How would you respond if a police officer made a reasonable request, especially concerning public safety? Most of us — being law-abiding citizens who respect and support law enforcement — would comply.
Certainly, you would expect that from a private security firm that presumably works closely with local police and in the past has been awarded contracts to provide security for various city departments.
But that's not the case with Black Hills Patrol, which according to its website is “A different kind of security company.” After what has happened in the past year, there is no disputing that claim.
Kenneth Orrock was running the company in August when he pleaded guilty to tax evasion, which included not sending $17,000 in payroll taxes to the IRS. In addition, he admitted to not paying $262,000 of his own taxes from 2011 to 2015.
The former Bennett County state's attorney was facing five years in federal prison for the crime. However, after a creative sentence imposed by a judge was not allowed he received a sentence of five years probation and an order to pay the IRS $1,000 a month in restitution, which gives him 23 years to pay back his debt to society.
As a result of the conviction, Orrock surrendered his security license to the Rapid City Police Department. He also has been disbarred from practicing law in the state and the security company no longer has contracts with the city.
Yet despite all of this, Black Hills Security, now under the direction of Orrock's wife, maintains a presence in Rapid City. But the company is making news again by thumbing its nose at the Rapid City Police Department, and there seems to be an unwillingness by some to require this company to follow the rules, which is difficult to understand.
The security company has refused to comply with a police department request to change its vehicle markings so residents won't confuse them with the city's patrol vehicles. According to Police Chief Karl Jegeris, the department wants the word SECURITY (all uppercase) on the sides and rear of all privately owned security companies — a request that only has been rejected by Black Hills Patrol, which has PATROL on its vehicles.
As a result, the city crafted an ordinance requiring the new markings on private security vehicles, which Black Hills Patrol is fighting. In a City Council meeting, Orrock claims Mayor Steve Allender approved his markings before he retired as police chief in 2014.
A new ordinance requires two readings or approvals from the City Council before it becomes law. It was first approved on Dec. 18 on a 7-2 vote. Later in the month, however, an intervention by Council Member Ritchie Nordstrom stopped the process at a Legal and Finance Committee meeting. He said that he had communicated with Black Hills Patrol representatives and had confidential information for the police chief. The committee then voted to postpone further consideration for another two weeks, which is unusual for a second reading.
First, Nordstrom should have relayed his concerns to Jegeris prior to the meeting or raised them at the meeting. Now, it appears he is an advocate for a company of questionable integrity and has the support of at least some council members.
Given its recent track record, why does it appear that Black Hills Patrol is getting preferential treatment? Have Nordstrom and the others decided to not support the police chief in the matter?
It's time for them to explain to the public why a company that flouts the law and the wishes of the police department deserves special treatment. Otherwise, it seems the interests of a single company outweigh public safety concerns.