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UK Plans Private Police Force 252

Posted by Soulskill
from the very-polite-unless-you-spill-their-tea dept.
An anonymous reader writes "'Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighborhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatization plan,' The Guardian reports. 'The contract is the largest on police privatization so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved.' A worrying development in a country with an ever-increasing culture of surveillance and intrusive policing."
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UK Plans Private Police Force

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  • Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss (770223) * on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:47PM (#39233181)

    RoboCop!

    • Re:Great... (Score:5, Funny)

      by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:50PM (#39233203) Journal
      I'd buy that for a pound sterling!
      • by metacell (523607)

        I'd buy that for a pound sterling!

        I'll buy that for 10 Euros in a couple of years.

        • I'd buy that for a pound sterling!

          I'll buy that for 10 Euros in a couple of years.

          Actually in a couple of years a pound sterling will be about fifty Euro cents. Or perhaps 10 pfennig in New Deutschmarks.

      • by Sulphur (1548251)

        I'd buy that for a pound sterling!

        Peel of a few Bob.

      • Here you are then, sir. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. BLAM. Thank you for your cooperation.
    • Dead or alive, you're coming with me!
    • by CaroKann (795685)
      No, ED-209! Then, after OCP destroys "Old London", it can start on "Delta City". Delta City certainly looks like the kind of place I would want to live.
    • Bitches leave
    • Re:Great... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by DrVomact (726065) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @06:29PM (#39234293) Journal

      Snow Crash! (A science fiction novel by Neal Stephenson; it did a good job forecasting this trend...and satirizing it.)

      The Israeli military historian, Martin Van Creveld [wikipedia.org], also noted the trend toward privatization of state functions in the early nineties. (See for example, the The Transformation of War and the somewhat ponderous The Rise and Decline of the State.) As he predicted, the European-model nation-state continues to decline; as it weakens, it transfers its powers to private entities, and its sovereignty to more nebulous institutions that are not nation-states at all (such as the European Union, NATO, the UN, etc.) This in turn leads to a loss of faith in the nation-state by its citizens, until the state's government is no longer seen as legitimate. Not surprisingly, van Creveld is a fan of Snow Crash.

      This has also been happening in the U.S., most prominently during the recent Iraqi Infelicity. As you may remember, the U.S. State Department outsourced its security operations to The Company Formerly Known As "Blackwater" during this time. This led to a fiasco in which a team from said organization—which was "protecting" a State Department delegation—shot up a crowd of harmless civilians with automatic weapons fire from armored vehicles, causing numerous death and mild embarrassment to the U.S. State Department. They should have been much more embarrassed, of course—official heads should have rolled—but such actions no longer have their just consequences. The U.S. Army also worked with TCFKAB and similar organizations with names like Triple Canopy, Executive Outcomes (I think that's defunct, actually), and companies smarter than TCFKAB who don't try to get business through publicizing their names. Of course, TCFKAB is still in business, under another name that I can't at the moment recall, probably because that name was designed to be impossible to remember. In addition to outright combat, other civilian agencies pretty much have taken over the role of providing the U.S. Army's infrastructure, and the entire "re-construction" of Iraq was handled by large corporations in a most unseemly manner.

      So why is everyone surprised when the Brits want to outsource a bit of policing?

      • Re:Great... (Score:4, Informative)

        by Nidi62 (1525137) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @07:13PM (#39234603)

        Of course, TCFKAB is still in business, under another name that I can't at the moment recall, probably because that name was designed to be impossible to remember.

        Blackwater was renamed Xe. However, it is important to note that the founder and CEO during the Iraq war sold off the company and is no longer involved.

        • Re:Great... (Score:5, Insightful)

          by DrVomact (726065) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @07:47PM (#39234789) Journal

          Blackwater was renamed Xe. However, it is important to note that the founder and CEO during the Iraq war sold off the company and is no longer involved.

          I have to ask why you think that is important. To my mind, the important issue lies in the fact that companies like Xe exist and are contracted by the U.S. Government at all; the personal culpability of the former CEO of the Company Formerly Known As... is, to me, relatively trivial.

