Saturday, August 13, 2011
Joe Muratore's Committee Proposes a Private Police Force for Public Parks
Over a week ago, the committee set up by City Councilman Joe Muratore (currently in hot-water due to insider deals between city government and his private businesses), the Blue Ribbon Commission on Homelessness, presented it's 'findings' to the Safety and Community Committee. The BRCH was formed to 'investigate' the ways in which homelessness could be combated in the city. However, the commission was made up of business people, those within the city power structure, and other local big-wigs. It became apparent that the committee was formed to find ways to remove homeless people from the Downtown, not help 'fight' homelessness. Of course, none of this comes as a shock, being that Joe Muratore is a member of the La Loma Neighborhood Association, which has fought the homeless at every turn and was an instrumental force in pushing for the closure of Paperboy Park in 2010.
In presenting it's report, the BRCH made several conclusions. First, they believe "at this time," they would not be able to get a city-wide ordinance passed banning the sharing of food in public. Such an ordinance would be directed at church groups and private citizens who share food with homeless and poor people in public parks. However, the laws currently on the books require people to get permits before sharing food with the public. According to those associated with Muratore, if they can kick out the church groups and good Samaritan types which share food in the parks, they believe they can drive out the homeless who (are among those which) use those services. Cut the supply, the line goes, and the homeless will leave, making the Downtown safe for investor and business interests.
So, if the current laws can allow people to get local organizations to stop providing food in local parks, the only thing needed is a repressive instrument that can keep the homeless out of public areas. According to MPD Chief Mike Harden, the police aren't up to the task of policing the parks due to a lack of resources. Thus, in place of the good-ol' MPD boys, the BRCH proposes that a private police/security force should be in charge of keeping the rabble off the grass. The funds for such a security program would hopefully come from the neighborhood associations that currently exist in the La Loma and College area. The Blue Ribbon Commission stresses that such a force will be implemented not to harass the homeless, or anyone else for that matter, but instead be there to make sure that the 'safety' of the parks is improved. However, it is clear that the main goal of the BRCH proposed security is too enforce permit laws which would chase away people serving food in public parks - and as the logic goes, the homeless as well.
With the proposal for a private security force comes questions. Who will this force be accountable to? We already know that the police are a brutal and corrupt organization onto themselves, but a private company providing security does not even have to pretend to answer questions of the public or respond to complaints of harassment, profiling, and brutality. Also, being that the money for this security force will come from the College and La Loma neighborhood associations, it follows that the security force will only police the parks that are in those areas. This means that they will drive the homeless, the poor, and the youth out of the public parks in the "nice" areas of town.
The BRCH is attempting to sell this private security operation as simply a way to make public parks safer - this is a smokescreen. If safety in public parks was the goal, then why are parks in some of the most upper-middle class parts of the city targeted first? It's because the goal of having a private security force has nothing to do with safety and everything to do with keeping undesirable people out of the parks. We have to get organized and fight back against this encroachment, revealing this development for the naked class war that it is.