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Discuss whether private policing can ever ensure public security

Not only is policing conveyed by an escalating array of public bodies organized at a diversity of geographical levels, but the private and municipal parts are themselves becoming more perceptible in this arena. It is far from clear, though to what degree the growth of policing services delivered by agencies other than the state police symbolizes the filling of a gap left by the incapability or disinclination of the state police to give services the public wants.

It may represent changes in the nature of modern life and institutions in which the growth of these services lies along, is complementary to, the steady growth in spending on the state police and other public policing services like Environmental Health Officers or the Post Office Investigation Department.

Nor is it obvious that there has been the immense growth in non-police ‘policing’ which is often claimed. surely there has been a huge increase in the employment of uniformed private security personnel. owever if ‘policing’ in its broadest sense is construed to include those people who, like wardens, caretakers, park-keepers, and gamekeepers, have always been employed to guard, protect, and manage both public and private property and locations, then much of this growth may simply imitate changes in the way the task is done. What is clear is that, for a diversity of reasons, the respective roles of the police and private security organizations now increasingly be related. The boundaries between them are becoming less well defined.

This is the consequence, in part at least, of a process referred to as the ‘decreasing equivalence between private property and private space’. The subsequent half of the twentieth century has seen a rapid growth in property which is privately owned but to which the public typically has access. This property includes shopping centers, built-up estates, educational institutions, parks, offices, and leisure centers. More and more public life is being performed on private property.

Thus the protection of private property, a fundamental aim of private security-has increasingly come to take in the maintenance of public order as while, for example, there are demonstrations against new road construction. Private security services have intruded more and more on what used to be considered the restricted domain of the state police. The boundaries between public and private policing have further were indistinct because of the operations of an escalating number of agencies whose formal status and functional activities are hard to classify.

These have most usually been referred to as ‘hybrid’ or ‘grey’ policing bodies. They take in, for example, the surveillance, investigative, and dogmatic sections attached to central and local government departments. The place of some of these bodies has been made even more ‘grey’ by the privatization programme the government has practiced. For example the British Transport Police will persist to police our railway network: they will, for the foreseeable future, give a contract service that the new railway companies have been given no option but to accept.

Johsnton (1999) asserts that private policing consists of two components. ‘Commercial’ policing involves the purchase and sale of security commodities in the market place. ‘Civil’ policing consists of those voluntary policing activities undertaken by individuals and groups in civil society. The history of commercial policing in Britain is a long one, McMullan’s (1987) account of crime control in sixteenth and seventeenth century London pointing to the systematic recruitment of paid informers and thief-takers by a state unable to control unregulated areas.

This is an early example of what South (1984) has referred to as ‘the commercial compromise of the state’, an

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invariable feature of all systems in which the commercial sector has a policing role, though one whose precise character varies with circumstances. The private security industry is a large, lucrative, and growing part of the UK economy. Different estimates of the annual turnover of the industry are obtainable.

A 1979 Home Office Green Paper suggested an annual turnover in 1976 of ?135 million and, according to the marketing consultancy Jordan and Sons, total annual sales during the early 1980s were in excess of 400 million. Jordan’s 1989 and 1993 reports suggest respectively that the yearly turnover of the industry increased from ?476. 4 million in 1983 to ?807. 6 million in 1987 and ?1, 225. 6 million in 1990. One recent estimate by one of the regulatory bodies in the private security industry has put the turnover for 1994 at ?2, 827 million (Daily Telegraph, 15 August 1996).

Because private security firms take up a position of trust for those who utilize them to protect their persons and property, as the evidence suggests that individuals and groups put off to people who wear uniforms intended to conjure the authority of the police, and as those who provide security services are in a position to abuse that reverence and trust, we do not think it is any longer defensible to allow the private security industry to continue unregulated. There is proof of abuse.

There are undoubted cowboys on the loose and there is nothing at present to prevent disreputable and criminally-minded operators from proffering any security service they wish. Indeed, even a Government ideologically committed to reducing the amount of directive has recently come round to the view that some type of control of the private security industry is now essential. In August 1996, the Home Office announced that a statutory body to vet people wanting to work in private security was to be recognized, and that new criminal offences of utilizing an unlicensed guard and working as an unlicensed guard would be introduced.

Given that these plans are both indistinct and not accompanied by any schedule for implementation. There is currently no constitutional licensing or regulative system of any kind for the private security industry in Britain. This distinction with almost all other European countries. Britain stands practically alone in not having admission requirements for firms offering security services and, together with Germany, not setting performance rations for private security operatives. Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, the Netherlands.

Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland all have some form of governmental control over their private security industries (de Waard J. 1993). Estimates of the size of the industry in Britain have been notoriously inaccurate. However, recent research by Jones & Newburn (1998), based on data drawn from the Yellow Pages Business Classification and the Labour Force Survey, has produced far more reliable figures. Total employment in the British contract security industry now exceeds one third of a million (333,631), with employment in the ‘services and equipment sector’ (which includes guarding) standing at 182,596.

