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posted by martyb on Thursday April 13 2017, @01:03AM   Printer-friendly
from the it-is-not-the-law...-yet dept.

Alabama lawmakers have voted 24-4 to allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to establish a police department. The church has over 4,000 members and is also home to a K-12 school and a theological seminary with 2,000 students and teachers:

"After the shooting at Sandy Hook and in the wake of similar assaults at churches and schools, Briarwood recognized the need to provide qualified first responders to coordinate with local law enforcement," church administrator Matt Moore said in a statement, referring to the mass murder of 20 first graders and six teachers at the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut by a deranged man with an AR-15 style rifle just before Christmas 2012. "The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests." The church would pay the bill for its officers.

[...] "It's our view this would plainly be unconstitutional," Randall Marshall, the ACLU's Acting Executive Director, told NBC News. In a memo to the legislature, Marshall said they believe the bills "violate the First Amendment or the U.S. Constitution and, if enacted, would not survive a legal challenge." "Vesting state police powers in a church police force violated the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment," his memo states. "These bills unnecessarily carve out special programs for religious organizations and inextricably intertwine state authority and power with church operations."


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  • (Score: 2, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13 2017, @01:09AM (4 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13 2017, @01:09AM (#493182)

    Isn't a police officer, by definition, a person whose job is funded by a government? There's nothing legally questionable about a church hiring armed guards, but they would be private security, not police.

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  • (Score: 2, Informative) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13 2017, @02:17AM (2 children)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13 2017, @02:17AM (#493216)

    No. There are plenty of private police departments in the US (Officers work for a corporation/organization, not the Government). They usually have to meet their states' law enforcement training standards and be established by law or other state specific procedures. If someone is acting in a law enforcement capacity then they're going to be "sworn" to uphold the Constitution of the US and State Constituton/Laws, regardless if they're being paid by the government or a private employer. Each State can pass a law defining who can call themselves Police and enforce laws. How do you think private (non-state) colleges/universities have Campus Police departments?

    • (Score: 1, Insightful) by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13 2017, @03:22AM (1 child)

      by Anonymous Coward on Thursday April 13 2017, @03:22AM (#493240)

      You are right:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Private_police_in_the_United_States [wikipedia.org]

      Its still skeevy as shit though. Way too easy for private organizations to co-opt the power of the state for their own purposes.

      • (Score: 2) by aristarchus on Saturday April 15 2017, @07:34AM

        by aristarchus (2645) on Saturday April 15 2017, @07:34AM (#494330) Journal

        "Police" has it's roots in πόλις, which is Greek for "city". If the police are not municipal law officers, they are not police. Sometimes we name things by analogy, so might might call "rent-a-cops" "cops" for short, or refer to MPs as "police", but neither of these would be strictly correct. Private in Greek is "ἴδιος", from whence English gets the word "idiot". So I would suggest, if you are going to allow private security forces, you call them "Idiotes", not "police".

        --
        #Freearistarchus, again!!!!!1!!
  • (Score: 2) by DannyB on Thursday April 13 2017, @02:00PM

    by DannyB (5839) Subscriber Badge on Thursday April 13 2017, @02:00PM (#493374) Journal

    Disney World has it's own private police. Disney World hires off duty law enforcement to work for them. And pays higher rates than the minimum "consulting" rates. So officers are inclined to work for Disney. The off duty police are always on-property and available. Arrests are all above board and done by real law enforcement.

    Gee, I can't imagine any possible conflict of interest for a vast money making machine to hire off duty officers, in uniform and official vehicles, who probably have a standing arrangement with their regular employer to have enough extra hours to make a hefty income from Disney.

    Maybe the church should examine this approach more closefully.

    --
    While in an airport, never use the word "balm".