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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent

The Public, Private and Academic Partnership:
Towards a New Paradigm of Public Protection

Terry O'Neill, JD • 10 April 2004

Twenty years ago, as a new employee of the state Assembly, I sat through my first hearing of the joint legislative fiscal committees on the public protection budget that had been sent over by Governor Mario M. Cuomo. I heard then Assemblyman Arthur Eve, a champion of the African-American community, sparring with then Commissioner of Correctional Services Thomas A. Coughlin, III over the implications of what was to become the drug addiction-fueled prison construction juggernaut.

I don’t believe that the Cuomo administration and the Republican Majority in the Senate were motivated by a racial animus in launching the corrections boom and all of the harsh anti-drug laws and investments in enforcement and prosecution that went with it. If there was anything reprehensible about the whole disgraceful mess, it was the simple fact that precious little intelligence, imagination and compassion were expended on developing our response to the drug addiction epidemic. On the contrary, our policy was grotesquely exploitative. I vividly recall then state police superintendent Tom Constantine telling one newspaper with a chuckle that the state-of-the-art new forensic investigative center that drug assets forfeiture monies were going to fund would be “the house that crack built.” More accurately, it was the house that crackheads and crack babies built.

I revisit this decided wrong turn in public security policy today because we are at a similarly historic crossroads. The war on terrorism has led to a great deal of legislating in every state. It is alarming, however, to contemplate the presumptions to expertise that have bloomed so extravagantly in Washington and fifty state capitals since 9/11. I’m willing to bet good money that in each of those fifty-one venues, the same lack of intelligence, imagination and compassion of the drug war era is to be found. Granted, these are not the resources we’re inclined to reach for just now. We’re very angry with these terrorists, the unfriendly governments who are alleged to have harbored and encouraged them, the friendly governments who have not joined us in our mission in Iraq, the Washington agencies and officials who did not prevent 9/11 in the first place.

Back in 1988, I had a remarkable visionary experience on a train bound for New York City. I was en route to a conference at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice. I saw our distinguished state police superintendent Mr. Constantine dressed as a workman with a belt of tools single-handedly renovating a dilapidated old house. It was such a singular experience that it has been with me for all the years since as I have pondered its meaning. In recent years, that meaning has become clearer to me as I have observed and often participated in the evolution of public security policy. Simply put, I saw our all-purpose policeman as the only resource we hit upon to keep the house from falling on our heads. I’m afraid that isn’t good enough anymore, if indeed it ever was. This experience was particularly ironinc in that my friend Mr. Constantine went on later in his career to serve as the Oversight Commissioner for police reform in Northern Ireland -- a rather bass-ackward evolution given the fact that the province's elected assembly had been dissolved. How can people police themselves when they can't even govern themselves? Well, they can't. And yet that's what we have been doing for some three decades here in the United States in turning over the drug problem to the cops. And we kicked it off in New York with Nelson Rockefeller's eponymous drug laws.

One fundamental idea that we all encounter in criminal justice was articulated in the late 1960s by a scholar named Herbert Packer. He postulated that American criminal justice policy swings back and forth between two paradigms -- one that demands a tough, swift response to crime and one that insists upon elaborate due process. The trouble is that increasingly, both of these paradigms are irrelevant to our major public security problems. America’s drug problem is in reality a colossal public mental health crisis unprecedented in history. Yet we have relied exclusively on the criminal justice system to address it. New problem. Old paradigm. No solution. There are two anti-terrorism packages of bills before the state Legislature just now. A waste of the paper they're printed on because they are perfectly representative of the two old and obsolete paradigms. Whatever resulting compromise the governor’s signature will enact will not be informed by any understanding of the true nature of the problem of terrorism. New problem. Old paradigm. No solution -- with the stakes higher than ever.

There is a promising new paradigm emerging that I encountered in April 2001 at the State University of New York (SUNY) Institute of Technology at Utica/Rome. At a one-day conference I was introduced to the concept of the Public, Private and Academic Partnership, a fascinating idea that has been developed under the leadership of SUNY Chancellor Robert King. One would think that this is nothing new. On the contrary. I’ve found over the years that while a lot of cutting-edge research is being done on our university campuses, rare is the academic who will walk into a legislator’s office with a proposal for a bill. Just as rare is the politician who spends his or her evenings poring over academic journals. And the private sector? There’s a horse of a different color.

