Sterling Heights, Mi., plans to save nearly $616,000 a year by hiring a private security firm to run its 26-cell lockup, possibly starting as early as mid-January, the Detroit Free Press reports. The city hired G4S Secure Solutions, formerly Wackenhut. Tom Hendrickson of the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, said he has not seen an increase in local lockups — which house and feed suspects for up to 72 hours before arraignment — being operated by private firms rather than cops.
Still, the move does not surprise him or others who said more municipalities could follow suit in this time of budget belt-tightening. “It’s really a manifestation of the contraction of law enforcement and the lack of monetary resources,” he said. “I think administrators today are literally looking at everything.” Southfield’s maximum 60-person lockup was run by Oakland County sheriff’s deputies. When the Sheriff’s Office hiked the city’s annual contract from about $500,000 to more than $1.2 million about two years ago, police entered into a three-year contract with G4S for about $770,000 annually. “We maintained our level of service for a cheaper price,” Southfield Police Chief Joseph Thomas Jr. said. He said the fastest-growing entity today is private policing and that many private firm employees, including those at the Southfield lockup, are laid-off or retired cops and former military personnel.