Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Say It Isn't So Joe

                         While researching for my next blog I came across the following written by the late Joe Driscoll. No doubt Joe is rolling over in his grave as nothing has been done or accomplished since he was president of OASIS back in the early 90s. His thoughts are still germane even though no one is listening.

PI’s and Security: Wards of the State
By Joe Driscoll, OASIS Past President

Many years ago, I was employed by a state regulatory board and was involved in the day-to-day operations.  At that time, the board consisted of five members appointed by the governor – all of whom were peers of the licensed profession.  The board assistant attorney general, executive director and I attended board meetings and hearings.  While unanimity of the board was not always the norm, the board at least didn’t have to deal with members who may have had opposing professional agendas.  The profession was well represented by the board members’ experience, wisdom and ethics, maintaining a professional competence the public deserved and expected.  After all, protection of the public is the main reason state regulatory boards and commissions are in existence.  Thus, the public is not well served by interests in conflict with the mission of the licensed profession and its statutory requirements.  

Now this brings us to the idea that licensed private investigators and security officer providers be given their own state regulatory board or commission.  When it comes to important regulatory issues, no profession should be of the mindset that something is better than nothing when petitioning for a board because over the years private investigators and security officer providers have had to deal with a license law that gave us an advisory commission and ultimately a mindset that we cannot function without the guidance and control of law enforcement.  When any board or commission is dominated by outside forces then the profession it seemingly represents (or are these outside forces representing their own interests?) can no longer assure the public that decisions are based upon the licensees’ own professional experience, wisdom and ethics.  Having served on the state Private Investigator and Security Advisory Commission, I can say that even the best intentioned often times become incapacitated by outside self-interests resulting in a loss of direction and purpose that can turn the motivated into the inane.  Such opposing mixtures and agendas on any private or public board/commission will ultimately experience more time spent treating results than causes.

On or about 1990, I conducted my own survey into the composition of Ohio boards and commissions.  What’s not surprising is that there was majority peer representation on every board and commission I could find, that is, until I came to the Private Investigator and Security Advisory Commission.  The Advisory Commission consisted of eight (8) members, four of whom were private investigator and security peers.  Our combined industry never had a majority.  Private investigator representatives, on their own, were outnumbered three to one, and security representatives, on their own, were also outnumbered three to one.  Unprecedented!  Majority peer representation on boards and commissions is a tradition, and I’d say even a legal right, that should never be denied to those worthy of licensure.  And law enforcement domination and influence, as found on our old Advisory Commission, can easily be seen in very problematic sections of our license law.  Obviously the politicians didn’t believe that our Advisory Commission was worthy of existence, thus ending the tortuous politics.  What it should come down to is that if we, as an essential aid to business and the legal community, aren’t good enough to govern ourselves then we shouldn’t be worthy of licensure. 

Can a board dominated by outsiders ever meet the muster of traditional representation?  The idea that law enforcement on our board will procure some important political favors for us just doesn’t wash, as evidenced by our current jump-through-the-hoops law.  I don’t know of any other law that requires so much of its licensees.  The first step in our independence, which would lead to our own political influence, would be a peer-controlled regulatory board of competent and reputable businesspersons.  “We will only know who we are when we know who we aren’t”.  We aren’t law enforcement and we aren’t bureaucrats. We shouldn’t want these interests on our board any more than they would want us on any of their review boards.  Such a situation would be like dentists dominating the State Medical Board or the optical glass industry dominating the State Optometry Board.  These professions and our legislature wouldn’t stand for it.  So why should we?

Some years ago, I was in contact with the presidents of two out of state organizations representing PI’s and security.  We compared our state license laws, and I can say without a doubt that both were very surprised by a few of our sections of law.  One president commented, “Why did you allow that?”  Professionalism is gauged by knowledge, ability and merit.  If we wish to look professional in the eyes of the industry, public and our legislature, then we must take stands similar to what we did in the North Olmsted and Mansfield court cases.  Shining moments for OASIS.  Training and continuing education mandates for any licensed industry should be researched, debated and voted on by ethical and competent peers along with a representative of the public serving on our own regulatory board.  Since we have been suffering from our own lack of political clout, we should petition our politically connected clients, including their associations, for support in our legislative efforts.    

There are concerns about which state office we may wind up in should be have our own board.  A strong license law would extinguish those concerns by giving us self-governance.  Thus, our board and the executive director will be in charge and calling the shots according to law no matter where the offices are located.  With the right effort, we could have exclusive offices.  Before any of this can occur, we must convince the legislative and executive branches of government that such a board is worthy of existence and is self-sufficient.  After all the operational costs of running a board have been tallied, the balance sheet will have to show a profit for the state.  But first we must get out of the mindset that we can do little better than what we have been given in the past. 

English politician, social critic and historian Hilaire Belloc wrote in 1924, “We must make our opponents understand not only that they are wrong in their philosophy, not only ill-informed in their judgment of cause and effect, but out of touch with the past, which is ours.”  With that accomplished, the future can be ours.  When the time comes to take the big step, we will have to send a consistent message that we will do whatever it takes to be treated right and proper.  For decades we have been conditioned to think that others must govern us, so we must now think in terms that if we are going to end up with the same thing then nothing will be better than something.  Accepting just anything sends the wrong message, indicating a pattern of weakness.  Staying strong and united in our self-governing endeavor can only magnify the legal and political leverage we gain along the process.

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