, foreign dignitaries and corporations.

The company received international exposure when several of its security officers were captured, tortured and killed in Fallujah; two of their charred bodies were hung from a bridge in March 2004.

Although many politicos are saying Blackwater is not performing police functions, their own statement seems to imply that they will provide whatever services a government-federal, state and local-desires.

“Man-made and natural disasters require an immediate robust response. Blackwater Worldwide’s extensive training facility and staff of former military and law enforcement professionals can provide the needed training and operational expertise to prepare security teams to effectively support state and federal emergency response units,” according to Blackwater’s mission statement.

“I’m troubled by the use of military personnel-whether they be US soldiers or private mercenaries-performing a police or law enforcement function. While they may be experts in fighting wars, they are not constrained by the US Constitution as to how they operate as cops,” said former NYPD detective and owner of FLT Security Services, Sidney Francis.

“Soldiers are soldiers and cops are cops. What’s next? Using smart bombs to crash into drug dens?” he asked.

Since its inception in 2003, the US Department of Homeland Security has faced significant challenges related to recruiting, retaining, and managing its workforce of over 170,000 employees.

Recently, the US Congress requested the Government Accountability Office to analyze DHS’s attrition, efforts to recruit and retain staff, use of external employees such as officers from private companies, and compliance with certain provisions of the Vacancies Reform Act, which requires agencies to report to Congress and the Comptroller General vacancies in certain presidentially-appointed positions requiring Senate confirmation.

While DHS’s overall attrition rate for permanent employees (excluding those in the Senior Executive Service and presidential appointments) declined from 8.4 percent in 2005 to 7.1 percent in 2006.

These rates, which were still above the roughly 4 percent average rate for all cabinet-level agencies, were affected by high levels of attrition (about 14-17 percent) among transportation security officers at DHS’s Transportation Security Administration. With the security officers excluded, DHS’s attrition rate was 3.3 percent.

DHS implemented agreements under the Intergovernmental Personnel Act, allowing nonfederal employees-private contractors-to be temporarily assigned to a federal agency to meet mission needs.

By Jim Kouri Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Source: Canada Free Press

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