Special police

Cloeda Walker, Assistant Pastor at the Cherry Hill Community Presbyterian Church, feels that she has been targeted for threats because she has complained about the abuse of "Special Police" powers by employees of a security company, in the Cherry Hill neighborhood. (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore Sun / October 19, 2012)

Tonya Bana, an attorney who is representing Cherry Hill residents in their suit, said the city has no legal liability when it comes to the actions of special police that they give commissions to, but that it should exercise more responsibility.

"There's no question that privatized law enforcement is increasingly popular. It's a growth industry. But that's why this is so important," Bana said. "Some of the complaints may seem petty, but it's not a petty thing to have someone armed with a gun run up on you who looks like a police officer."

Tenable officials, and Osborne and Spitzer, through their attorneys, declined to comment on the accusations.

Debate over regulation

Some special police officers who have law enforcement backgrounds said the overall regulation of the program is lacking.

Jon Carpenter of Elkton spent 18 years with the Maryland Natural Resources Police until a medical issue forced him into retirement. He then did private detective work, and now works as a bailiff for the District Court system.

Carpenter said that his special police powers as a bailiff allow him and his fellow bailiffs, all retired law enforcement officers, to make arrests. But it's a rarely used power, and he wonders why the state extends it to security officers and business owners. He thinks special police, along with bounty hunters, lack the regulations in place in other states.

"I can see it being useful under limited circumstances, like say security guards at the Giant food store, where you want to be able to arrest and detain people under very, very limited circumstances, but I believe there should be some training. There's a heck of a lot of liability there," said Carpenter, 54.

Francis Peterson, the chief of the Rising Sun Police Department in Cecil County, owns a security business on the side that works in Baltimore and used special police until recently, when the Police Department said it began an audit of his company. He said their presence was "just like having a police officer there."

"It truly won't affect us so much," Peterson said of his officers no longer having special police commissions. "They'll be able to do their jobs, but won't have the same powers."

Baltimore Sun reporter Gus G. Sentementes contributed to this article.



Companies/organizations with special police officers

Licensed through the city

All County Security (5 officers)

Assured Protection (1)

Arrington Security (6)

Baltimore Convention Center (4)

Bi-Rite Supermarket (1)