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Dallas County Commissioners to Discuss Privatizing Security Forces at County Buildings

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Flipping through the agenda for today's meeting of the Dallas County Commissioners Court, I came across an interesting item on page 193 concerning potential plans to privatize "all security functions in the County." What the ...? Because last I remembered reading, the county was going to put the Sheriff's Department in charge of guarding the courthouses and all other county-owned and operated buildings -- the way it's done in most of your bigger counties.

But, nope, at its December 15 meeting, the commissioners failed to approve creating a new captain's position that would oversee transitioning security functions from the Office of Security and Emergency Management to the Sheriff's Department. Commissioner Maurine Dickey proposed that, just maybe, Dallas County ought to hire an outside firm to run security. At this morning's meeting, the commissioners will vote on her proposal -- and if it passes, Dallas County Administrator Darryl Martin will have "do an analysis of all our security functions and put out an RFP [request for proposals]."

He does not sound thrilled by the prospect.

"I'm concerned about it," he tells Unfair Park. "Any time we lose control of security, those things worry me. Having armed law enforcement is the best route. Look what happened in Las Vegas. But I don't make those recommendations." Martin came to Dallas in April 2009 from Cooke County, Nevada, which includes Vegas.

Martin doesn't like the idea of privatizing security for a number of reasons -- chief among them, it'll add to the amount of time law enforcement takes to respond to a call at any building, be it the George Allen Courthouse or Health and Human Services. And, of course, there's the cost: Why pay an outsider to do what bailiffs and deputies do elsewhere?

"In Clark County, it was done by the bailiff's division," Martin says, "and a lot of the larger courthouses are secured by county law enforcement."

The commissioners will begin discussing this in an hour. And Martin says he has "no idea how it'll go, but it'll be interesting."

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