This latter figure, alone, is equivalent to the total number of police and civilians employed in the 43 constabularies in England and Wales. As is the case in other countries, the most rapid area of expansion is in electronic security. Indeed, out of the total of 6,899 security companies identified in the research, no fewer than 2,547 are in the electronics sector, the remainder being in services and equipment (2,281), the provision of locks and safes (864), detective services (767) and bailiff services (440).

In the case of Britain, for example, the estimation of private security employees (70,000) appears to include only those working for member companies of the British Security Industry Association, the main trade body. On the basis of these figures, Britain ranks sixth in terms of private security employees (123 per 100,000 inhabitants) and has a private security to public police ratio of 0. 39:1. By using Jones & Newburn’s (1998) data, however, these estimates are transformed dramatically.

This happens whether one bases calculation on guard numbers alone, or upon the total number of personnel employed in the security industry. In the first case, the figure of 182,596 guards identified in the research generates 321 security personnel per 100,000 inhabitants and a private security to public police ratio of 1:1. In the second case, 333,631 security employees generates a private security to public police ratio of 1. 85:1, a figure far in excess of the estimate for Germany, the highest ranked country in the sample.

In effect, two conclusions can be drawn from Jones & Newburn’s (1998) research: that Britain has roughly one private security guard for every public police officer, a figure comparable to that found in the USA during the early 1980s (Cunningham & Taylor 1985:106); and that Britain has almost two private security employees for each police officer. Although there are diverse estimates of the number of organizations trading in the private security sector, and the numbers of people working, few of them emerge to be reliable.

The best accessible figures suggest that, in broad terms, the number of private security employees, including those persons concerned in the manufacture and installation of security devices, is as a minimum the equivalent of the total complement of the forty-three constabularies in England and Wales; data from the government’s Labour Force Survey propose that there are almost surely over 162,000 people working in the private security industry, but the actual total can be at least half as many again (Jones T. , and Newburn T. 1995).

This rapid growth in private security gives a vivid image that policing involves much more than the police and what the police do. The point is made all the more obvious if one thinks that most symbolic of all police tasks, mobile patrol. It is momentarily worth considering two instances where a ‘police patrol’ presence is provided by personnel other than police constables. First is the Sedgefield Community Force. For several years local councils have employed in-house security operations to keep council property and employees.

The Sedgefield Community Force, a local authority police force in County Durham, became operational in January 1994. The force provides a 24-hour patrolling service within the geographical confines of the District an area of 85 square miles and a population of 90,000 people. The ten patrol officers wear uniforms similar to those worn by police officers. They travel mostly in cars, though they are encouraged to leave them to patrol on foot. They received 1,284 calls from the public in their first year.

Johsnton (1999) asserts that Private policing resolves the tension within that relationship: maximizing consumption by restricting access to those who might undermine the commercial imperative—drunks, beggars and the like. In most western societies—though particularly in North America—there is an increased tendency for residential space to adopt the form of mass private property, people living in private apartment blocks and gated communities, rather than in traditional streets.

Though this is undoubtedly a global tendency, however, there may be variations in the speed and scope of its development. Jones & Newburn (1998) note that, in Britain, locations which would be archetypal forms of mass private property in North America (such as educational institutions, leisure complexes and hospital sites) have either been owned and run by the state or by non-market ‘hybrid’ organizations (Johnston 1992). For that reason, they suggest, ‘mass hybrid property’, rather than mass private property, may be of greater relevance to the future development of commercial policing in Britain.

Though the Sedgefield Community Force provides a noticeable patrol it was set up as a non-confrontational force and has a strategy of ‘observing and reporting’ based on a presupposition of not using officers’ citizen’s powers of arrest. A small-scale piece of research on the Sedgefield Community Force carried out concerning six months after it was set up found that just under two-thirds of local residents said without any prompting that they had heard of the Force (I’Anson J. , and Wiles P. 1995).

This part of respondents increased to three-quarters after the force was portrayed to them. There is some indication from the survey that the public feels safer as the Force was introduced, and a considerable proportion of those questioned felt that the Community Force would act to put off criminal activity. There was obvious evidence that local residents saw the Force as setting off what the local constabulary was doing.

Generally respondents said they would not be happy to have the members of the Force as the sole deferrers of crime. owever when asked who they would be contented to have patrolling their streets: 91 per cent said police specials or a new rank of police patroller; 83 per cent said a council-employed community force; 43 per cent said common citizens; and 33 per cent said private security guards. A further survey of residents who had asked for help from the Sedgefield Force discovered that the immense majority of calls concerned vandalism, anti-social behavior, and nuisance — incivilities concerning which all the research evidence shows the public is usually concerned though a large minority, about a fifth, concerned straight-forward crime (Wiles P. 996).

