Cops, Security Guards, and Prisoners

I decided to compare these numbers after I read this story about an Iraqi veteran patrolling a suburban VA golf course, armed with a Glock, mace, and handcuffs, making $16/hour (h/t Balloon Juice):

Total cops in the US (2009): 883,600; median wage (2008): $51,410

Total security guards (2009): 1,028,830; median wage: $23,820

Total prisoners (2009): 1,613,740

Welcome to NeoFeudalism, where we keep cutting middle class, union jobs paying police to protect our common good, and instead pay poorly-paid highly armed private security guards to patrol golf courses.

And if that security guard job doesn’t work for our veterans, there’s always the other option: prison.

18 replies
  1. earlofhuntingdon says:

    Why is an armed guard patrolling a golf course? To keep Bill Murray from decimating the gophers or pouring sugar into the gas tanks of the Hummers, Bentleys and Mercs?

  2. Gerald USN Ret says:

    Hey VA can be a dangerous place.

    I remember years and years ago when I was maybe 25, driving all day to Washington, DC from Florida on a reassignment, and stopping late at night at a McDonald’s in Richmond, VA. There was a marked police car with an officer parked, and another empty one to one side and at least 2 uniformed officers on foot, one with a big police dog.

    I won’t argue with you about pay grades, but unfortunately some of our ex-military service people can’t meet the standards that our police and sheriff’s departments have.

  3. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @Gerald USN Ret: So we give them high-caliber weapons and put them on private streets and roads without the restraint of acting under color of law? Rhetorical question.

    If we could only make their employers and insurers personally liable for their conduct, it might substitute for the training in domestic security work these men and women probably don’t get much of. Here’s hoping no locals, scuttling about their business in the suburban Virginia night time, remind this private “security” officer of the guys he thinks whacked his best bud in country, eh.

    That said, I’m glad this ex-serviceman has a job. I’m glad he’s not swelling the ranks of private armies the USG is doing so much to fertilize. It’s not just DFH pacifists who will be getting tired of being ripped off by the country and the corporations they trained and fought so hard to protect. I would recommend his reading Smedley Butler. Plus ca change and all that.

  4. emptywheel says:

    @Gerald USN Ret: And to be fair, the guy described in the story hasn’t tried–he’s just looking for calm.

    That said, we’d be better off skipping the private guards altogether, and either employing these folks as cops, or in some productive job.

    We’re getting rid of the productive jobs and instead just hiring guards to keep private property “safe.”

  5. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @emptywheel: Odds are also good that his “security job” offers him no security, it has no or few benefits and can be cancelled at a moment’s notice. He’s just one more grunt hanging on, like the rest of us. Which gets us back to what is it he’s protecting and at what cost for the rest of us.

  6. earlofhuntingdon says:

    @emptywheel: I missed or failed to comment on your very good point, that incessant hiring of these variously trained security guards is another form of outsourcing that avoids hiring permanent employees as police officers, etc., who in many cases would be union members with benefits and a long term vested interest in their communities. For private guards making less than $20/hour, that would be an unaffordable luxury, like a home and its mortgage or full medical insurance.

  7. jo6pac says:

    Just more rich elite spreading around the wealth in the great new Amerika. I’m sure he had to supply the gun, mace, and handcuffs. Yes welcome home but this is all we have for so be happy. How Sad but 0 is going to save the day with bright and shiney Labor Day speech.

  8. Gerald USN Ret says:

    Earlier I was in a hurry and didn’t mention my own security guard experience.

    When I was in college, during two summers with a light load I had some time and didn’t need much sleep but did need money, I found out that some buddies were making a little money on the side working part time for Pinkerton as night time security guards.

    I went down and passed their muster (background check mainly) and they gave me a job and a uniform in a couple of days.
    Two of the jobs included weapons: 38 caliber revolvers. (this is the old days)

    Pinkerton actually issued one weapon and I carried it in an holster home for a couple of weeks, but I didn’t like that job because it was in a semi-public place and I couldn’t study much or write letters and such, and told them so.
    They needed guards so they moved me to a job that some didn’t like so much. It was a small cable factory in a run down semi-desolate industrial area. I liked it because sometimes when I was checking the outside, the trains came by on a track nearby and I would sing train songs. (“Good morning America, how are you?” Yep I was that kind of guy.)
    Anyway that job kept the weapon in the safe of the production manager and gave it to the guards when they reported at closing at the beginning of the week end. They usually ran shifts during the week and didn’t need guards then. Then when the guards changed they passed the weapon on to the next guard until the plant reopened after the weekend and the production manager took control of it, and checked the time clock.
    At this factory, the guard was usually alone and just had to establish a presence and make his rounds every hour which required only about 10 minutes if you could move like a jack rabbit which at that time I could, and so you could study in between.
    I quickly figured out that the trick was to wait until late within one hour, and then to make a round early the next hour and you then had maybe a hour and a half of uninterrupted time.
    This staggering of the times was fine with management because if thieves were watching they would not easily be able to figure out the times of your routine.
    When they checked the key clock you carried, they wanted to see that every hour had a round, and that is what they saw. Other than that they didn’t care.

    My arms training consisted of (after about 3 or 4 weeks of working without it) going out with a group of about 15 people. Being talked to about an hour by an old Pinkerton guard, and then for about an hour firing about 25 or 30 times at a paper target at about 10 yards. The usual revolver back then had 5 chambers in the cylinder. I remember them saying that they required more actual shots than other security agencies. That was one of their selling points.

    Some of the guards were civilians, older usually, retirees, most had been in the military once, some were actually on active duty. And of course us college students trying to make enough money to show a girl a good time.

    I think I made 5 cents more than minimum wage, about $2 per hour.

  9. Gerald USN Ret says:

    In all fairness, after thinking about it some more, that target might have been at 15 to 20 yards.

    Relative to later experiences, it seems awfully close.

  10. threat level green says:

    That’s a hilarious article. Pitch perfect. The reporter never gets in the way of the absurdity of the PTSD’d cannon fodder poignantly maintaining military bearing as he chases geese in a job that Border Collies used to do.

  11. mzchief says:

    I got the most-likely-untreated-PTSD part loud and clear regarding the Iraqi veteran in the linked WaPo article, emptywheel. Noam Chomsky and Col. Ann Wright are on the Advisory Board of CoffeeStrong.Org which opened a location near Fort Lewis in Washington State in order to help vets with PTSD one cup of coffee at a time as the Fort Lewis’ suicide rate was up to six people last month. CoffeeStrong.Org’s approach seems like a worthwhile thing to emulate especially in Virginia. There’s more here (David Swanson, Aug. 31, 2011).

  12. Bob Schacht says:


    That’s happening in spades here in good ol’ Frontier Arizona. The prisons are being outsource to companies which then turn around and lobby the State Leg. for laws that will result in more immigrants being thrown in jail. Good for business, ya know. Of course, then you have to put up with minor inconveniences such as escaped felons killing campers and such, but then hey! They captured the escapees *alive,* so they can be returned to their jail cells, with the their tab with the State running again.

    But NO, we DO NOT have enough money for all those poor people who need Medicare.

    Bob in AZ

  13. orionATL says:

    @Gerald USN Ret:

    gerard –

    thank you for your comments and, especially, for the details you included.

    i enjoyed reading those comments for the times and the history they described.

  14. Kathleen says:

    Wonder what the median wage is for those who belong to that golf club? From the green line to the golf green.

  15. Kathleen says:


    The wife of a young Iraqi soldier (Hageman is his last name) who committed suicide in Seattle before being deployed for the 8th time is over at Democracy Now.

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