One of the more disturbing trends in our fast-changing world has been the blending of marketing, business and entertainment with government and law enforcement.
Call it “governtising” or “policetainment.”
It used to be that these institutions in society had defined roles that were separate from one another. Now, those lines have been blurred to the point that you have the mayor out selling advertising and the sheriff selling T-shirts, while deputies star in their own television show.
Pretty soon police officers will have agents instead of union reps, and they will have to pass screen tests instead of marksmanship tests.
Governments’ role, no matter what level, used to be to provide basic public goods and services, while police were to serve and protect. There was a distinct separation between the public sector and private sector.
Usually community promotion fell to the private sector in the form of a chamber of commerce or tourism board. Governments used to provide funding to these organizations but weren’t involved in the day-to-day decisions except to maybe have employees on the boards.
Now, that has changed. Cities, counties and states now employ their own people to market their locales and recruit business and industry, often competing against other communities. It has become a multimillion-dollar industry in itself, mostly paid for by taxpayers.
Casa Grande, Eloy and Pinal County have recently commissioned magazines and videos to promote themselves in the economic development arena.
Heather Smathers’ in-depth reporting Sunday showed how the magazines were funded and produced. In Casa Grande’s case, Mayor Craig McFarland took credit for the idea and even solicited advertising for the product produced by Rox Media, a campaign donor.
Meanwhile, Jake Kincaid reported last week that the PCSO plans to capitalize on the stardom achieved by its deputies featured on the hit A&E show “Live PD” by holding a fundraising event in which fans can meet the local “stars” of the show.
The June 2 event will raise money for the PCSO’s Benevolent Fund and the Morale, Welfare and Recreation Fund. According to PCSO, these funds support staff morale and those going through hardships.
Sheriff Mark Lamb has also formed a new nonprofit foundation, the American Sheriff Foundation, which he says will use money to bridge law enforcement and communities together through service projects.
To help benefit the foundation, Lamb has also formed a limited liability company called Fear Not Do Right, which sells a variety of patriotically themed merchandise.
The company’s website includes pictures of Lamb showcasing some of the T-shirts for sale, Kevin Reagan reported. The website states 20 percent of merchandise sales go to American Sheriff Foundation.
Lamb said he formed the LLC with his son, who is in the military, as a way to help his son make some extra money and to generate funds for the foundation.
Some on social media say our reporting has been much ado about nothing. But when money is involved in a fog of revenue streams, and oversight is lacking, malfeasance and corruption can easily take root.
For those who might remember the book and movie “Serpico” from the 1970s — the true story of massive corruption in the NYPD — it all started with the formation of a “Widows and Children’s Fund.” This fund became an avenue for distributing bribes and “protection money” to officers.
Last year, the former Palm Springs mayor and two developers were indicted in a bribery scheme that started with a city marketing promotion.
That’s not to say such things will happen here, but history shows the road to Scandal City is paved with good intentions.
That’s where we come in.
The mayor may say our reporting is tabloid journalism. We see it as watchdog journalism.
We still have a defined role in community journalism, of reporting to you, where the money is going. Shedding a light on the process is part of our responsibility.
And local governments need to get used to it. We will be pests with our public records requests following the money.
Because it is your right to know.
Andy Howell is assistant managing editor. He can be reached at email@example.com.