America's growing gangs of armed, arrest-making, untrained rent-a-cops

With just a (very) little training and some paperwork, you can become a "special conservator of the peace," empowered to carry a gun, wear a badge and arrest your fellow citizens, all while wearing a POLICE vest, even though you're not a cop.

Private police — who often patrol malls and rich suburbs — can bang on your door and ask you nosy questions, testify in court against you while wearing "uniforms," and receive a tiny fraction of the training that regular cops receive (regular cops are also terribly undertrained, making the private cop training gap even more stark).

There are nearly twice as many private cops as real cops in America, and their number is growing. Private cops have been caught committing thefts using their "official" guns, and have drawn those guns on parents with their children over trivial parking disputes.

The Virginia legislature approved a bill Friday increasing the training and regulation of SCOPs. The private officers would now be required to train for 130 hours, up from 40 hours — less than the state requires for nail technicians, auctioneers and security guards.

In neighboring D.C., a similar designation called "special police" requires 40 hours of training. Maryland officials leave instruction to the discretion of employers but have no requirements. Other states have similar systems.

"There are a number of groups we regulate far more stringently than SCOPs carrying a gun," said Virginia Secretary of Public Safety Brian Moran, speaking prior to the passage of the bill.

Private police carry guns and make arrests, and their ranks are swelling [Justin Jouvenal/Washington Post]

(via Hacker News)

(Image: Evelyn Hockstein/Washington Post)