NIC recently contracted with a Blackwater Worldwide subsidiary, The Backup Training Corp. to provide digital law enforcement training for students. As a subsidiary of Blackwater, The Backup serves as the “digital arm” of Blackwater by providing computer-based training for law enforcement, according to Rick Gallia, Backup’s director of digital operations.
Blackwater purchased The Coeur d’Alene-based company in October 2007. In July NIC renewed its annual contract with The Backup, now controlled by Blackwater. It’s all part of the plan to shift Blackwater’s focus from military to law enforcement, according to Gallia.
“I don’t have a problem with The Backup as a subsidiary of Blackwater for the purpose of the kind of training they do online with DVDs,” said Vice President for Instruction Jay Lee. “But as a citizen of this country, I am concerned about certain paramilitary aspects of Blackwater.”
Blackwater and The Backup have been working together for more than 10 years, according to Gallia. Both companies were started in 1997.
“Due to circumstances beyond anybody’s control, there were some major national historical events that occurred that threw Blackwater into the frame,” Gallia said, referring to the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000.
Since that event, Blackwater has worked closely with the State Department as the primary security force in Iraq.
Blackwater has been blamed by the Iraqi government for shooting and killing 17 civilians. According to Gallia, the conflict has been resolved as evident by the resigning of Blackwater’s contract by the State Department.
“They’re not going to charge the company with anything,” Gallia said.
The Backup is the nation’s largest digital law enforcement training corporation and has been working with NIC for sometime. It provides NIC law enforcement students with certified Idaho Peace Officer Standards and Training (P.O.S.T.) courses.
Pres. Priscilla Bell doesn’t see that relationship changing.
“As long as it’s what P.O.S.T. is saying needs to be provided for law enforcement officers to be certified to work in the state of Idaho, then we have an obligation to provide it,” she said. “And if Backup is the company that does it, then Backup is the company we have to work with.”
According to Gallia, Bell has not been favorable of the relationship.
“We’ve heard directly from some people within the college that Priscilla Bell has made the statement that she’s not going to work with our company because we’re Blackwater,” he said.
“I did not say that,” she said. “I have concerns about paramilitary aspects of Blackwater particularly.”
Kootenai County Sheriff Rocky Watson also said he has concerns that deal with the possibility of the North Idaho P.O.S.T. training facility being built and run by Blackwater.
Watson said he doesn’t want his department affiliated with Blackwater because of its perceived reputation.
“There’s no real reason for us to partner with Blackwater, who is a military training facility,” he said. “We’re better off working with NIC, which is what we’ve been trying to do.”
Lee said he also would like to see NIC host the North Idaho P.O.S.T. training facility.
“Ideally, NIC would host the academy training,” he said. “Law enforcement training, in my view, should be done by law enforcement officers.”
Lee, who taught law enforcement for 10 years, served on the Minnesota P.O.S.T. board.
In July, several people from the Idaho POST council toured NIC’s campus and classrooms to consider the college’s qualifications.
Lee is doubtful this will happen.
“We probably don’t have the same kind of resources that Blackwater does,” he said. “They can purchase land and build things that NIC or the state of Idaho can’t in the near future. I hope Blackwater is not certified to do that kind of training. Their mission, in general, is not law enforcement; it is paramilitary activity.”
Bell said she doesn’t know if it is intentional or just coincidence that Blackwater purchased the Coeur d’Alene-based company and is now pursuing a training facility in the area.
“That’s almost like conspiracy theory, and I don’t go there,” Bell said. “But you know, it’s in Blackwater’s line of work so they may be doing similar things across the United Sates or in other countries for all I know.”
Blackwater has recently established a Midwest training facility in Mt. Carroll, Ill. and a West training facility in San Diego.
Bell said she hasn’t had any concerns from students yet.
“I don’t think they’re going to see any change in the curriculum, so I don’t anticipate anything.”
STORY BY Jessica Schreindl