          The proper generic name for such corporations is, by ancient usage, "mercenaries" or perhaps "mercenary contractors". The fact that modern States now once more employ mercenaries signifies a distinct decline in the State as an institution, because one of the essential characteristics of a State is that it holds a monopoly on violence. By hiring mercenaries, states essentially solve short-term problems (inability to sustain a war through conscription, direct responsibility for atrocities, etc.), but create another set of problems the extent of which is not immediately obvious. One such problem is that once the State becomes reliant on mercenaries, it is at their mercy—something Machiavelli understood quite well.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by tqft (619476)
    • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

      by KingBenny (1301797)
      yea, looks like the fingermen will get their chance to try and rape princess Padme after all
  • Fascism (Score:5, Insightful)

    by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:48PM (#39233185)

    And so Britain sinks further into Fascism.

    • The nanny state strikes back. Seriously though this could be a good idea. Look what Blackwater did to the citizens of Iraq (among other victims). I'm sure some would say that Blackwater was a quasi millitary outfit but really there is a slim line between private millitary and private police. Residents of the UK it's time to rise up and take your country back. Residents of the USA, don't think that couldn't happen here just because we own more guns.
      • But it would be totally different in a western country. They would be liable for any damage they caused. You could report them to the local poli..... oh, well,... you could still report them to themselves! I'm sure they'd give a very stern talking to themselves, then make themselves promise to NEVER do it again. Then charge the taxpayers a few million for the service.

    • Re:Fascism (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Canazza (1428553) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:38PM (#39233529)

      I'm so glad Scotland controls it's own Law budget.
      One more reason to vote for independence though.

      • I expect if Scotland does vote for independence, there will be quite a lot of English people moving there.

      • by Pax681 (1002592)

        I'm so glad Scotland controls it's own Law budget. One more reason to vote for independence though.

        aye our own legal system and also from speaking to a local SNP MSP, Marco Biagi, about this i gather it's NEVER going to come to Scotland.>br> G4s or group 4 security will only ever get to be "turn keys"(ie the guys in charge of police cells) and also prisoner transport.
        And yes.. all power to the independence movement and can't wait till 2014 to vote for it!

    • Re:Fascism (Score:5, Insightful)

      by catchblue22 (1004569) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @06:18PM (#39234237) Homepage

      And so Britain sinks further into Fascism.

      Take an honest look at what has happened in the US/UK since the early 1980's. We have seen a steady erosion of democratic state involvement in the economy, and a massive migration of money away from the control of the state and into the hands of a few very well monied private interests. When those monied interests successfully cause your taxes to be lowered, what has really happened is that the money that you would have paid in taxes now remains in private hands. In effect, instead of you paying taxes to build roads, you pay your money to the private interests in exchange for some other service. In other words, your lower tax rates result in an increase in wealth and power for the organizations that sell you goods.

      Also, the educational system has been fundamentally altered in the past few decades. University degrees in fields that are concerned with the general public interest have largely disappeared, replaced by degrees that are glorified exercises in job training. The broad liberal arts education that was the foundation of the development of our democratic institutions has been made an expensive and disappearing luxury. Education that causes a person to question, to think, to understand our history and culture doesn't exist in a meaningful way in our civilization any more. If you want political power today, you seek your training in administration, in business methods, instead of in philosophy, history and other humanities. Money is the lingua franca, the ultimate justification for all activities. Education itself is now treated as an economic good, something to improve the GDP instead of a good in and of itself. Greed and selfishness, once generally thought of as negative characteristics are now glorified in our money based brave new world.

      Do not rebut my arguments by stating for example that "arts students don't get jobs", or that "you cannot afford to spend money on a degree that doesn't pay". I am fully aware of this reality. I ask you to step back outside these statements, to look at the changes of the last 30 years in terms of the health of our civilization, morally and ethically. Is the wide stratification of wealth that has developed recently a good thing for society? Must it be this way? And are the above mentioned developments a symptom of a gradual slide into what might be recognized as fascism?