Moreover those persons calling for help were extremely appreciative of the service they received. Though direct comparisons cannot simply be made, the residents who call the Sedgefield Community Force are as a minimum as appreciative of the service they receive, conceivably more so, than are people who call the police (Bucke, 1996). The second example is the Wands worth Parks Constabulary. Under the Public Health (Amendment) Act 1907, all local authorities in England and Wales can affirm in park employees as special constables though there are few instances of any doing so.

Legislation, bearing upon London only, has though been used by several boroughs in the capital to set up Parks Constabularies. in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government Provisional Order Confirmation (Greater London Parks and Open Spaces) Act 1967, Wands worth recognized its Parks Constabulary in 1985. There are thirty full-time uniformed officers and twenty-five part-timers (effectively ‘specials’) in the Wands worth Parks Constabulary.

They patrol the parks and open spaces in the borough — about 850 acres in all — and give security services in council premises, particularly the branch libraries, leisure centers, and youth and recreation facilities. The constables aim to act mainly as a restriction rather than an enforcement body. The problems with which they deal emerge to be similar to those dealt with in Sedgefield. They comprise incivilities linked with drunkenness, the control of dogs, the use of bicycles, and the like. however they also deal with crime.

In 1994 and 1995 the Wands worth Parks Police made 105 and 134 arrests correspondingly: these included supposed offences of dishonesty (including burglary, theft, and robbery), criminal damage, gross coarseness, and drugs offences. They took their arrestees to Metropolitan Police stations where there appears to have been little complexity in getting the majority of their charges accepted. Certainly the research proof is that the relationship between the Parks Police and the Metropolitan Police is an optimistic and close one (Jones T. , and Newburn T. 998).

In addition the constables monitor the CCTV cameras that are positioned in Wandsworth’s parks, act as key holders in relation to a large number of local power buildings, provide a cash-in transit service for some local authority functions, and accompany some local authority employees. Similar, although generally less wide-ranging, parks police also operate in Kensington and Chelsea, Barking and Dagenham and in Greenwich. The public is ever more engaged in activities in areas where policing is undertaken by private organizations.

Progressively households, neighborhoods, and institutions (both public and private) are becoming dependent on commercially provided surveillance technology and patrols for their sense of security. As, demands on the police have prolonged, so the police have become reliant on skills available in, and services provided by, the private sector. This is mainly to be welcomed, and positive collaboration between the public and private sectors needs to be encouraged.

There are several benefits to be gained from constructive partnership. But it is fundamental that this partnership be based on integrity. The public, pass up the police, must have confidence that the very highest standards are being uphold in any agency with which the police are affianced in partnership. For these reasons we conclude that the time has come to bring in a system of official or statutory directive of the private security industry.

There is no case for granting private security personnel powers not accessible to the ordinary citizen and, as far as it is been competent to discover, there is no demand from either within or without the industry that such powers must be granted, except in very particular situation. One such circumstance is given by the contracted-out management of prisons. The Criminal Justice Act gives that the prisoner custody officers employed by the security companies now running five prisons are authorized to search prisoners and their visitors and to use such force as is essential to avert prisoners from escaping.

But this kind of exception apart we can see no motive why citizens’ powers are insufficient for dealing with the type of situations with which private security personnel are expected to be confronted while guarding or on patrol. Indeed, quite opposing. The fact that security personnel have no powers beyond those accessible to the ordinary citizen itself gives a desirable check on their activities and evidently demarcates, both in law and in the eyes of the public in general, what is otherwise becoming an increasingly fuzzy border between the police and private ‘policing’ enterprises.

The realism of private security is that their personnel are not like usual citizens. They may not have extra powers, but they have precise responsibilities, they are organized, they are usually recruited as of their physical suitability, they are dressed in a way to emphasize their capacity to coerce, they might be trained in self-defense or have experience in how to ‘handle themselves’ in circumstances thought to rationalize reasonable force, they are more expected to employ force, and so on.

All these influencing conditions suggest, given the extensive concerns ‘about the de facto power exerted by private security personnel whose reliability is uncertain, whose public liability is non-existent, and whose allegiance is by definition to whomsoever pays the piper, that there is a very well-built case for ensuring that in law they exercise no more right to use force than the rest of us. We conclude that no transform in citizens’ powers of arrest is reasonable.

The key area, is where private security staff are concerned in the policing of space which is public -streets, housing estates, and so on — or which the public thinks to be public, although it is actually private, that is places like shopping malls, football grounds, hospitals, and so on. We believe any new form of regulation must certainly cover the work of private security guards, together with contract and in-house guards. The Home Affairs Select Committee excluded in-house staff from its commendations for regulation.

However, though the evidence signifies that there are fewer complaints concerning in house security services, the fact that there is considerable mobility between the contract and the in-house sectors leads us to believe that any new system of licensing must cover both. Moreover, given their role concerning either private property or private space to which the public have access, equally nightclub door staff and installers of electronic surveillance and security equipment ought, in our finding, also to come within a new system of directive.

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