Relationship between Private and Public Police

VENDLA  BRAMBLE By VENDLA BRAMBLE, 22nd Aug 2013 | Follow this author | RSS Feed
Posted in Wikinut>Writing>Culture

A college paper I wrote drawing correlations between private police and public police, pinpointing why they don't get along and how they *could* get along.

Relationship Between Private and Public Police

Down through history there has been a rocky relationship between public and private police sectors and, until recently, neither side wanted to work with the other. There have been many cited reasons for the sometimes hostile interactions between these two groups. Both sides have claimed there is a lack of respect between them, one side will claim there that is seems they had to work harder and longer than the other. With very little open communication between the two respective groups the hostility and lack of respect grew exponentially as time went by. Public officers refused to acknowledge that private officers were legitimate. Competition and hostility seemed to pose a threat to the public police as the private security appeared to grow stronger. As far as the public police departments, and governmental offices, were concerned the private police had limited, if any, powers...until recently all a private officer could do was make a citizen's arrest.

According to Stenning (2000) the division of authority has been blurred between the two divisions "because private policing is so frequently assessed on the basis of criteria established with reason to the public police, substantial myths have developed about the powers and accountability of private police. It is commonly asserted that private police have no significant power(s), and are essentially not accountable, in comparison with the public police." (para.1)

One of the major stumbling blocks in getting both sides to come to the table for talks has been how to define what is, and is not, public or private spaces. A prime example of the line being drawn in the sand is found on the website, where an article can be found titled "Police: Private Police and Industrial Security-Public Vis-À-vis Private Police." In the article is cited instances where the definition of public space and private becomes blurred. "South Carolina (Sea Pines and Hilton Head), Virginia (Aquia Harbor), Oregon (Sun River), Tennessee (Fairfield Glade), and Pennsylvania (Poconos) suggest that their security forces remain privately controlled, paid, and attired, but are court sworn with the full capacity to arrest, search, and seize." (para.3)

This then suggests to the public police that what is, for all extensive purposes, a public domain may appear public but they have no authority on those grounds. In this case where would the line be which delineates it is not, or is not, public area? This can cause further confusion for residents, or visitors, as to whom they call upon in case of trouble. This same scenario can also be compared to privately owned "public" shopping malls, as in the Mall of America. It can be considered a public facility, however the property and all the buildings thereon are privately held, AND they employ a private police force. Where then does the public police department have authority, if any?

While this paints a negative picture it must be pointed out that all the conflict has been the catalyst for open communication, and both sides of the coin are working together to present a united front. There are some public police departments already working on closing the gap between private versus public police. The Nassau County, New York police department has a working partnership with the private security companies in their jurisdiction. Information is shared in both directions, and sectors have been established to keep vital specific information flowing for these sectors. This can be seen as the beginnings of a positive relationship. Hopefully it is not too late, especially when certain statistics are taken into consideration.

Gunter and Kidwell (2004) stated, "The Hallcrest report found that private security currently employs approximately 1.5 million people and maintain annual expenditures of $52 billion. On the other hand approximately 600,000 individuals are employed with federal, state, and local law enforcement and maintains a $30 billion expenditure service." (para.3) By looking at the figures it is seen that approximately 85% of the country's infrastructure is covered by private police companies! It would then, logically, behoove the public police organizations to find ways in getting both sides to have a mutually agreeable working partnership.

In order to bolster, and improve, a still rocky relationship all concerned need to set aside their egos, and show one another respect. There is no room in the industry for the petty attitudes of "I EARNED the respect and you peons needs to show me the respect, which is rightfully mine." or "I have seniority, and you know nothing." The industry, public and private, is not about super inflated egos, and who has the shiniest badge. It is all about protecting the citizens in your jurisdiction, be it public or private setting.

The best place to begin in building a solid foundation is to learn what both sides can teach one another, and to evaluate everyone's individual and collective abilities. Once this is established, the public police need to learn about the laws and regulations surrounding the private police industry, and what kind of training is received or needs to be implemented. Networking is the next logical step for both groups, pool resources and develop liaison programs. Perhaps they could even place officers into the opposite groups in order to further strengthen greater understanding. This would, naturally, lead into joint operations and even greater improved communication. Law enforcement training programs is essential for both groups, and it would make sense to establish programs where sectors would benefit from the knowledge. this would also foster greater accountability for both industries.

The biggest, and most obvious, factor on the building blocks of the relationship is COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION, COMMUNICATION.


Clifford, M. (2004) Identifying And Exploring Security Essential

Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall

Cooke, L.G. (2006, November) The Missing Link in Homeland Security

The Police Chief, 73(11), November 2006

Retrieved February 8, 2010 from, The Police Chief

Gunter, W.,& Kidwell, J. (2004, June) Law Enforcement and Private Security Liason:

Partnerships for Cooperation

Retrieved February 6, 2010 from, International Foundation for Protection Officers (2010) Police: Private Police and Industrial Security - Vis-A-vis Private Police

Retrieved February 6, 2010 from, vis-private-police.html

Ohlausen Research, Inc. (2004) International Association of Chiefs of Police: National

Policy Summit: Building Private Security/Public Police Partnerships to Prevent and

Respond to Terrorism and Public Disorder. Vital Issues and Policy


Retrieved February 8, 2010 from, International Association of Chiefs of Police

Stenning, P.C. (2000, September) Powers and Accountability of Private Police

European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 8(3), 325

Retrieved February 8, 2010 from, ProQuest:ABI/INFORM complete database


Ego, Law Enforcement, Police, Private Police, Security Guards, Security Officers

Meet the author

author avatar VENDLA BRAMBLE
I have a degree in Criminal Justice, with several years of experience in security work to back it up. Before going into the security field I worked in the medical field as an EMT, and Phlebotomist

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author avatar Fern Mc Costigan
23rd Aug 2013 (#)

Very true in any country, theres the same story. There always a certain resentment from both squads. With communication as you mentioned maybe one day they can work in unison.


Fern Mc Costigan

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author avatar VENDLA BRAMBLE
23rd Aug 2013 (#)

One can hope and pray this will be the case, hopefully in the very near future. There is a general resentment towards what some call "rent a cops" and the "real cops". What most people don't realize is that it takes education and training for any L.E. field.

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