Should We Privatize Police?

The British are apparently considering it, which is funny since they mocked it as an American idea a few years ago:

The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources... The contract notice does state that "bidders should note that not all these activities will necessarily be included in the final scope, and that each police force will select some activities from these areas where they see the best opportunities for transformation".
Very often we see cities hire a police force rather than depending on the elected county sheriff, as many city councils (and even some county commissions) prefer to own the police department and its leadership rather than having to deal with elected officials who answer to the voters rather than to them. I wonder if this doesn't introduce a similar disconnect in accountability.

On the other hand, private corporations working for the US Federal government can be disciplined quite quickly compared to civil bureaucracies. Compared with disciplining rogue activities at the IRS or CIA, we can pull a contract and hire another firm with relative ease. We're not very good at holding individuals accountable in either case, but civil service employees are notoriously difficult to fire.


Tom said...

And then we have university police forces.

Grim said...

That's a good point. I assume those are real state-certified peace officers -- certainly they are at the state-run universities I've ever attended -- but I'm not sure how it's done on a private campus.

Tom said...

I don't know. I would guess that there are probably a variety of arrangements, but Harvard University PD website has an interesting arrangement. According to their FAQ page:

What's the difference between the HUPD and the city police, like Cambridge, Boston Police, etc.?

The only difference is jurisdiction. HUPD officers are licensed special State Police officers and deputy sheriffs in both Middlesex and Suffolk Counties. Those powers give them the authority to respond to any crime on our campus and any "breach of the peace" on city streets in Cambridge, Somerville, and Boston. Officers receive the same academy training as officers from Cambridge.

Tom said...

Sorry, incomplete editing. HUPD has an interesting arrangement, not their website.