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The police and the private sector

There does seem to be cause for concern in this story in the Guardian which reports that private companies could take responsibility for many key roles currently carried out by the police:

West Midlands and Surrey have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.  …

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.

Devolving the detention of suspects and the management of high-risk individuals seems a particularly worrying development. In 2010 an Angolan deportee, detained on a plane while in the custody of guards from G4S, died in controversial circumstances.

Ben Priestly from UNISON has spoken out against these moves:

“Privatisation means that the police will be less accountable to the public. And people will no longer be able to go to the Independent Police Complaints Commission if they have a problem. When a critical incident happens, a force’s ability to respond will be severely compromised. The only winners are private companies and shareholders who make profits at the expense of local services.”

And, in the comments on another thread, PJH points out:

“It’s contrary to every concept of jurisprudence and common law, that a private citizen rather than a public servant should have police (or custodial) powers over another private citizen. That’s what we have the rule of law to prevent, and why we have a state.”

Hat Tip: PJH in the comments