Private Security Company Thinks It Should Be Able To Take People To Jail Just Like Real Cops

from the Uber-but-for-vigilantes dept

A snitch app called Citizen is angling for the position of Local Law Enforcement®. Going a step further than hotbeds of bigotry like Ring's Neighbors or Facebook-but-for-racism Nextdoor, Citizen is actually trying to create a private law enforcement agency that provides "security" and other services for app users.

A marauding cop-like patrol vehicle emblazoned with the Citizen logo (and some branding for another private security company) was spotted roaming Los Angeles last week. The desire to create a private cutout in public law enforcement space was confirmed by current and former Citizen employees, as well as documents shared with Motherboard and Joseph Cox.

It's not just theoretical. It appears some employees of this private company really want to convert Citizen into a law enforcement agency. (Supporters of this move may also contain members of the Los Angeles Police Department, which called Citizen's move towards patrolling the streets a "game changer.") Then there's this new twist, which indicates Citizen's partner in patrolling -- Los Angeles Professional Security Services -- really would prefer to be an actual law enforcement agency, rather than the private security company it actually is.

In a self-described “documentary” on the Los Angeles Professional Security YouTube, the company's CEO and founder James Caspari explains after detaining two tresspassers that the company wants the power to make arrests and take people to jail.

“We’re going to waste police resources because we can’t drive them to the police station,” he said. “The security guard manual says we have to wait and a peace officer has to take them. That’s just a waste. If we’ve already cleared it... why can’t we just take ‘em to jail?

Flow my tears, the fake policeman said. Why? WHY?? Because you're a goddamn rent-a-cop. You're not the real thing. You don't get to start depriving people of freedom just because you're dressed in black cop-adjacent garb and employed by a private security firm. No one has granted you the right to arrest people because that's limited to publicly-funded government agencies that are (in theory) more accountable to taxpayers than a private company that only answers to paying customers.

"Private security has zero authority on a public space," he later laments.

Go be a cop then. If it's killing you that you can't violate rights as a private citizen, go get an actual cop job where you can violate rights on the taxpayers' dime. Sure, this seems a bit backwards but that's how it works. The government gets to do certain things with the implicit consent of the governed. Los Angeles citizens have not agreed to allowing private citizens to start throwing other private citizens into faux cop cars in order to take them to jail. What standard is LAPS applying to itself when it affects an arrest? There are rules in place, backed by the Constitution. And, while these rules may be violated with alarming frequency by government agencies, they're still rules. Private companies don't have to adhere to the Constitution. And that's why they shouldn't be getting into the business of violating the rights of others. (And, before certain commenters start trying to turn this statement into something about social media, no one's rights are violated when a company refuses to provide you a platform for expressing yourself.)

Going from bad to arguably worse, the CEO of a private security firm actually believes it's capable of responding to mental health calls with its staff of people who apparently couldn't cut it as real cops or first responders.

Caspari explains in the video that LAPS believes it can remove trespassers and respond to mental health calls. “We are in a position to respond in force to effectively anywhere in the city to remove any negative element that a client of ours is threatened with,” Caspari said in the video.

And even in its own video, which it had the chance to edit before publishing it, the private security company's employees are given the "what even the fuck" treatment by the partners Citizen and LAPS really want to have on board: the Los Angeles Police Department.

After searching an abandoned building, LAPS employees cuff the two people they find there and wait for the LAPD to arrive. Caspari explains this is all cool and legal: a "private person arrest" supported by California law. After lamenting the "waste of time" that is waiting for actual law enforcement to show up, he's greeted with LAPD officers wondering why the private security firm is patrolling abandoned buildings that appear to be outside of its contractual obligations with its customers.

At one point, the LAPD does turn up. A seemingly surprised LAPD officer asks Caspari, "Is that your normal protocol, you guys just go search the building?"

"On your own, or? Just curious, I've never dealt with you guys before," the LAPD officer continues.

It's a legitimate question. If the private security company wasn't asked by the owners (and "abandoned" suggests no real owner exits) to patrol the building, why the hell are they entering it? At that point, the security personnel are just as guilty of trespassing as the people they detained.

Since there are no good answers to that question, the CEO moves on to complain the LAPD doesn't have enough resources to harass the homeless, leaving people "pushing two shopping carts down the road" free to annoy Caspari.

