Friday, March 27, 2009
No to Capitol Police Force
It is has been interesting to watch this session of the South Carolina General Assembly and how it has dwelled on things that really do not matter to the rest of South Carolina. One of the best examples of such was the South Carolina State Senate passing a bill out of the judiciary committee to establish a state capitol police force with statewide police powers.
Currently, security for the State House and grounds is handled by the Bureau of Protective Services. There is nothing to indicate that Protective Services has not done a good job. There are no major security problems at the State House that have been reported.
The problem seems to be that the Bureau of Protective Services falls under the Department of Public Safety, which is within the Governor’s cabinet. While South Carolina has the nation’s second highest unemployment rate, the legislature and Governor are in a urinating contest over who staffs the metal detectors at the State House doors.
According to various sources, the rancor on the issue between Governor Sanford’s office and Senate President Pro Tempore Glenn McConnell got so bad that McConnell started the initiative for the General Assembly to have its own police force. Thus there is another urinating contest that will end up costing taxpayers money.
Further, the legislation gives the same arrest powers as SLED to the Capital Police force, gives the new force control over security for the South Carolina Supreme Court, and will be controlled by a committee composed of three appointees from the Speaker of the House, three from the President Pro Tempore of the Senate and three from the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. In other words, the General Assembly and Supreme Court will have its own police force to enforce the laws. While supporters of the legislation will likely talk about how the new force is to be limited to the State House and Supreme Court, the legislation explicitly gives statewide law enforcement powers to the new force.
Frankly, that sort of defeats the idea of separation of powers. The legislative and judicial departments have no business in directly running a law enforcement operation. That is the executive department’s job. Remember it was one of the things learned in elementary school. The legislative department, as we call it in South Carolina, makes the laws, the judicial department interprets the laws, and the executive department enforces the laws. Such created the classic notion of “checks and balances.”
That notion of checks and balances has worked for a couple of hundred years or so. A urinating contest between a powerful state senator and a maverick/pain in the neck (take your pick) Governor does not warrant throwing that ideal to the side. All those who respect the constitution should oppose the proposed Capitol Police Force.