Portland officials want to deputize city water security officers

From Private Officer News:

PORTLAND, Ore. Oct 16 2009 – Should Portland’s water supply be guarded by security officers who carry guns?

 

It’s a plan generating a lot of heat and something City Commissioner Randy Leonard never thought would be an issue.

Leonard wants Water Bureau security guards to become peace officers so they can deal with problems at reservoirs but one colleague is questioning the need for guns.

Water Bureau security guards currently keep watch over Portland’s reservoirs, protecting drinking water from trespassers who intend to do harm and troublemakers who toss in things like beer bottles or paint. Leonard now wants the 19 security guards deputized, which would allow them to arrest people.

“By having that authority, we think we have a better argument with the federal government to give us a waiver so we don’t have to cover our reservoirs,” he explained.

The guards would also carry guns.

“These are people who work alone at night, oftentimes women who work alone at night patrolling some of the most desolate places that are the water supply system,” said Leonard.

But Commissioner Dan Saltzman is concerned about the idea and said he hasn’t heard a compelling rationale for why Water Bureau staff should be armed. And he questions their training and experience.

“When they need police, police are there to provide backup,” he said. “That arrangement hasn’t been proven to me or shown to me that it’s not sufficient. If the council really believes we should have armed patrols at reservoirs, then I say the Water Bureau should set up an interagency agreement with the Police Bureau to have the police do that.”

It would be the same thing that is done with TriMet. But Leonard said he is surprised to hear that his colleague thinks that way.

“Ironically, in the past, Commissioner Saltzman has actually hired private armed security for our reservoirs but somehow he sees a difference in that, than having our city employees be certified to carry weapons.

Saltzman’s office said the security company was First Response. They are retired police officers and there were only six of them.

Saltzman said he is not against having security guards at the city’s reservoirs – he is worried about creating another police agency within the city where the cost would come out of people’s water bills.

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