A lot has been written about the economic hit that New York took on 9/11. What is not well known is the fact that within four days of the catastrophe that devastated America’s financial nerve center, markets were up and running. Why is that? Because after it became abundantly clear that the financial district was a terrorist target with the World Trade Center attack in 1993, Wall Street took steps to prevent any disruption should anything like it occur again. The private sector has the flexibility, decisiveness and resources to act that quickly to protect itself and the interests of shareholders. Unfortunately, as is emerging in the 9/11 Commission hearings in Washington, government did not take similar action.

Wall Street is not the only business interest that has had to protect itself. Any company that has done business in Colombia or Peru over the past two decades has had to contend with having employees kidnapped and held for ransom -- a major money-maker for insurgents. In many nations, doing business means dealing with corrupt governments whose officials demand bribes and payoffs. The rise of powerful international organized criminal conspiracies in the post-Cold War era --organizations capable of world-class extortion schemes -- has posed immense security challenges to American business in the global marketplace. There is a world-wide epidemic of outright piracy of one of America’s most valuable national assets -- intellectual property. Microsoft’s Bill Gates was so disgusted over the low priority that the FBI placed on investigating thefts of technology that he hired seventy-five retired federal agents to do its job for it. One hates to say it in these painful times, but in the long run, these problems facing business have implications for America’s continuing security and economic well-being that dwarf the threat of Islamic terrorism.

SUNY Chancellor King’s partnership idea brings the three sectors -- public, private and academic -- together in a way particularly well-suited not only to the problem of terrorism, but to the more pervasive problem of international organized crime and corruption. It is out of this triumvirate that the new public security paradigm will arise.

Now I am not an academic or a businessman, but I did walk into a couple of legislative offices one day with a proposal for a bill. That was back in the year 2000. I was interested in an innovative institute that had been created at the Osgoode Hall School of Law at York University in Toronto. A Canadian businessman who was sick and tired of the corruption and extortion his ventures encountered in foreign countries gave the law school $3 million to establish the Nathanson Centre for the Study of Organised Crime and Corruption. The bill I drafted for then Assemblyman Edward Griffith and Senator Vincent Leibell would direct the trustees of the State University of New York to create a similar institute with a focus on international organized crime and terrorism. The 62-campus SUNY system has an amazing array of scholars, programs and other intellectual resources that have yet to be mobilized to make a major contribution in this historic struggle. This little bill -- Senate Bill No. 1895 -- would get that ball rolling.

Building upon Chancellor King’s partnership idea, Senator Leibell's bill would kick off a dynamic relationship bringing together the energy and resources of the international business community, the research and intellectual capabilities of the academic community and the power of government to implement the best ideas through legislative and executive action.







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The Blanket - A Journal of Protest & Dissent



All censorships exist to prevent any one from challenging current conceptions and existing institutions. All progress is initiated by challenging current conceptions, and executed by supplanting existing institutions. Consequently the first condition of progress is the removal of censorships.
- George Bernard Shaw

Index: Current Articles

16 April 2004


Other Articles From This Issue:


Two Codes of Ignoble Submission
Kathleen O'Halloran


32CSM Easter Oration, Derry
Marian Price


Threat to Dissident...?
J. Doherty


Another Recruit
Brian Mór


R = PB -C
Eoghan O’Suilleabhain


The Public, Private and Academic Partnership:
Towards a New Paradigm of Public Protection

Terry O'Neill


Anthony McIntyre


"Colombia-US Free Trade Treaty - far more than trade"
Emilio Sardi (with reflections by Toni Solo)


11 April 2004


Easter 2004, Arbour Hill, Dublin
Francis Mackey


Good Friday to Easter Sunday, 2 Days and Light Years
Anthony McIntyre


Is there a Republican Alternative to the Good Friday Agreement?
Gerry Ruddy


Bail For Sale - Nationalists Need Not Apply
Anthony McIntyre


Is the British State Neutral?
Liam O Ruairc


Lost Sheep or Shepherd?

Tom Luby


A Person I Admire
Miss O'Dee


Lerner, Said and the Palestinians
M. Shahid Alam




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