DETROIT — Union sleuths have fingered the culprit in an incident affecting the security of Detroit’s water supply. On Tuesday, Sept. 10, a Mr. Anthony Bradford, 43, was picked up drunk by police 20 minutes after finishing his patrol of suburban drinking water reservoirs. He had rear-ended a car and fell down during a field sobriety test.

Obviously, a man this drunk must have been drinking as he made his patrols, if he made them at all. The perpetrator of the security breach having been apprehended, one would think the matter could be put to rest by firing Mr. Bradford. But a question remained to be solved: Whose fault was it that Mr. Bradford was drunk?

Normally in such cases, the individual is saddled with the blame. But it so happened that after the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, the Detroit water department had hired a private company-JOWA Associates, which employed Mr. Bradford — to beef up water supply security. It took one John Reihl, president of AFSCME Local 207 — still smarting from the fact that the city had gone to the private sector instead of hiring his unionized workforce — to put the finger on the real culprit.

The privatization was to blame. Lack of training and low pay, Reihl claimed, “left little incentive for guards to do a good job,” according to a report by the Detroit News. Reihl added that the city could have doubled the size of its internal security force for the $3.7 million cost of the private firm, unaware of the contradiction: Twice the number of workers for the same amount of money means workers being paid even less — with less incentive to do well.

Presumably, union workers also would be less likely to be discovered drunk on the job.