A South Carolina-based traffic enforcement company has offered to pay for some Alabama police officers to issue tickets and split the fines with City Hall. Elsewhere in Alabama, reports the Birmingham News, an Atlanta-based private probation company has been blasted by a state judge for being a part of a “judicially sanctioned extortion racket.” Private companies have pitched such arrangements with promises of reduced expenses and larger, newer revenue streams, and for many local governments, those promises couldn’t have come at a more opportune time.
Privatization can reap generous rewards, such as in Center Point, where a traffic enforcement camera contract with Arizona-based Redflex Inc. has become the city’s second-largest source of revenue after sales taxes. Cities are hurting financially, and in council chambers and county courthouses, private contractors have offered to help. Private probation companies, tax collectors, private traffic enforcement – they are the first to arrive in a national wave of privatization that delegates government authority. With these arrangements come questions about civil rights and due process. “If you get a Sheriff of Nottingham who his carrying out the law in an abusive way, you can vote him out of office,” says Jay Stanley of the American Civil Liberties Union. “The public can’t vote out a CEO of a company.”