By Deborah Goonan, Independent American Communities
What can go wrong when homeowners’ associations (HOAs) rely on private security guards to “police” their exclusive communities? How about an HOA private security raid by Indiana State Police?
Earlier this month, Indiana’s Attorney General ordered an investigation of private security officers at Lakes of Four Seasons . LOFS is a gated community of 7,300 residents in Northwest Indiana.
The private community, originally established in 1966, surrounds an 18-hole golf course and 4 private lakes. Members of the well-established community enjoy exclusive recreational amenities.
As reported by nwi.com, Indiana State Police raided LOFS security facilities on November 9, as part of their investigation of alleged criminal offenses.
A search warrant was issued to investigate reports of “controlled substances, impersonation of public servants, criminal confinement and other potential criminal offenses related to traffic stops.”
Private security officers violating state law?
As referenced below, residents filed formal complaints regarding condust of LOFS security guards.
Homeowners report bein stopped and detained in the community for various traffic violations. Private security guards issued traffic tickets with fines payable to the HOA.
In some cases, LOFs private security officers stopped drivers, allegedly under the influence of alcohol. But, instead of reporting drivers to police, the guards allowed drunk drivers to arrange for a alternate ride home.
Indiana law requires private security guards to report suspected driving while under the influence offenses.
On at least one occasion, a drunk driver was let off the hook by LOFS. Two years later, he later killed another man in an intoxicated driver accident.
As for impersonating a public servant, Indiana Department of Transportation (INDOT) recently revoked LOFS safety department’s emergency vehicle designation.
Officials cited the community’s private security department for using red and blue flashing lights on its vehicles. Red and blue lights are reserved only for official emergency and police vehicles.
To distinguish from state and local police vehicles, private security vehicles in Indiana must use white and yellow lights instead.
Deputizing of LOFS private security on hold
Prior to the November ISP raid, the Lake County Sheriff discussed the possibility of deputizing LOFS security guards.
In light of recent events, Sheriff Oscar Martinez decided not to hand over public authority to LOFS at this time.
Instead, the Sheriff is offering to work with the HOA to increase police patrols of LOFS.
Martinez hopes to obtain the HOA’s written permission to enter the gated community for the purposes of enforcing local traffic safety Ordinances.
Another Lake County Sheriff, Bill Patterson, has gone on record admonishing LOFS security officers for acting as a ‘quasi-police force.’
Patterson said that private security guards should merely ‘observe and report’ potential criminal offenses or dangerous incidents to local or state police.
He cautioned against HOAs enabling private guards to wield too much power. (See Official: LOFS security team was acting as ‘quasi police force’)
At least in Indiana, public officials are beginning to acknowledge the risks of privatizing certain police powers in common interest developments.
Of course, there is obvious potential for abuse of power, and threats to civil rights of residents.
But inappropriate selection of private security staff can also lead to expensive litigation, corruption, and possibly even direct threats to public safety.
UPDATE: State police raid Four Seasons security; drunken driving, traffic offenses allegedly mishandled
Lauren Cross email@example.com, 219-933-3206 Nov 9, 2018 Updated Nov 16, 2018
Indiana State Police raided the Lakes of the Four Seasons security office Friday morning as part of an investigation into controlled substances, impersonation of public servants, criminal confinement and other potential criminal offenses related to traffic stops.
Police said the investigation involves multiple allegations, but said no further details would be released Friday.
A source with knowledge of the investigation confirmed the warrants were being served on Lakes of the Four Seasons security as part of a probe into reports of drunken driving and other traffic offenses that weren’t reported to state or local authorities.
In some cases, motorists driving on the private roadways of the gated subdivision were reportedly pulled over, detained and even assessed fines ranging into the hundreds of dollars, payable to the homeowners’ association, the source said.
CBS2 News Video (November 9, 2018)
LAKES OF THE FOUR SEASONS
Sheriff: Deputizing Lakes of Four Seasons security too much of a liability pending state police probe
Lauren Cross firstname.lastname@example.org, 219-933-3206 Nov 15, 2018
Lake County Sheriff Oscar Martinez said it would be too much of a liability to expand Lakes of the Four Seasons security’s police powers at this time and will instead wait for state police to conclude their probe of possible misuse of authority.
Martinez said deputizing members of the private security team — which would allow them to legally make arrests on certain calls within the gated community — was discussed Wednesday with the Lake County Prosecutor’s office.
“We’re not opposed to deputizing a security force so long as they meet all (training) requirements. It’s an option, but I have decided not to move forward with that,” Martinez said. “We really need to evaluate everything before committing to it. Who are the individuals working there? Are they retired officers? Are they trained? Are they civilians with no training?”
In the meantime, Martinez said he is deploying his officers for extra patrols in the LOFS community.