They are trained. They are given a shield. They get a uniform, belt, flashlight, handcuffs, shoes. Sometimes, they are allowed to use a car with special lights, siren and markings for a governmental entity. All of this is paid for by the taxpayers of the jurisdiction in order to enjoy their service and protection. In their off-duty hours, however, they are allowed to offer it to anyone willing to pay.
British Petroleum is an entity willing to pay an off-duty police officer for their services. From MoJo, via Turley, they hired a sheriff’s deputy from Terrebonne Parish, Lousiana to make it difficult to capture images of things that BP would prefer not be seen.
Drew Wheelan was was filming across the street from the BP building/Deepwater Horizon response command in Houma, Louisiana, when the off-duty sheriff’s deputy came by.
Wheelan is a very calm and compliant fellow. He answered a lot of questions that the off-duty deputy had no right to ask. Though he may well be entitled to moonlight for BP, or any other entity that’s willing to pay for his shield, his authority does not travel with him to the new job. No longer is he acting on behalf of the government, but a private enterprise.
Contrary to popular belief, corporations are not governments. They do not have the power to dictate to citizens. They do not, with certain exceptions, have police powers, even though they have the wherewithal to buy them as needed. Wheelan had no obligation to speak with the deputy, no less answer his questions. One can only wonder what the deputy would have done if Wheelan told him to go jump in the lake gulf.
But one need not wonder what the deputy’s superiors think about his being a shield for hire.
Shortly thereafter, Wheelan got in his car and drove away but was soon pulled over.
It was the same cop, but this time he had company: Kenneth Thomas, whose badge, Wheelan told me, read “Chief BP Security.” The cop stood by as Thomas interrogated Wheelan for 20 minutes, asking him who he worked with, who he answered to, what he was doing, why he was down here in Louisiana. He phoned Wheelan’s information in to someone. Wheelan says Thomas confiscated his Audubon volunteer badge (he’d recently attended an official Audubon/BP bird-helper volunteer training) and then wouldn’t give it back, which sounds like something only a bully in a bad movie would do. Eventually, Thomas let Wheelan go.
And what did the Sheriff’s office think about this?
The deputy was off official duty at the time, and working in the private employ of BP. Though the deputy failed to include the traffic stop in his incident report, Major Malcolm Wolfe of the sheriff’s office says the deputy’s pulling someone over in his official vehicle while working for a private company is standard and acceptable practice, because Wheelan was acting suspicious and could have been a terrorist.
How long will it be until Ducks Unlimited is added to the terrorist watch list? In fairness, Wheelan was definitely acting suspicious to anyone on the payroll of BP wearing the shield bought for him by the taxpayers. Aren’t they fortunate in Terrebonne Parish that the interests of BP and the citizens are exactly the same?