Looking for answers on armed guards

City and law-enforcement officials dropped the ball on private-guard services

The author has worked in Chico for the past 16 years as a family-practice and psychiatric nurse practitioner.

I am disturbed that a private armed-security com-pany, Armed Guard Private Protection, is allowed to patrol the streets of downtown Chico with no oversight or accountability to anyone but some unnamed people from a new Chico group called R-Town Downtown Coalition.

On the security company’s website is a picture of 15 white men in sunglasses—no women, no minorities—with a mission statement advocating for armed guards in communities “because of the rapid release of thousands of low-level state prisoners coupled with the local massive public-safety budget reductions coupled with our philosophies and beliefs implemented in the new age of the private-security industry.”

The site notes “patrol officers and guards have been through … firearms, pepper spray, baton, investigations and criminal-law courses.” The company’s “officers are armed with a firearm, taser and pepper spray,” as well as “equipped with generation II night-vision monocular goggles.”

Training focuses on the use of force, and does not include de-escalation tactics or specialized training with the mentally ill. The company claims to have “proven over and over again to dramatically reduce crime on its clients’ properties,” but supplies no outcome data. It’s unclear whether these guards have the right to detain and arrest citizens.

The R-Town Coalition’s draft mission statement has a short-term goal of “removing drug offenders, transients, loiterers, vagrants and individuals exhibiting anti-social behavior from private property in the downtown area.” I’m fine if downtown businesses want to hire guns to protect their wares inside of their stores, but am not OK with their private guns patrolling community space for the purpose of intimidating people who don’t fit R-Town Coalition’s social, economic or cultural agendas.

Since when does the privilege of renting downtown business space extend to the right to hire armed private guards—who are not regulated, evaluated or operated by community-hired and -elected officials—to enforce public laws? I do not feel safer in downtown Chico with a private paramilitary presence that answers to no one.

To whom do citizens report abuses and complaints related to this company? Who’s liable in a court of law if the guards shoot a local kid perceived as a “vagrant”? Does this mean that I can get together my Chico neighbors and hire armed guards to patrol from house to house to help enforce the noise ordinance? Where do our city leaders and local law-enforcement agencies stand on this issue?