A former prosecuting attorney who is on probation for failing to collect and pay taxes has come under scrutiny for operating private security vehicles that allegedly look too much like law enforcement vehicles.
The security firm of Black Hills Patrol is associated with Ken Orrock, a former Bennett County state’s attorney. He is on probation and obligated to pay about $280,000 in restitution, in monthly installments, for willfully failing to collect and pay several years’ worth of Black Hills Patrol payroll taxes to the Internal Revenue Service.
Wednesday, the Rapid City Legal and Finance Committee discussed but postponed consideration of an ordinance that would require Black Hills Patrol and all other security companies in the city to conspicuously mark the sides and rear of their vehicles with the word “SECURITY” (every letter of the word is capitalized in the proposed ordinance).
Police Chief Karl Jegeris told the Journal that other security companies have complied with police requests regarding vehicle markings, but Black Hills Patrol has refused. Jegeris said the ordinance is an attempt to force the company into compliance and to stop Black Hills Patrol vehicles from being mistaken for police vehicles, which Jegeris said has happened.
“It’s a minor issue,” Jegeris said in a Journal interview, “but it would be negligent to not correct it.”
Since Orrock’s tax-crime conviction earlier this year, he has been disbarred from practicing law and has relinquished his individual city security license. But Jegeris said Wednesday there is nothing further the city can do to stop Orrock’s continued involvement in Black Hills Patrol, because Orrock transferred legal ownership of the business to his wife and designated a day-to-day manager.
During Wednesday’s public meeting of the Legal and Finance Committee at the City/School Administration Center, Alderman Ritchie Nordstrom, a committee member, said he had communicated with Black Hills Patrol and wished to relay parts of that communication to Jegeris. But Nordstrom said some of the information might be sensitive or confidential, so he moved to postpone the ordinance for two weeks so he could speak privately with Jegeris. The committee unanimously approved the motion.
Images of Black Hills Patrol vehicles were included in the meeting documents. The images showed vehicles dark in color with yellow "Black Hills Patrol" lettering, plus other lettering and a yellow, star-shaped emblem.
Nobody from Black Hills Patrol attended Wednesday’s meeting, and Orrock did not immediately return a phone message Wednesday from the Journal.
The Rapid City Council’s Dec. 18 minutes say the ordinance was discussed at that meeting, and both Orrock and his wife spoke publicly. According to the minutes, Orrock does not want to change the company’s vehicle markings and said the markings were submitted, as required, to previous police chief Steve Allender — who is now the mayor — and were approved at that time.
The city council approved the first reading of the ordinance Dec. 18 on a 7-2 vote. A second reading is required before a final vote. Wednesday, the Legal and Finance Committee had been scheduled to make a recommendation to the council.
The ordinance has support from the South Dakota Highway Patrol in addition to the Rapid City Police Department. Wednesday’s meeting documents included a Nov. 27 letter from Rapid City-based Highway Patrol Capt. Jason Ketterling to City Attorney Joel Landeen, and the letter appeared to indirectly reference Black Hills Patrol.
“It has come to my attention that some local security vendors are utilizing the word 'PATROL' on vehicle markings in and around Rapid City,” Ketterling's letter said. “The markings on the vehicles clearly resemble those currently used by the South Dakota Highway Patrol. In addition, the badge placement, or company logo, is in a common position currently used by our agency.”