Running Government Like A Business … The Sandy Springs Way

Apparently when you let a for-profit business run a government, even the police department has to close after hours. That makes me feel safe.

Here is the context. A teenager, who was living abroad, was wrongfully arrested upon re-entry into the U.S. at the Atlanta Airport after customs determined that there was a warrant out for his arrest for a traffic ticket, for which the fine really had been paid. When his mother found out about it, this is what happened:

Marlene Kelsey, who was at the airport to pick up her son, frantically began working for his release.

She got proof that the initial court date had been rescheduled and the ticket paid, and went to the Fulton County Jail, then to Sandy Springs.

“The arresting [Atlanta] officer was adamant that I call Sandy Springs,” Marlene Kelsey said. “I went to the precinct, and nobody was there. When I called the ‘after hours’ number, the phone rang, then cut off.”

Sandy Springs Lt. Steve Rose said the department didn’t have enough staff to man the desk, and admits that the department was at fault.

“That warrant never should have been in the computer,” Rose said. “We should have done something and we didn’t.”

Is this what it means to run a government like a business?


  1. Rogue109 says:

    Why don’t you call a DKPD precinct after hours and see how quickly all your needs are met. They won’t be because the phones aren’t answered, there, either. Just because the front desk receptionist is closed doesn’t mean the precinct is closed. Give me a break.

  2. CobbGOPer says:

    Well, Chris, it would make sense (though I admit I don’t know for sure) that the PD not be run by the for-profit company for exactly the reason you stated: liability. Police departments everywhere get sued all the time. I’m sure the company doesn’t want to be responsible for paying all the legal bills.

    I’d venture that the Sandy Springs department is most probably the same way, with liability for their actions being squarely on the shoulders of the city government and not the private company.

  3. Doug Deal says:

    This is rediculous, it’s a freaking traffic ticket, not a murder, rape or even a minor felony.

    We are too quick to jail people for the most petty of things in this country. Combine that with the laziness and ineptitude of many police departments across this country, and things like this happen.

  4. CobbGOPer says:

    Well, Doug, the reason he was picked up was because there was a bench warrant out for the kids arrest, that was issued because the Sandy Springs’ computers thought the kid had skipped his court date (because for some reason it was not recorded in the computers that the kid had already paid his fine).

    While I admit the crime the kid committed was minor, the reason the warrant was issued was because of the “missed” court date.

    Now tell me, if we didn’t threaten to throw folks in jail if they don’t show up for court (even for minor offenses), would anyone ever show? Not bloody likely.

    Of course, if you ask me, most speeding tickets are handed out simply for revenue-raising purposes (as opposed to public safety). I can’t tell you how many speed traps the Cobb PD lay out when the end of the month starts drawing near and they haven’t fulfilled their quotas yet…

  5. Decaturguy says:

    I don’t know if the Sandy Springs police department is run by the private firm managing the city government or not. However, the impetus for creating the City of Sandy Springs was that it could run government better and more efficiently than could Fulton County. However, in reality, it seems like they cannot even update their computers to show a traffic ticket had been paid or keep their police precincts open after 8PM.

  6. Doug Deal says:


    Picking people up in airports for traffic tickets is foolish. Suspend their license, and arrest them the next time they are stopped. Cancel their car’s registration or whatever. Hauling ordinary citizens to jail should not be step one.

    There are many other ways to enforce compliance with such minor offenses. Maybe we can have the FBI do parking ticket enforcement? These aren’t felonies or even serious misdemeanors. Maybe we can be like England, with video cameras on every street corner and where they want to make a DNA database of everyone, so they can do things like hunt down litterbugs by using DNA evidence.

    We already have too much of a police state, and closer co-operation is a mistake. I would rather have a few bad guys go free than have innocent civilians treated like wards of the state.

  7. drjay says:

    one thing i noticed from reading the story–speaking of fulton’s efficiency–it appears that the city had made the appropriate update to the kids record by 10 or 11pm and yet he was not released until 4am…

  8. How is the Department of Human Resources privitization effort going? Does anyone have spread sheets from the private companies and estimated costs in Federal & Civil litigation?

  9. Roadkill says:

    My observation is when government privatizes a governmental service, quality goes down and cost goes up. Without a profit motive, such things as trash collection can be perormed more cost effectively by a local government. If something isn’t being done well, elected officials are much more responsive to taxpayers than a for-profit company with a comfy long-term contract.

  10. Harry says:

    Well, I’m paying about $4/week to a private company for trash pickup in Gwinnett, where several other private companies are competing with each other for my business. I’m fine with that.

  11. Nicki says:

    I pay about $15/month to the city for my trash pickup, which is picked up from my drive rather than from the street. Woo. I could use a private company, but why?

    This kid’s story reminds me of mine. I’ll simplify it thus. I spent a night in the Gwinnett Co. jail due to a seat belt fine that was accidentally sent to the wrong address. Which is just plain silly. I’m a homeowner, I own a car, and I am employed. There are quite a few ways that I could have been punished for my failure to send the check to the right place — all of which would have cost the authorities less money and time than incarcerating me. And by the way, it took them 12 hours to process me for a $125 fine, which was paid when I arrived at the Gwinnett Jail.

    Those 12 hours went like this: cop stands next to me for three hours because it’s a Saturday night, and even leaves me to watch myself for 20 minutes because crimes are occurring and he’s not able to deal with them, and there aren’t any officers to come pick me up. Two hours in the paddy wagon. One hour in the local jail, where I stood in a very long line and was processed in. One hour in a car with two sheriffs from Gwinnett County. One hour being processed into the Gwinnett jail, complete with a psych evaluation. The remainder sitting in a cell with some parole violators, a woman with a DUI, and some drug addicts, eating breakfast, and watching “An Officer and a Gentleman” on fuzzy TV while listening to people begging other people to come bail them out.

    Total waste of their time and money, and kind of a pain in the ass to me. There are definitely better ways to handle it.

  12. DMZDave says:

    Here’s the real concern. This kid was treated like a criminal and that’s just wrong. He was held because the City of Sandy Springs Police Department screwed up. I suspect he has a legitimate suit here and the taxpayers of Sandy Springs will eat the costs. Running the city like a business is a good idea but raising revenue by writing speeding tickets isn’t what the voters in Sandy Springs signed up for. They want their neighborhoods to be safer and they want the police focused on that primarily. Most folks don’t really care all that much about how fast people are driving on 400. In fact, I entered 400 this morning four cars behind a Sandy Springs police officer which was great. We all got in a line behind him and did the approved speed limit – about 80.

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