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UK Privatizing Police Forces

Updated on July 12, 2012
UnnamedHarald profile image

I try to make history readable and interesting, warts and all. We must look to the past to understand the present and confront the future.

A Chicago police officer on a segway.
A Chicago police officer on a segway. | Source

Police Privatization in the US

Some communities in the US, strapped for cash, have privatized or are contemplating privatizing city services, including some police functions. Ann Arbor is looking at turning over police dispatch services to private companies. Police cuts in Sarasota, Florida are forcing them to consider even doing away with their police department altogether. Companies run red light camera systems to catch speeders. Corporations run prisons for profit in many states.

British policeman
British policeman | Source

Police Privatisation in the UK

And now, across the Atlantic, the UK government has requested bids from private companies to take over some of the services of at least two of the largest police forces in the United Kingdom: West Midlands and Surrey. The contract specifies, among others, the following activities to be privatised (British spelling), in addition to more traditional outsourced back-office functions (managing forensics, providing legal services, finance, human resources, managing the vehicle fleet, etc):

Update June 20, 2012

The Guardian reports that G4S's David Taylor-Smith boasts that private companies will be running large parts of the UK's police service within five years. G4S is the world's largest private security company with 657,000 employees in 125 countries. It already runs six prisons in the UK. G4S also provides more than 10,000 guards for the London Olympics as well as managing the training for 23,000 personnel-- including the military.

Outsourced Activities

  • Investigating crimes

  • Detaining suspects (but not arresting them)

  • Developing cases

  • Responding to and investigating incidents

  • Supporting victims and witnesses

  • Managing high-risk individuals

  • Patrolling neighbourhoods

  • Managing intelligence

Village Police Station, Kingswinford, Staffordshire. A dying breed.
Village Police Station, Kingswinford, Staffordshire. A dying breed. | Source


The government has reduced funds to police forces by 20%. Over the next three years, the West Midlands is expected to cut 2,764 police jobs. Authorities expect the “efficiencies” of the private sector to reduce costs and “improve the service provided to the public”. Currently, major British security companies are expected to bid on the contract, worth $2.4 billion to $5.5 billion over the next 7 years, depending on how many other police forces get involved.

Many people are alarmed at the prospect of corporate personnel in the front lines, detaining (though not arresting) members of the public and believe the police will become even less accountable to the public. The government refuses to publish its business case, even under the Freedom of Information Act.

Lincolnshire police have already signed a $315 million contract with G4S, a major security company. Half of the force's civilian staff will transfer to G4S who will also build and actually run a police station (another first).

Update July 12, 2012- Olympic Security G4S Problems

G4S, who is attempting to garner the lion's share of privatized services for the UK police forces as well as controlling security for the Olympic games has admitted it hasn't been able to hire enough qualified security personnel for the Olympics. So, at the very last minute, 3,500 British soldiers who were to go on leave before either going to or returning from Afghanistan, are being called up for Olympic security detail. G4S will still be in charge.

The Police Federation of England and Wales, who opposes police privatization, said this shows that private companies' primary concern about profit would put the public at risk.

"If the Olympic debacle media reports are accurate, then it is very clear that these private contracts are built upon an expectation that the public sector will step in to pick up the pieces if private industry fails to deliver."

We Are Not Paying Attention

This is the future; corporations will control everything-- unless it's not profitable. They are where our betters-- the 1%-- hide out. If we want to work for one, we already forfeit many freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights and other amendments to the Constitution. We can be under surveillance, our email can be read, etc. If we don't like it, if we don't want to uproot our families when they want us to relocate, if they don't want us to smoke or be fat, or if we just feel our rights are important, we have every right not to work. But if the idea of armed contractors roaming our streets-- like they do in Iraq and Afghanistan-- bothers us, I guess we'll just have to go somewhere else. And where will that be in another ten years?


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    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks, Quality. One of my favorite historical periods is the interwar years, so I am a little sensitive to how things go from good to bad to worse-- without people realizing it. This is known as the boiling frogs syndrome: you throw frogs into boiling water and they jump out; put them in cold water and slowly bring it to a boil and they boil to death.

    • QualityContent profile image


      9 years ago

      I invite everyone to read about Germany in the 1930s and 40s, not the war but the police or Gestapo. If you use your head and read you'll find that's the way many of the police forces in the world are headed on a global scale. The reasons for this is of course "terrorism."

      People really need to start putting two and two together here. Turn off the TV and start thinking. What sort of world is this?

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Thanks for your great comment, Larry. The prospect of security contractors manhandling the public (I'm willing to accept that much of the time the "detainee" is a bad guy-- it's the ordinary, innocent citizen that supporters of privatization seem to forget about) is what caught my eye and sent chills down my spine.

    • Larry Fields profile image

      Larry Fields 

      9 years ago from Northern California

      For-profit prisons can be run at lower cost than government-run prisons. Smithian Fundamentalism notwithstanding, this is not because of putative inefficiencies of the latter.

      For-profit prisons cut corners on the training of guards. So what if more inmates are beaten to death by the guards? sarc/

      In order to cut medical costs--and to avoid icky lawsuits--corporate prisons deny medical care to some inmates, especially the ones who have been beaten to a bloody pulp by the guards.

      We can expect similar kinds of 'efficiencies' if policing is totally privatized. I don't object to police forces subbing out part of the routine paperwork. And I don't have a problem with private security guards at shopping malls and other places of business. But giving rent-a-cops the power to arrest the general public is a different ball of wax.

      Believe it or not, there are some things that governments do better than large corporations. Policing and running prisons are prime examples. When private police forces violate the human rights of those they are supposed to protect, the chain of accountability will become longer, there will be more finger-pointing in all directions, and nobody will be responsible for anything. Is that what we want?

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      It is the reason why I am at the shooting range every week-end! If society is starting to militarize itself, I will be part of the resistance! It is out of question that anyone or any governments impose me their view of their ideal society!

    • UnnamedHarald profile imageAUTHOR

      David Hunt 

      9 years ago from Cedar Rapids, Iowa

      Heh heh. Right, maxoxam. That'll happen.

    • maxoxam41 profile image


      9 years ago from USA

      Does it mean that the Brits will pay less taxes? Does it mean that the citizens will be entitled to carry a gun to protect themselves against those militias?


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