Fans of the CBS-terminated TV series JERICHO will recognize the name "Ravenwood." This was the ruthless mercenary force used by the illegitimate federal government at Cheyenne to subjugate the citizens of Kansas in the aftermath of a massive nuclear attack against two dozen American cities.
As with much of JERICHO's superbly written story line, Ravenwood reflected real-world entities. Private mercenary forces have been used extensively throughout the Iraq and Afghanistan wars, as well as in many other theatres. And as JERICHO correctly depicted, these "private contractors" have largely operated without oversight or accountability. (Can anyone say, "Blackwater"?) For the most part, the American people are unfamiliar with these mercenary forces, because they normally operate in foreign theatres of war. JERICHO put them on the streets of U.S. cities. Now it looks like JERICHO was more prophecy than fiction.
An underreported (what's new?) story out of a little town in Montana has brought real-life drama to the CBS blockbuster TV series. Interestingly enough, CBS is the only major news network that has covered the Montana story.
In the little town of Hardin, Montana (which is about the same size as the fictitious town of Jericho, Kansas, in the TV series), a private security firm, American Police Force (APF), has been contracted to provide all police services and to manage the operation of the town's jail. According to local news reports out of Billings, Montana,
"American Police Force officials showed up in Mercedes SUV's that had 'Hardin Police' stencilled on the vehicles. The twist, the city of Hardin doesn't have a police department.
"Two Rivers Authority [the city's economic development agency] officials say having APF patrol the streets was never part of their agenda." (Source: KULR-8 Television, Billings, Montana)
Until now, the Big Horn County Sheriff's Office was responsible for patrolling the city. However, numerous Hardin citizens have testified to APF mercenaries patrolling Hardin's streets.
The Hardin jail is an interesting situation, all by itself. Completed in September 2007, the 464-bed facility has sat totally empty (which begs an investigative analysis as to how and why the facility was built in the first place). APF promises to fill the jail (with whom is not clear) and also intends to build a 30,000-square-foot military-style training facility and a 75,000-square-foot dormitory for trainees. Costs are to be covered by Ravenwood's—excuse me—APF's "business activities," which includes security and training, weapons and equipment sales, surveillance, and investigations.
Of course, under our Constitution, there can be no such thing as an "American Police Force" in the United States. Any kind of national police force is not only unconstitutional; it is anathema to everything American law and jurisprudence is built upon. Law enforcement is clearly and plainly the responsibility of the states and local communities. That a mercenary organization would take the moniker American Police Force is, by itself, disconcerting. But there is much more.
APF touts itself as providing security and investigative work to clients in "all 50 States and most Countries." It boasts having "rapid response units awaiting our orders worldwide." It further brags that it can field a battalion-sized team of Special Forces soldiers "within 72 hours." APF states that it "plays a critical role in helping the U.S. government meet vital homeland security and national defense needs."
Yet, an Associated Press search of two comprehensive federal government contractor databases turned up no record of American Police Force. Representatives of security trade groups said they had never heard of APF. Alan Chvotkin, executive vice president and counsel for the Professional Services Council, said, "They're really invisible."
An attorney for APF, Maziar Mafi, said the company was a spin-off of a major security firm, but declined to name the parent company or give any other details.
But at least one source reports, "American Police Force, the paramilitary unit patrolling a small town in Montana, has been exposed as being a front group for the disgraced private military contractor Blackwater, now called 'Xe'."
Whoever is backing APF has deep pockets; that much is for sure. That APF might be connected to Blackwater makes this situation even more problematic. But there is still more.
According to numerous local news reports, APF's lead figure has a criminal history. APF's head is a man named Michael Hilton. And recent revelations have turned up the fact that Hilton has served several years in jail—along with being served several civil judgments—for fraud. In fact, Hilton is currently scheduled to appear in a California court over an outstanding judgment in a fraud case. This has caused the Two Rivers Authority (TRA) to step back from the APF deal. And at this writing, the future of the agreement between TRA and APF is uncertain.
Adding to the dubious image of APF is the accusation that their on-the-ground leaders seem to be Russians. According to Hardin residents, the APF officer in charge had a "thick Russian accent." (Of course, Hilton himself is Serbian, and it appears that many of his personnel are likewise Serbian.) Residents also state that they were told seventy-five percent of the security officers that were to be trained would be "international."
Is this what we have to look forward to: foreign mercenaries—employed by international corporations and backed by the federal government—being used to police American cities?
Local protests against the introduction of APF mercenaries in Hardin have already caused APF to change its name. Late news reports state that the private contractor is now operating under the name of American Private Police Force.
In the meantime, Montana Attorney General Steve Bullock has launched an investigation into the Hardin matter. According to the AG's office, the investigation is predicated upon concerns that the company might be violating the Montana Unfair Trade Practices and Consumer Protection Act.
The Hardin saga is both noteworthy and troublesome. It is the latest example—but certainly not the first—of how private security companies are being employed as law enforcement personnel.
Retired lawman Jim Kouri recently wrote a fascinating piece in which he chronicles the growing trend of private security companies exercising police powers. Kouri summarizes an American Society for Industrial Security report, saying, "There are more than one million contract security guards, with perhaps another million guards who are proprietary security officers who are hired directly by businesses and institutions. On the other hand, there are about 700,000 sworn law enforcement officers working for towns, cities, counties, states and the federal government."
Of course, most of these "private police" mercenaries are military-trained. And they are also the ones providing most of the military-style training to America's various law enforcement agencies.
Kouri goes on to point out that Lexington's (Kentucky) Police Department contracted Blackwater Security International to provide "homeland security training." And in New Orleans, Louisiana, mercenaries openly patrol city streets. Kouri notes Blackwater officials as saying they are on contract with the Department of Homeland Security and have been given the authority "to use lethal force if necessary."
See Kouri's column here.
All of the above is disconcerting enough, but when one factors in President Barack Obama's desire to create a "Civilian Defense Force," potential problems only intensify. For example, in 1995, the United Nations' International Police Task Force (UNIPTF) was created. Ostensibly, the UNIPTF was formed to "carry out programs of police assistance in Bosnia and Herzegovina."
Then, in 2003 the Civilian Police International (CPI) was created. This was a joint venture between the U.S. State Department and such notable private companies as Wackenhut and Kellogg Brown & Root (a Halliburton company; and, by the way, so is Blackwater. But this is just a coincidence, right?). The stated purpose was for "international law enforcement and criminal justice programs." Inertia for mercenary-style (backed by the federal—or even international—government) law enforcement has been growing ever since.
The question must then be asked: "Could the whole APF and Hardin, Montana, affair be a test run for Obama's budding Civilian Defense Force?"
In the CBS TV series, JERICHO, residents resisted the federal government's mercenary force, Ravenwood, and fought ferociously for their freedom and independence. At the time the show aired, it all seemed like fantasy. But if you talk with the residents of Hardin, Montana, today, they might say that fantasy is fast becoming reality.
Stay alert, America: your town could be next.
P.S. I have posted a web page devoted to the Hardin, Montana, story for anyone that wants to review or keep abreast of this situation. Go here.