IE Business Daily

IE Business Daily
May 23, 2015

In 1987 Orion Pictures released a futuristic science fiction film called “Robocop” about a dirt poor city, Detroit, that had contracted public safety services to a large, privately owned corporation.

The comparisons to the City of San Bernardino are obvious: Entrenched poverty, large crime problems, disengaged elected officials, and the City of Detroit which is also currently bankrupt.

Now there is one more comparison to the fictionalized Motor City of the future with present day San Bernardino, the effort by San Bernardino’s elected officials to privatize public safety services, in this case the City Fire Department.

Fire Departments and Police Departments have traditionally been the responsibility of local governments. They are funded with taxpayer money through property and sales taxes. They are paramilitary organizations that have the highest levels of training and engagement with the public on a daily basis. But, the most obvious reason that they have been retained as public agencies is that they are essentially NOT profit motivated (except for some agencies that unlawfully set ticket quotas or create fees for illegitimate purposes which are becoming more common in local government.)

The problem that future Detroit has in the movie is that the private company hired to operate the police department begins the obvious first steps in making a public agency like a fire department financially profitable; they reduce services, either through reduction in manpower or equipment, or in the case of fictional Old Detroit, offing their own officers and automating their positions.

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