If nothing else, Caspari has the right mindset for law enforcement. The people who should be rounded up first are hanging out in abandoned buildings or irritating the locals with their homelessness. Nothing in the video suggests the security firm is stumbling across serious or violent criminal activity that's not being handled by the LAPD. Instead, the CEO complains his company has its hands tied, unable to remove homeless people, trespassers, and the mentally ill from the street without having to bring the LAPD into it.

If the LAPD has to use its resources to handle more serious crime and leave this sort of "crime" unaddressed, good. But that's not an invitation for private companies to fill this perceived void. Providing security for paying clients is fine, but wanting to be a cop just so you can round up a bunch of non-threatening, non-violent people makes you worse than the actual cops. This is just a bunch of people cosplaying and wishing their cardboard props were real. And it's going to do serious damage to Los Angeles residents if companies like this continue to believe they should have the right to violate the rights of others.

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Filed Under: arrests, law enforcement, private cops, snitching, vigilante
Companies: citizen, la professional security services


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  • icon
    Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 1:51pm

    Per CNN: “Citizen, an app that started as a service for real-time crime alerts made waves late last week with news that it was testing a private, on-demand security force, after a company-branded patrol car was spotted in Los Angeles. Now the company has said that test is over, and that it will not launch its own private security force in the future — but would not rule out partnerships with other companies that would accomplish the same thing.”

    So…uh… ¯\_(ツ)_/¯

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:00pm

    Sir Robert Peele's Policing Principles, #7:

    To maintain at all times a relationship with the public that gives reality to the historic tradition that the police are the public and that the public are the police, the police being only members of the public who are paid to give full-time attention to duties which are incumbent on every citizen in the interests of community welfare and existence.

    In line with this, I've always thought that the police should not have privileges over those of any other member of the public. My issue with this article is that it seems to imply that there is no alternative but police priviliege.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 2:03pm

      My issue with this article is that it seems to imply that there is no alternative but police priviliege.

      No lawmaker in the United States would revoke police privilege in its entirety. The lawmakers that want to revoke the privilege of qualified immunity face a massive uphill battle in getting that done. For now, there really isn’t an alternative until American lawmakers grow back their spines.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:37pm

        Re:

        lawmakers/rulers & their dictates ultimately depend upon armed force (police) to enforce their wishes.
        Thus, these rulers grant their official enforcers extreme leeway and blatant exemptions to laws that apply strictly to everyone else.

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 4:07pm

        Re:

        "No lawmaker in the United States would revoke police privilege in its entirety."

        You are absolutely wrong. The wont succeed this time, but they are trying like hell. You should do a little research before you make statements like that.

        https://usa.timesofnews.com/breaking-news/political/house-progressives-urge-leaders-to-end-qua lified-immunity-as-part-of-police-reform-plan.html

        https://www.cnbc.com/2021/05/21/police-reform-pro gressives-urge-end-to-qualified-immunity-in-george-floyd-bill.html

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 4:20pm

          Qualified immunity is not the entirety of police privilege.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

          • identicon
            Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 4:23pm

            Re:

            There is no privilege without immunity.

            reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

            • icon
              Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 4:32pm

              Getting rid of qualified immunity doesn’t get rid of all immunity. Cops are allowed to break certain laws — e.g., to buy and sell drugs and guns illegally — as part of their job. Society extends that privilege to police in the hopes that police will use that privilege for the common good (i.e., to catch criminals in the act).

              Ending qualified immunity will not end all police privilege. No lawmaker would dare to think of ending all police privilege. To do so would be to commit political suicide.

              reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • icon
                DeComposer (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 4:55pm

                Re:

                Most durable policy changes happen incrementally. If we can knock off QI—arguably the most egregious and cancerous of all police privileges—we can always introduce more legislation later to address other policies.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

              • identicon
                Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 5:06pm

                Re:

                "Getting rid of qualified immunity doesn’t get rid of all immunity"

                This is true; but it does remove the "harassment, distraction, and liability when they perform their duties reasonably." shield. Even if they have the "privilege" of breaking the law, they can still be sued as individuals in civil court if that "privilege" damaged me as a citizen in some way, physically, mentally, or financially. Even if it was done in the performance of their duties.

                So IMO; There is no privilege without immunity.

                reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • icon
                  That One Guy (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 11:29pm

                  Still not seeing a problem

                  Oh noes, if a cop ends harming people or property they might face a consequence for it, the horror.

