LAST EDIT October 18, 2023
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Ahhh, you love to see it. The media, perhaps in their latest effort to craft irresistible click-bait, or maybe in a legitimate, honest attempt to reflect the reality of what's really going on, have crafted a must-read exposé on the life of the modern security guard. And you've got to see it.
They're essentially portraying him as the last line of defense in the new post-apocalyptic state of urban decay—aka zombie world—that's firmly ensconced itself within many of America's urban cores.
But first, you've got to see what the media was saying about this exact same officer and his security company just two short years ago.
The just-released story by the New York Times is fascinating, not only because of the positive light it shines on the security industry but also due to its irony considering the negative—and in my view, unfair—media attention given to the exact same innovative security operation in the past.
Let me explain.
So, we all know that overused meme that seeks to attract those still susceptible to click-bait: the under-regulated, lightly-trained, over-aggressive security guard who has overstepped his bounds and is a danger to society.
So, it probably shouldn't have been surprising when, after the "defund the police" articles of 2020 became stale, some reporters, perhaps seeking a new angle on the lazy "all people in uniform are bad" framing, highlighted concerns about the innovative security officers to whom the traumatized residents of zombie world turned for help—as a last resort.
Case in point: Portland, 2021.
At that time, Oregon Public Broadcasting released a multi-part exposé titled "Portland’s Private Police," focused on Echelon Protective Services, one of the most intriguing companies in security. Echelon, formed in 2019, provides Portland's beleaguered business owners with some relief from their unfortunate inclusion into zombie world, as the city's overwhelmed police have been unable to perform. This results in extended wait times, causing many business owners to deem it pointless to even call the police. Instead, they're calling Echelon, and a wide range of business owners have come together to pay for Echelon officers.
It's a creative security product offering that clusters its clients in close proximity, allowing the business owners to potentially share costs. This also enables Echelon officers to issue trespass warnings and notices of exclusion for all their various clients' properties in the area simultaneously.
That said, the trespass warning is the stick to the carrot that is Echelon's public-friendly approach of trying to provide help and assistance to those residents of zombie land who want it, such as helping find public shelters, providing clothes for those without, water, granola bars, sunscreen, and even cigarettes.
Despite this philosophy, much of Oregon Public Broadcasting's exposé framed the company's work negatively. OPB's reporting didn't seem to offer any actual solutions to the crises. Instead, they negatively framed the officers' alleged clearing of debris/trash from a homeless encampment on a public sidewalk, alleged incomplete incident reports (with full context not provided by OPB), and most notably included an arguably irresponsible declaration from a local DA official who didn't want to press charges based on the crimes observed by Echelon officers.
The DA's seeming, in my personal view, unethical stance, potentially violating the equal protection clause, should have attracted the attention of any insightful investigative reporter. They should have at the very least compelled the DA to describe a legitimate basis for the refusal to act on Echelon's charges. If there was a scandal to be found, it wasn't with the security company but likely with the DA's office targeting a specific security company. This sent a message: don't hire this specific security company, as we won't ever press charges against anyone they arrest. If I were the reporter, the failure of the DA's office would've been my major investigative point.
The report even singled out one Echelon officer: Michael Bock. Bock allegedly helped research material for an investigative report Echelon compiled, a fascinating fusion of security and investigations we'll discuss in the next video (so like and subscribe!). This appeared key to convincing the city to address a potentially dangerous public sidewalk encampment. Yet, OPB used the circumstances of that investigation in what I perceive as a clumsy attempt to make readers suspect some sort of underhanded relationship between the security company and a private citizens group seeking to restore order downtown. But the exposé didn't connect the dots, seemingly introducing Bock's name without clear purpose.
Though much of the exposé's framing was negative, there wasn't a clear flaw that could detract from the positive impact the company had on local business owners with few other options than the private security provider.
Despite this, and the fact that the report seemed to overlook the genuine news, the policy of the DA's office, the exposé was nominated for the University of Michigan's Livingston Award, which claims to "honor the best reporting and 'storytelling' by young journalists."
Now, two years later, the narrative has changed. According to The New York Times, the security guard is the last line of defense against Portland's societal breakdown. Specifically, Echelon's Michael Bock is profiled as the "solution of last resort" for a desperate community.
The article vividly paints the post-apocalyptic landscape of downtown Portland, detailing numerous incidents and challenges faced daily. It showcases Bock as a compassionate individual on the front lines, aiding those in dire circumstances.
So, is this mere click-bait? Or is the media finally portraying the reality: that security companies are the last line of defense?
Here's a theory: it's both. But as reality merges with public perception, many, even those in the media who are often critical of both the private sector and any form of security or law enforcement, now grudgingly recognize that perhaps, just perhaps, private security isn't merely a band-aid but might be the tourniquet necessary to stanch the flow of societal decay.
For example, the Times story highlights the actions of a mentally ill man, mostly not wearing clothes, making a scene in street. It describes how these actions attracted the attention of eight security officers from five difference companies, and then, one police officer who, simply rolled down his window as he drove by, apologized and said he couldn't respond now because he had another call to go to.
If this is reality on the street, it it's really this bad: there are eight security officers, for every one passing police officer, who can't even stop to deal with the situation, then the media has to get on board with the fact that the police aren't going to be back any time soon, there's too much personal risk to being a police officer in big cities now, and the only half-way viable option is the use of private security. It truly is the last line of defense in many American cities.
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