Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Amid Economic Collapse, South Carolina Approves Another $1M for Police State

Brandon Turbeville
Activist Post
May 14, 2013

A little over a week ago, on May 7, 2013 and in the midst of a worldwide economic depression, Columbia, South Carolina City Council members met to discuss the funding of a million dollar project even as the State government continued its regularly scheduled hysteria over budgets, spending, and deficits.

So what was the project so vital to the people of Columbia to be pushed through by a 4-2 vote of the council during the midst of such trying economic times? Was it regarding the road systems? Was it the dismal state of Columbia schools? Was it tax relief for residents? Was it economic development? Water? Power? Sewage? Waste disposal?
Anthony Freda Art

Actually, it was the purchase and installation of 800 new surveillance cameras all across the city of Columbia that prompted the Council to spend $1.22 million, much of which is scheduled to come from an “emergency reserve fund” that is actually part of next year’s budget. As The State reports, “That previous $1 million fund will be reduced to $250,000. A capital projects fund that was to be $1.7 million next year will be down by $200,000.”

Once again, Columbia City Council members have come to the decision that maintaining and expanding the police state should always be paramount to any concerns facing elected officials at any time. In other words - Surveillance at all costs! Survival is secondary.

Even as the city’s meal taxes will be used to fund the camera installation to the tune of $100,000, budget cuts will also take place regarding the amount of money spent to house inmates in the Richland County Jail. This simply means that, if you are arrested (which will likely happen in the New United Police States of America) for one of the innumerable mundane and victimless activities that can result in temporary (or indefinite) imprisonment, the conditions in which you are held are likely to be even more abominable than they currently are.
Another $100,000 infusion of cash will come from “eliminating the city’s planned reserves in the event that fuel or utility bills jump.”

Who cares if the city can’t pay its utility bills? After all, it’s only ordinary citizens that would suffer as a result. Besides, you can always raise their taxes yet again to meet the payment requirements.
Oh, and police will be receiving raises in January. All other City workers, however, will be forced to continue to do their jobs as normal, receive the same amount of pay, and constantly be told how “government workers” make six figure salaries and do nothing as a justification for new cuts in the budget.

Another interesting aspect is that the Columbia City Council has decided to contract out to Statewide Security Systems (SSS), the company that already provides most of the cameras being used by the City. It is no surprise, then, that SSS received the City contract despite being the more expensive of the two options.
As reported in The State on April 30, at least one Columbia Police Department official lauded the camera expansion as a “game changer.” Could it be a coincidence that “game changer” is the motto most prominently displayed on the website of Statewide Security Systems, which provides the cameras (www.getsss.com)? Do we really want our police to rely on the advice of a private security company? Why did our mayor commend the owner of Statewide Security Systems while admitting it’s the most expensive option?
Deflem makes a great point. However, the Interim Police Chief, Assistant Police Chief, Mayor, and City Council all disagree. The State reports,
Wiser and Santiago told council that Statewide Security Inc., which provides most of the cameras now in public use in Columbia, prepared the plans council considered Tuesday. Though the city must open the bidding to others, they said it’s unlikely anyone else can offer a better plan.
In addition, the new cameras must be able to coordinate with the existing system, the senior police officials said.

Mayor Steve Benjamin seemed to agree. He commended Statewide Security owner Carey Shealy of Columbia and said, “We’d be foolish to award a contract to the lowest bidder.”

Yet while The State has erroneously claimed that the “need” for the cameras has “outstripped the city’s ability to pay for them,” the fact is that the city neither has the means to pay for, nor the need for these instruments of the surveillance state.

If the City were concerned with public safety, then perhaps the City would spend more time responding to and investigating violent crime and crimes with . . . well . . . actual victims. If the police were not wasting their time ruining lives for the mere possession of a plant, writing seat belt tickets, and attempting to micromanage the amount of alcohol consumed by Columbia citizens, then perhaps Columbia would be able to do a better job of protecting its citizens from actual dangers.

Nevertheless, in a stunning (I use that word liberally) example of just how far the Columbia City Council is willing to go in order to push the police state on those they supposedly serve, Clif LeBlanc of The State writes,
Council’s eagerness to focus on public safety prompted Councilman Cameron Runyan to ask if the police department has considered using a more high-tech option. 
“Have y’all looked at drones,” Runyan said to immediate chuckles from his fellow council members. “Not weaponized ones,” he added quickly. 
“Yes,” Santiago [Interim Police Chief] responded without elaborating.
Indeed, drones appear to be all the rage in South Carolina as of late, as the state has recently volunteered to become a drone testing site.

We are all sure that Columbia’s Interim Police Chief and at least five of Columbia’s City Council were pleased at the State’s generous offer to the Federal government and that they are eagerly awaiting the latest hi-tech police state toys to be placed at their disposal.

Read other articles by Brandon Turbeville here.

Brandon Turbeville is an author out of Florence, South Carolina. He has a Bachelor's Degree from Francis Marion University and is the author of three books, Codex Alimentarius -- The End of Health Freedom, 7 Real Conspiracies, and Five Sense Solutions and Dispatches From a Dissident. Turbeville has published over 200 articles dealing on a wide variety of subjects including health, economics, government corruption, and civil liberties. Brandon Turbeville's podcast Truth on The Tracks can be found every Monday night 9 pm EST at UCYTV.  He is available for radio and TV interviews. Please contact activistpost (at) gmail.com.

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