The Universal Notebook: Here's what’s wrong with Prouts Neck buying its own police officer

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The fact that the wealthy summer folk on Prouts Neck pay for their own dedicated police officer was in the news last week as reports circulated that the National Football League had asked Scarborough police to keep an eye on NFL commissioner Roger Goodell’s $6.5 million cottage in the gated summer colony.

Goodell apparently feared irate New England Patriots fans might trash his seaside mansion in retaliation for his unpopular decision to suspend New England Patriots’ quarterback Tom Brady four games for complicity in Deflategate, the greatly overblown controversy over underinflated footballs.

The proposition that local police should pay special attention to a famous summer resident prompted some online commenters (myself included) to suggest that Goodell, who makes about $35 million a year, or something like $100,000 a day, should just hire a private security firm to watch his palace. Others seemed to think it was fine for rich folks to get better public services than the rest of us, as long as they are willing to pay for it.

I respectfully disagree. The idea that the wealthy should get better police protection than the average citizen is downright un-American. It is the sunny flip side of the dark underbelly of America, where police violence against Black people has become epidemic.

The Prouts Neck Association has a formal agreement with the town of Scarborough to pay for its own reserve police officer and road maintenance. In this privileged little world apart, Neckers also pay for their own post office and library. The association has close to $1 million in assets with an annual income of about $387,000 against expenses of $275,000, or a little less than three days’ wages for Roger Goodell.

Over the last year, Prouts Neck reimbursed Scarborough nearly $56,000 for police protection and about $9,900 for road maintenance. Everyone in Scarborough seems pleased with the arrangement. At least no one has ever made an issue of Prouts Neck paying for its own police officer, as far as I can tell.

Someone should.

A friend of mine in law enforcement told me he would only be concerned if the rich got better police service without paying for it. He compared the Prouts Neck policing arrangement to schools and businesses that hire police officers to provide security. As long as Prouts Neck having its own officer doesn’t detract from the police protection provided to everyone else in Scarborough, he didn’t see the issue. I respect that. But I would argue that public safety should not be based on ability to pay.

There is also a potential issue of compromising the integrity of local law enforcement. Do you think the Prouts Neck cop, for example, is going to ticket Roger Goodell for speeding as fast as he’d ticket you or me?

And if you extend the idea of neighborhoods paying for more police protection than is provided to the general public, you ultimately reach the point where a rich man like Roger Goodell could just buy his own Scarborough police officer, who does nothing but guard Goodell and his property. Which is why it would be better if Prouts Neck simply hired a private security firm to protect its privacy.

The reason Prouts Neck wants its own peace officer is so their man can make arrests and issue traffic tickets, things a security company employee cannot do. And that’s really what’s wrong with Prouts Neck buying its own police officer. The rich should not be able to purchase better public services than the average taxpayer.

This column is based on an online exchange with an anonymous Scarborough resident “from the poor side of town” who demanded to know “what is wrong with paying a public servant out of one’s OWN pocket (and NOT the tax payer!) for extra security?”

Another online commenter responded, “If you don’t understand that you got problems.”

And those problems go to the heart of why something as seemingly innocuous and mutually beneficial as a summer colony paying a town for its own police protection contributes insidiously to the class warfare in this country.

That work-a-day citizens are OK with affluent summer residents buying themselves a police officer is symptomatic of how the rich and the right have persuaded Americans that those who have more are entitled to more. That’s Mitt Romney’s America. That’s Donald Trump’s America.

In this dysfunctional and delusional America, people like Romney and Trump blame immigrants (“illegals”) and the poor (“welfare fraud”) for all economic adversity, when, in truth, the decline of the middle class and the growing income gap in this country is a function of an economic system rigged in favor of folks like Romney, Trump and the summer folk at Prouts Neck.

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Freelance journalist Edgar Allen Beem lives in Brunswick. The Universal Notebook is his personal, weekly look at the world around him.