Friday, February 24, 2012
Courts limits the powers of security officers working as "Cops" in certain areas
Court curbs power of subdivision police
Private forces can't stop and detain drivers, appeals panel says
Former Lombard police commissioner Ken Poris knew to pull over when he saw a vehicle's flashing lights behind him while returning to his home in LaSalle County's Lake Holiday subdivision.
But he quickly realized the person who'd pulled him over, taken his driver's license back to his squad car and written him a speeding ticket wasn't a police officer.
In fact, the man wearing a uniform, duty belt and badge was a homeowners association employee with little police training and no state certification. The security force has been pulling drivers over for years and also boarding boats on the development's man-made lake. But nobody had ever challenged the practice until Poris, a former DuPage County prosecutor, was pulled over.
His case –– a type that lawyers rarely take up because they don't pay — shines a light on what experts say can be a problem with the proliferating private security teams that now patrol large subdivisions, apartment complexes and even a Chicago neighborhood that taxes itself extra to pay for it.
"It's a massive, ad hoc privatization of government services," said Evan McKenzie, a University of Illinois at Chicago associate professor of political science and critic who has written two books on the topic. "That's why you get these weird situations.
"It makes sense to (homeowners groups) from a property-management perspective," he said. "But if you view it another way, the actions of any government are supposed to be limited by concepts of civil liberties. Civil liberties don't always apply here."
An Illinois appeals court in a strongly worded ruling last month found that Lake Holiday's practice of stopping and detaining drivers for violating homeowners association rules was unlawful. The court also found that the association's use of amber-colored flashing lights on its vehicles was unlawful and that the association could be held liable for Poris' false imprisonment claim.
A LaSalle County judge had previously ruled in favor of the homeowners association.
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