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

                • identicon
                  Anonymous Coward, 28 May 2021 @ 11:07pm

                  Re: Re:

                  And...? You apologists keep acting like the lack of qualified immunity is suddenly going to lead to cops going to jail en masse. Have you seen the amount of protection the police get on a regular basis?

                  reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

        • icon
          Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 May 2021 @ 2:52am

          Re: Re:

          "You are absolutely wrong. The wont succeed this time, but they are trying like hell."

          They are, in fact, not.

          Getting rid of QI is the tip of the iceberg but if you wanted to scale down police privilege to where it gels with Peelian principles then you'd have to bring US police forces down to the same position a policeman holds in, say, europe.

          I keep repeating this fact; US police kill more people per capita than actual criminals do in many other nations. This alone is a huge fsking elephant in a room the size of a cupboard. And if you live in the US, nicaragua or downtown gaza this might seem normal to you but it really shouldn't be.

          When US police chiefs who are confronted with those numbers - and the statistics clearly showing brown people are twice as likely to die to police shooting them than white people are - just keep insisting there's not a problem with racism on the force or disproportionate violence in general that just sends the message that the focus is on denying that there are problems. Like soviet commissars staunchly defending the Workers Utopia of the old USSR.

          Whenever I find americans considering this state of affairs to be normal I feel as if I'm looking into a time machine set to the worst parts of the 18th century.

          reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:25pm

    Citizens Arrest

    lt's quite legal in California for ordinary adult citizens to make a "Citizen Arrest" for crimes they witness.
    Also legal in most of U.S.

    Of course, unlike LEO's, a citizen making an unjustified 'False Arrest"
    is subject to severe penalties in court.

    Think about it; if you see a guy raping a girl in a park -- are you legally prohibited from immediately phyically restraining that rapist and later turning him over to police ?

    How about a shopkeeper grabbing a shoplifter outside the shop's front door on a public sidewalk ?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:41pm

      Re: Citizens Arrest

      How about not bringing up shit that obviously anyone should do something about. No, private citizens don't get to kick homeless people down the street. You are free to make them leave your own property if they are there. But private citizens with badass gear pretending to be cops is far, far more dangerous. And corporations, who never, ever do anything they don't make a buck off of, are highly suspect when policing property on which they have no right to be. They are just as guilty of trespass as anyone they harass there. They are just trying to normalize their bullshit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Stephen T. Stone (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 4:38pm

      Quis custodiet ipsos custodes?

      We allow for citizens’ arrests to provide an average citizen with the legal cover they need to lawfully intervene in cases such as the ones you describe. Handing the power of police — of arrest, of armed violence in defense of others, of the right to extrajudicially execute people who are deemed a “threat” to the general public — to a group of paid vigilantes with potentially no standards for hiring and no oversight on how they operate is not now, and has never been, a good idea.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

      • identicon
        Anonymous Coward, 29 May 2021 @ 1:44pm

        Re:

        With what you described, what is the difference outside of the taxpayers paying through the nose when the big boys in blue get caught screwing up?

        reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Michael, 27 May 2021 @ 5:10pm

      Re: Citizens Arrest

      Citizen's arrest in my state only applies when you witness a felony, and tresspassing isn't a felony.

      I can't imagine a situation where any non-cop is going to detain me for shit.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 5:49pm

      Re: Citizens Arrest

      I'm not sure in the US, we have a similar law here in EU that allows citizens to do "citizen arrests" that imply detaining someone while they call the cops.

      And better if they don't fuck up, because they will be held responsible for that.

      In extreme situations, a citizen can legally restrain or intervene when a crime is being committed, there are a few factors one should consider:

      1) Things aren't always black and white. For example, the case about the rape is pretty obvious. Someone being hit might not be that obvious, especially if you "just arrived there".
      2) You aren't trained to deal with the situation. It looks good in movies, but reality is a different shit:
      2.1) You aren't trained to identify a crime (refer to point 1 again).
      2.2) You aren't trained to deescalate, nor have the gear or means to do it (it usually implies a not-so-subtle message of "do what I tell you or things will go worse, for you"). Cops don't wear uniforms and badges just because they are cool.
      2.3) You don't know how to restrain someone without using lethal force, or without having lethal force used on you.
      2.4) You aren't trained to deal with the aftermath either, even if things go well. Assuming you're not a psychopath, killing someone does things to your mind that you might not be prepared to deal with.
      3) You don't have friends on call that will appear in 5 minutes, or that they are already heading towards the situation. If you fuck up, you're alone in this. Reminder that cops go in pairs for a reason; and that they got the power of the whole State backing them up.
      4) You aren't trained either if a fight ensures. Either you will die, you will kill the suspect and/or pretty likely, the victim or other unrelated people too. And the latter ones mean a lot of shit towards you, with reason.
      4.1) I say "kill" but I can also means "permanently injuring" someone, for example, ending paralyzed.
      5) Who is going to be responsible for your actions? Let's say you just killed an innocent. Or let's say that the suspect kills the girl he was raping because you just intervened. Now what?

