Giving the Regulator the Power to Police

Here’s an interesting bill (S2680) from Sen. William Walaska (D, Warwick) that appears to turn the Public Utilities Commission into a separate police force when it comes to motor carriers (both goods and people), towing, and taxicabs:

Examiners, field investigators, hearing officers, regulatory inspectors, and other employees of the division designated by the administrator with respect to the enforcement of the provisions of chapters 12 through 14.1 inclusive of this title, shall have and exercise, throughout this state, all powers of police officers including the power to arrest, without warrant, any person who violates any provision of said chapters, and the agents may serve all process lawfully issued by the administrator.

The bill is coming up in Senate Judiciary, today, and with so much else going on, it won’t likely receive much attention.  With just Walaska’s name on the sponsorship list, though, support for the change is questionable.

Still, this does raise the question:  Is this the logical next step for regulating bodies?  Elected representatives pass laws, but the executive bureaus that turn them into regulations elaborate on them, often to a very significant degree.  In many cases, they also act as the judiciary determining whether a person or entity has violated the regulations and even settling claims between two parties.

That often happens on budgetary matters between schools and town governments, with the Department of Education and the Board of Regents acting as the first two layers of judicial review before suits get to the judiciary. The PUC stands out as another powerful regulator with a substantial role in issuing rulings.  Are regulators next to be granted “all powers of police officers”?