Bizarre political events sometimes come in the category of brazen audacity, such as when the likes of Shreveport City Councilmen Calvin Lester and Joe Shyne, despite their legal woes, pontificate about ethics in government. Or just plain odd, as when Caddo Parish Commissioner John Escude forced himself off the Commission because of a change in residences and districts that made him wait to run again. But then there are the truly monumental head-scratchers that attain such status because it seems so difficult to figure out just exactly from where comes this policy-maker. Bossier Parish Sheriff Larry Deen has given us a classic of this kind.
Deen has implemented “Operation Exodus,” so named he says because it is a departure of the Sheriff’s Office into the area of disaster protection, because it relies upon citizen volunteers armed and uniformed to go out to provide this, and because the crux of it is to allow Bossier Parish to become self-sufficient in a time of great stress as did the Israelites according to the Bible’s Book of Exodus. Charitably, this initiative to train and to supply in order to provide a couple of hundred responders to natural or man-made disasters for enhanced security, costing Deen estimates $4,500 a year, can be called thought-provoking and unconventional.
More critically, it can be termed half-baked and eccentric. Most cynically, it can be implied as a covert attempt to create a paramilitary force with a potentially overbroad mandate that adds little value to disaster response at taxpayer expense.
Events only of less than five years passage show the utility of an auxiliary organization of this nature. Lawlessness that erupted in Orleans Parish shortly after Hurricane Katrina popped the plugs on its levee system certainly demonstrates that tremendous temporary strain on law enforcement resources can have adverse consequences, so a worldview that tries to anticipate and prepare for extreme circumstances should not be discouraged.
Yet one must wonder whether the entity Deen has established truly would be needed and, even more importantly, what are its boundaries. To start, imagine a dire scenario that threatened law and order in the parish, such as widespread flooding, or tremendous tornado damage, or a terrorist attack as intense and locally far-reaching as the horror of Sept. 11, 2001.
First, faced with this there are plenty of manpower resources for the parish to draw upon already. Not only are there the department’s own sworn deputies and reservists, but also local other agencies (Bossier City, Shreveport, and Caddo Parish among the largest) that could supply thousands of sworn officers to help out, unless the tragedy is so incredibly vast that all these areas are affected with problems of their own. In addition,
Second, execution details of the operation seem vague. Is everybody assigned a certain spot? Are the volunteers residences concentrated in places that may make it difficult or unrealistic that they get to locations where they could serve whether pre-assigned? Won’t the same disruptions from the disaster that impede deputies also reduce the effectiveness of this force? How will confusion and conflict between deputies and volunteers be mitigated?
Third, the operational mandate also appears vague and concerning. Under what circumstances do these people become activated? Under what authority are they activated and what powers therefore do they possess when activated? What are their rules of engagement with the citizenry and deputies and other law enforcement agents? Having government arm and direct citizen volunteers invites questions concerning the proper scope and use of government power that potentially could threaten liberty.
Even as Deen proceeds further with this plan, he needs to address these issues. Bossier Parish citizens, if they want good stewardship of taxpayer funds, must receive assurance that this is both feasible and cost effective given the alternative approaches to security in a time of crisis. The citizenry, if they want knowledge that their liberties remain secure, also must have evidence that such a force exerts only proportional and appropriate power. Only by giving answers to these questions can Deen potentially justify his new creation, and inadequate such answers should lead to his disbanding of it.