      Most civilized countries take a dim view on citizens acting as vigilantes because the most likely result is someone ending dead or maimed, and not necessarily the one you were so intent on restraining.

      Best course of action is calling the police and letting them do their job, that's what they are for.

      Sounds cold? Let me tell you something. You're not a superhero and this isn't a comic book.

      Shit is bad enough with cops; let's not add more fuel...

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 May 2021 @ 4:58am

      Re: Citizens Arrest

      "lt's quite legal in California for ordinary adult citizens to make a "Citizen Arrest" for crimes they witness.
      Also legal in most of U.S."

      True in most countries, I should think. But that was not what this OP was about. This isn't about a random bypasser intervening or a shopkeeper protecting their property.

      This OP was about private citizens trying to become The Batman, in real life. Cruising around well-armed in the hope of finding a situation worthy of vigilanting a little. That is usually prohibited in most countries, for good and valid reason.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Melvin Chudwaters, 27 May 2021 @ 2:26pm

    While I agree with the editorial stance of this article (rent-a-cops shouldn't be allowed to do these things), US history is filled with this sort of thing to the point that reversing those precedents will be nearly impossible.

    Have you ever heard of railroad police? Are you unaware that every 4 year university/college has their own police department? Postal inspectors etc etc etc.

    All that has to happen is for some state government (or the feds) to decide that they need to become real police, wave a magic wand, and voila -- instant law enforcement authority. Rarely if ever does this confer the sort of responsibility, accountability, or police culture we might want them to have.

    If their lobbyists have the sort of pull their paymasters hope they have, there won't be any stopping this.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:43pm

      Why stop with rent-a-cop policing? Own your captive municipality

      Look up "Lake Buena Vista, Florida".

      Some Mickey Mouse corporation owns it.

      Legally, it's an incorporated Florida municipality.

      That means its owners get to own a real, municipal police department. Along with all of the other perks, such as a mayor.

      The only thing in that municipality? A well-known theme park.

      And it's one of two captive municipalities similarly situated.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 3:01pm

      Re:

      "All that has to happen is for some state government (or the feds) to decide that they need to become real police, wave a magic wand, and voila -- instant law enforcement authority. "

      .. that "magic wand" is exctly how ordinary citizens become official "real police" now. It's all arbitrary.

      There are about a million armed cops of various sorts in the U.S. (way more than number of soldiers in US Army), in over 18,000 varies agencies. The rules (magic wand) by which these ordinary people are issued badges/guns/attitude vary tremendously and are often minimal and loosely applied.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • This comment has been flagged by the community. Click here to show it
    icon
    Koby (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 2:29pm

    Ferguson Effect

    But that's not an invitation for private companies to fill this perceived void.

    The people hiring these companies feel otherwise.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • identicon
      Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:42pm

      Re: Ferguson Effect

      They can do it on their own fucking property. Otherwise, fuck those people.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      Scary Devil Monastery (profile), 28 May 2021 @ 5:03am

      Re: Ferguson Effect

      "The people hiring these companies feel otherwise."

      Why am I not surprised to see you conflating core issues yet again Koby?

      If you want to hire private security to guard your premises that's your choice. Whether you're hiring a moderator or a bouncer, tossing people out of your private property is legit, even donbe by delegation.

      But that's not what is being described in the OP where what you have is a bunch of vigilantes yearning to be batman, and are hoping to be paid for being rent-a-cops working public space.

      You seriously need to finally read up on the difference between private property and public space. The mall owner gets to have rent-a-cops patrolling their premises, the social platform owner gets to hire moderators for the same purpose, but neither of these two should send their respective Enforcers into genuine public spaces - because the monopoly on violence is still held by government.

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:29pm

    Insist on the real LAPD.
    Accept no substitutes.

    They'll treat you like a King.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    That One Guy (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 2:37pm

    'It's much more fun to play cops than be them.'

