Private, unarmed security for farmers market this year OK’d by Bloomington parks board

Two unarmed officers from Marshall Security, a private firm, will be providing security for Bloomington’s farmers market starting with opening day on April 2.

That’s the result of action taken by Bloomington’s board of park commissioners at its regular Tuesday meeting. The board approved a $8,050 addendum to an existing contract with Marshall, which was approved by the board in late January.

The existing $278,821 contract covers patrols through the week in several parks in the central area of Bloomington, including: RCA Park, Seminary Park, B-Line Trail, Building Trades Park, Rev. Ernest D. Butler Park, Crestmont Park, Miller-Showers Park, and Waldron Hill Buskirk Park.

Approved by the board in late January, the contract runs through the end of 2022. The farmers market extends from April through November.

According to the memo to the board from community events manager Leslie Brinson, “The Bloomington Community Farmers’ Market has had uniformed [Bloomington Police Department] BPD Officers in the past and due to the limitations of BPD, the use of Marshall Security would fill this need at the Market.”

That prompted a question from parks board chair Kathleen Mills: “I’m just curious, did we have some communication from BPD that they would not have officers available to rotate through?”

Brinson told Mills, “We just know from past communication with them that they are tight on staff.” She continued, “And this seems like an area that Marshall Security would be sufficient for.”

Brinson added, “The kind of issues and things they would be looking for we felt would be able to be handled by them—certainly with close communication with BPD.”

The police department’s tight staffing described by Brinson is reflected in The B Square’s count of 86 sworn officers on the most recent biweekly payroll—out of 105 that are authorized and budgeted.

Mayor Hamilton’s administration hopes that BPD’s staffing situation will change if the negotiated police union contract, approved by both sides in early March, is approved by the city council. One highlight of the new labor agreement is a 13-percent increase to base salary in the first year.

The parks department’s initial contract for security provided by Marshall was approved in June 2021. The initial contract was for overnight patrols in Switchyard Park, as a response to increased incidents of vandalism.

In July 2021, daytime patrols for other parks were added. A contract to bridge from the end of 2021 through the end of January was approved by the board in mid-December.