The Arkansas Lottery Commission is asking the legislature for “police powers.”
Basically, they want to be able to certify members of their staff as law enforcement officers. Well, we have some serious concerns with that.
Fox Watching the Hen House
The most obvious is the question, “Who watches the watchmen?” If the people tasked with watching for fraud and illegal activity within the lottery are employed by the lottery, that sounds like a recipe for corruption to me. Part of the idea behind “separation of powers” in government is to keep the other members of government honest. Putting certain agencies in charge of policing others protects that accountability.
Spreading Police Power All Through Government
The Forestry Commission has police powers. The Secretary of State has police powers. The Attorney General has police powers. Constables, county sheriffs, city police, state police, highway police, and other state agencies have them as well—and that doesn’t include all the federal law enforcement entities over Arkansas.
The fact that everyone seems to be their own police force is part of Lottery Director Woosley’s justification for seeking police powers, but honestly, doesn’t it seem like we have enough law enforcement agencies already? Arkansas is “The Natural State,” not “The Police State.”
Plenty of Police Power Elsewhere
As we said, there is already a long list of agencies with police powers. They should be more than adequate to enforce Arkansas’ laws—even the laws pertaining to the lottery.
Granting someone law enforcement powers is serious business. When Attorney General McDaniel lobbied the legislature for police powers in 2009, he promised he would not use those powers to “kick down any doors” of suspected criminals. I believe him. But I also know that he cannot guarantee his successor in 2014—after he is term-limited—will play by the same rules.
A police force is a powerful entity in government, and it needs a lot of oversight to make absolutely certain it is operating in a manner that is legally and ethically flawless. At best, the Arkansas Lottery’s credibility is up in the air. I would be inclined to let other agencies handle the police work for the lottery before I would trust it with that kind of power.
The Arkansas Lottery has plenty of bigger problems it should be addressing—like the fact that it has, historically, blatantly ignored the recommendations of its internal auditor; or the fact that the lottery is disproportionately affecting Arkansas’ poorest counties; or the fact that lottery scholarship amounts had to be cut in order to ensure that students could be awarded scholarships at all; or the fact that scholarship allocations only amount to between 21% and 22% of the lottery’s overall budget, and it has never produced the promised $100 million per year in scholarship funds.
With the long list of issues plaguing the Arkansas Lottery, why are they so concerned about obtaining police powers? To me it smacks of misplaced priorities.