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This is the header image for the BPS Security article titled, “Title: Private Security and the Changing Face of Policing”.

Private Security and the Changing Face of Policing

Private security services are playing a bigger role in the policing of our communities. While we are seeing more private security services than ever before, the role of private security has changed significantly over the past few decades. Security guards were once primarily associated with businesses and their assets such as banks and retail stores. Security guards were there to check bags at the entrance, monitor cameras, keep an eye on things, and so on. It was important to protect physical assets that cost a lot of money. However, today’s world is much different than it was even a decade ago. There is less focus on assets and more on people – specifically vulnerable populations that may need extra support and protection from others who might pose a danger to them. In other words, rather than protecting company property (which can be done quite effectively by cameras, alarms, locks, fences, lighting, etc.), we now have community-based security services that provide protection for individuals or groups where they live or work (schools and community centers), while they’re traveling somewhere specific (public transportation), or when they’re going about their day doing errands or other activities (grocery stores).

The Changing Face of Policing

There are many reasons why police forces in many nations are changing and adapting their approach to policing. One of the most significant reasons is the increased focus on community-based policing. Community-based policing is when the police department’s focus shifts from responding to crime after it happens to engaging with the community to prevent crime from happening in the first place. Community-based policing is important because it helps build trust between the police and the communities they serve. Trust between the police and the communities they serve can be challenging to build, especially in some communities where police have historically used excessive force or have been perceived as racist. One important way that police can build trust with the communities they serve is by partnering with organizations in the community to provide services that the community needs. This is what has led to an increase in the use of private security services.

How does private security differ from public policing?

While the two are different, they are often used together in a healthy and helpful way. The main difference between public and private policing is the level of government control. The public sector is associated with the government (local, state, federal), while the private sector is associated with the business community. This has implications for how each is funded and regulated. For example, public police departments are funded by government agencies and taxpayers, while private police departments are funded by the organizations they work for (for example, a mall might pay for security guards). Public police departments are regulated by government agencies, while private police departments are regulated by the laws and rules of the businesses they work for.

How can we maximize the benefits of private policing while minimizing its drawbacks?

This is an image of a security guard looking down a long hallway with a moving walkway. This image is used in the BPS Security article titled, “Title: Private Security and the Changing Face of Policing”.

It’s important to note that private policing isn’t a replacement for public policing. It’s actually an additional layer of protection, support, and security for individuals and communities. If a public police department is nearby and has the resources and training to handle a situation, then they should. Private police services should be used when the public police aren’t nearby or aren’t able to handle a situation. In some cases, public police departments use private security services to help with their duties, such as providing security at large events like concerts or sporting events.

Private policing does come with some concerns and drawbacks that we need to be aware of. For example, many worry about the potential for corruption and abuse of power by private police agencies. To help minimize these concerns, private police agencies should be held to high standards by the organizations they work for. Customers and clients of private police services should also be aware of their rights and how they can report problems or questionable actions by private police officers.

Bottom line

The role of private security is evolving and becoming increasingly important as an added layer of support and protection for individuals and communities. This is a good thing since it provides more options for people to get support and protection. However, it’s important to remember that private security doesn’t replace public policing. Indeed, when used together, public and private policing can be a powerful combination that provides more options for people to get help and support.

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