Is Blackwater Coming To North Idaho?

COEUR D’ALENE — The Idaho Post Academy has signed a letter of intent to work with Blackwater Worldwide if the company decides to build in the region, which is drawing fire from some people who want Blackwater to stay out of Idaho.

Thursday morning the Idaho Peace Officers Safety and Training (POST) council met in Coeur d’Alene to address officer training and education needs for North Idaho. As members of the council arrived for the meeting they were greeted by approximately 10 protestors who made it clear they don’t want Blackwater building a training facility in North Idaho.

“We’ve got 220 signatures, petitions opposing this,” Bonnie Douglas said.

Douglas organized the protest and says she wants her message heard.

“We want better training but we don’t want them to be renting from Blackwater. We feel Blackwater’s reputation will hurt Idaho’s reputation,” Douglas said.

Blackwater Worldwide, based out of Moyock, North Carolina is the nation’s largest private security company and is one of the most visible of the private contractors operating in Iraq. The company has come under fire for an incident that happened on September 16, 2007 where Blackwater security contractors allegedly killing 17 Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

“All organizations have issues, the Army, the Marine Corps, and we don’t paint the Army or Marine Corps with a broad brush when they have issues and I am convinced we painted Blackwater with a very broad brush,” Jeff Black, executive director for Idaho Peace Officers Safety and Training said.

Black recently signed a letter of intent to negotiate with Blackwater Worldwide if they decide to build in the region.

“We would be looking at it much as law enforcement agencies do on the East Coast, as strictly a bricks and mortar environment where we would lease, if the opportunity became available, that we would lease the facility or portions of the facility for training,” Black said.

Blackwater Worldwide currently operates training facilities in North Carolina, a second in Illinois. In March of this year they withdrew under heavy opposition from local residents to open a third training facility in San Diego County, California.

One reason Black said they would consider leasing the facility is that the state could never afford to build such a complex.

Because the issue is in the preliminary stages the POST council voted to discuss the matter at a later date. One alternative to working with Blackwater Worldwide could be to work with North Idaho College, which currently teaches certified officer courses, to be a complete POST program available to both students and new hires.