    If they're really so concerned that the local police lack the manpower and resources to do their jobs then it would be much more effective for them to go through the process to get hired by the local police, and/or raise funds to get those resources and then donate them, however as that would take some real work and would impose restrictions(flimsy ones to be sure) I imagine those were taken right out of consideration.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:39pm

    Kind of like those self-dealing "nonprofit free-speech defenders" who mass-produce student loan forgiveness and generous salaries for their officers all the while claiming to serve the public interest as a private organization?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Anonymous Coward, 27 May 2021 @ 2:41pm

    They've changed their mind on this, now say they're not going to do it:
    https://www.cbsnews.com/news/citizen-app-peter-thiel-palantir-security-force/

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rekrul, 27 May 2021 @ 4:03pm

    Ad 1 (Lips 106)

    Man #1: Hey, is-is there a job where I can shoot someone or sexually molest them and then not get in trouble?

    Female announcer: There sure is! Listen.

    Man #2: I'm power hungry, pudgy and balding. How can I be a hero?

    Female announcer: By shooting people for the state. Become one of Liberty City's finest and you'll be a hero today. All it takes is two weeks training and a non-refundable deposit for your uniform and bullets, and you're ready to enforce the law, finally get the respect you deserve as a member of the Liberty City Police Department! You'll always be right, meet new members of your community and beat them senseless for getting on your nerves, or because you're drunk. Become the law!

    Man #1: I'm on a power trip that lasts a lifetime!

    Female announcer: At long last, you're a man! Don't let anybody tell you otherwise. Become one of Liberty City's finest, enroll today!

    Ad 2 (Flashback FM)

    Man #1: I failed to make it as a hall monitor at school, and since then, I've had a huge boner for authority. How can I get job satisfaction and the respect I crave?

    Female announcer: By shooting people for the state. Become one of Liberty City's finest and you'll be a hero today. Become the law! Carry a big black stick for enforcing it, drive around aimlessly for hours, eating junk food, and get paid for it! If you get hurt on duty, you'll get such a pretty medal the disability will be worth it!

    Man #2: I'm a hero, and women pay attention to me now that I threaten them with tickets.

    Female announcer: That's right. Women love a man in uniform, especially if you're threatening them with a ticket or incarceration! Think about it, you'll have a name badge. It's like fast food, but you get to beat people.

    Man #1: Kick-ass, I can beat people senseless!

    Female announcer: Fight crime the American way, with a hail of bullets and psychotic violence at the drop of a hat. Become one of Liberty City's finest, enroll today!

    -- GTA: Liberty City Stories

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    bshock, 27 May 2021 @ 4:30pm

    Private prisons, private courts ("arbitration"), and now private cops. The oligarchs own our butts. Why are we even pretending otherwise?

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Bloof (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 4:31pm

    'Okay Venture Capital guys, listen up, I've got an idea for the next big thing... Ask yourself, What if Blackwater were like Uber and operated on American soil?'

    'A lot of people will die, but sold! I'll cut you a cheque!'

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Norahc (profile), 27 May 2021 @ 5:03pm

    Caspari and Citizen looked at Jeremy Dewitte and Metro State and said, "You're under arrest for holding my beer."

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    libH3llH0l3, 27 May 2021 @ 5:05pm

    Welcome to LA/California HellHole

    they made the bed - they can sleep in it.
    why anyone still lives there is beyond me

    Waiting for NYC & LA to become the Movie Icons they deserve to be
    Escape from NY
    Escape from LA

    prob a pretty accurate portrayal of both cities

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Bruce C., 27 May 2021 @ 11:31pm

    I'm surprised that any of the LA police support this. Having such a company available to bid on government contracts for outsourcing police function (under a suitable legal framework TBD) would significantly weaken the bargaining power of their union. Of course if the government is as bad at writing contracts for outsourced police as it is for union police, the government would probably be on the hook for any lawsuits against the rent-a-cops.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • icon
    Lostinlodos (profile), 30 May 2021 @ 9:06pm

    Security Police

    I take it that’s not a term you’re familiar with? They exist all over the country.
    Fully licensed and qualified private police forces.
    They’re used by businesses and universities, down to condo and apartment properties.
    These are privately (non-municipal) security companies with a dedicated police force. Not all employees are police, but some are. And they have the same rights to take you to a municipal law enforcement facility the village or state does.
    Such forces are usually enjoyed by the majority of the community it serves. They reduce crime and keep the locals secure.

    Keep in mind their power of enforcement is only within their contracted location. They can’t pull you over on the side of the highway.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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