Around the World

These articles feature a comparative look at policing across the globe. 

Around the World 15.1: U.K. Police Invite Private Security Firms to Bid for Probing Crimes

Source: ANI. (2012, March 3). UK police invite private security firms to bid for probing crimes. Asian News International (New Delhi, India). Record Number: 17978705. Copyright © 2012 Asian News International (ANI). All Rights Reserved. Sparrow, 2014.

The issues related to private security are not unique to the United States but are global in nature. Countries such as Australia—where the government regulates the security industry—and South Korea are also experiencing major growth in the private security industry and are focused on improving relationships between the public security and the private security.

According to Asian News International, two of England’s largest police forces have invited bids from private security companies to investigate some crimes and patrol neighborhoods. The private security firms could be involved in supporting victims and managing high-risk individuals, but would not be empowered to arrest suspects.

This news led critics—who were reacting to suggestions from the British home secretary that private forces could help protect “front-line policing” by delegating some work to the private sector—to warn that privatizing police services would make forces less accountable to the public. With much less of a free-market ideology than the United States, Britain has a long history of maintaining a strict separation between the public police, with authority conferred by the state, and private security companies, which have no commensurate public mandate. Until the “New Labour” era of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the British Home Office refused to regulate the private industry out of concern that regulation would signal recognition and approval of the private forces.

Over seven years, the contract has a potential value of up to 3.5 billion pounds, making it the largest contract to date for a private company to provide police services.

According to a West Midlands police officer, “The areas of service listed in this notice are deliberately broad to allow the force to explore the skills, expertise and solutions a partnership could bring.”

Critics complained that “bringing the private sector into policing is a dangerous experiment with local safety and taxpayers’ money” and urged “police authorities not to fall into the trap of thinking the private sector is the answer” to budget cuts.

  1. As a private citizen, how do you feel about private security officers patrolling your neighborhood instead of sworn police officers?
  2. Are there jobs that private security officers may be better suited for than sworn law enforcement officers?
  3. Because private security officers receive considerably less training than sworn law enforcement officers, they are often held to a different standard. Do you believe that different standards for different people working for the same police agency can present problems for the public? Explain.