By Jim Kouri
Private security officers in Great Britain may be assigned to traditional police functions such as arresting and detaining suspects, a source at the New Scotland Yard in London said on Saturday.
In some instances, private security firms will investigate crimes, if two British city police forces move forward in privatizing their law enforcement agencies, the Scotland Yard source told the Law Enforcement Examiner under condition of anonymity.
Officials in two cities — West Midlands and Surrey — have invited bids from private security and private detective firms and many senior police officials appear to be enthusiastic over the plan that would free up government hired police officers to concentrate on major crimes, terrorism and gang violence.
One proponent of the new policing strategy is Chief Lynne Owens of the Surrey Police Department. According to a statement, Chief Owens said, “Every day we have incidents recorded on CCTV and at the moment police constables seize that CCTV, come back to police stations, log it and process it. We want them back on the streets. That’s what the public would want, so we’re just asking the private sector; there’s some of those sort of process functions that they could do on our behalf.”
“Police patrols will not be absorbed elsewhere and trained officers on the beat will still be a key feature of operations,” Owens stated.
In Britain — as has occurred in the United States — privatizing of parts of police forces has been frowned upon by unions, big government advocates, and other organizations such as the Police Federation, according to the Public Safety Examiner’s London source.
British citizens may expect this privatization trend to spread across the United Kingdom in the coming years, but the Home Secretary’s office insists that powers of arrest will remain with trained police officers.
Minister of Public Safety Nick Herbert said, “In the end, the accountability rests (with) the chief constable. The chief won’t do something that he thinks is going to damage his or her force and they will be accountable for the whole of policing in their force, including the parts that are delivered by the private sector,”
This privatization move comes as police forces face budget cuts of 20% over the next four years as a result of an economic crisis affecting the European Union. While the government is cutting services, the demand for services is rising especially in immigrant communities, U.S. police training expert Stephanie Rodgers told the Public Safety Examiner.
Whenever you have a bad economy, you can expect an increase in crime, especially property crimes which can easily be handled by private security officers who are trained in report writing, interview and interrogation, and fundamental investigative procedures, Rodgers said.
However, many argue that vital services should not be handed to companies in the business of making money, according to union officials.
For example, Simon Reed, from the Police Federation, said in a statement, “I think what they’re looking to do is to just put anyone in a uniform to have a visible presence and to get involved if they have to, but they certainly won’t have the skills, the knowledge and the training that a police officer would have (in) how to deal with the public.”
Police unions have vowed to fight the changes, fearing that security officers will assume more and more roles.