      • Re:Fascism (Score:4, Insightful)

        by AmiMoJo (196126) <mojo@world3AAA.net minus threevowels> on Sunday March 04, 2012 @05:06AM (#39237407) Homepage

        We have seen a steady erosion of democratic state involvement in the economy, and a massive migration of money away from the control of the state and into the hands of a few very well monied private interests.

        While I agree that is what has happened I think you are perhaps reading a bit too much into the reasoning. The basic Conservative philosophy is that any service provided by the government is a lost business opportunity. Someone could be making money out of society's need for road maintenance, healthcare or policing. Since the Tory party is funded by wealthy people who want to provide these services for a profit they naturally serve them by privatising them and then claiming to have got the tax burden down, which is false economy for most people since they just pay (more) for the services directly.

        University degrees in fields that are concerned with the general public interest have largely disappeared, replaced by degrees that are glorified exercises in job training.

        Those courses have not gone away, and if anything are a bit more popular now. What has changed is that instead of I ask you to step back outside these statements, to look at the changes of the last 30 years in terms of the health of our civilization, morally and ethically.

        We have improved a huge amount in that time, I can't imagine why you think otherwise. Racism has become unacceptable, the influence of the Church has declined, our ethics have continued to evolve to the point where we can offer proper sexual health care to young women... In fact there were statistics out only last week showing that teenage pregnancy was at the lowest level since the 60s. There is no moral decline.

  • by icebike (68054) * on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:49PM (#39233195)

    The story lists the tasks that might be taken over by private companies:

    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

    That seems like pretty much the entire job description short of actual Arrest. (The Detaining Suspects bit may mean running the jail, or arrest, its unclear).

    The good side of this is you might have more luck suing a corporation than the constabulary. (No clue about UK law here, just a guess). And when the public becomes unsatisfied its much easier for city government to cancel the contract and find a new firm. The new guys will probably be on their best behavior for a few months at least.

    Its not unheard of to find private police forces employed by some jurisdictions in the US. And its not unheard of the have entire companies fired. An incident in a Seattle transit hub [securitymanagement.com] eventually lead to fines and term termination of their contract.

    • The actors in the story you linked to weren't really a 'private police force'. The various flavors of security guards and rentacops lack police powers(I think they might have certain extra capabilities in some states, and the more serious ones have a certain amount of de-facto presence) and crop up in places that either can't get real cops(ie. the notorious 'mall cop' of legend) or that are trying to save money(as in the linked story, where Seattle would appear to have been trying to save money by using ren
      • by icebike (68054) *

        The actors in the story you linked to weren't really a 'private police force'.

        True, but the point was that it was fairly easy to get them ousted. One egregious incident was all it took.
        Had they been city employees or actual police, there would be nothing that could be done. You'd be stuck with them.
        This may be an offsetting factor to consider when evaluating the idea of private sector police contracts. The citizens (and other government agencies) may actually have more control over a private contractor than they do over their own police force.

        In fact, the Sheriff stepped in right

    • by Joe_Dragon (2206452) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:13PM (#39233373)

      makes it easier to F*up the chain of evidence or brake the law in investigating the courts may throughout evidence or the full case.

      Now what if on of there rent a cops in the act of detaining and interviewing suspects keeps them from attorney under the thinking that we are not real cops and so you don't have the right to one.

      Or

      a very guilty rapist is set free as this private companies did not comply with the Rules of evidence. Lets say they dumped parts of forensics on a contractor and they used a subcontractor who did not have the right certifications.

      This a is a very bad place to be playing the blame the contractors game.

  • by Gordonjcp (186804) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:54PM (#39233237) Homepage

    As usual, Soulskill has posted yet another article pushing nonsense gleaned from a quick look at a headline.

    "The UK" is not getting a private police force. Two small police forces in England are planning on contracting out patrolling some areas like city centre shopping districts to private firms.

    As it turns out, it's not actually legally possible for them to do this, so it's unlikely to happen any time soon.

    • by geckipede (1261408) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:02PM (#39233295)
      I live in the West Midlands of England. We already have private security firms contracted to patrol low crime areas, and that has been in place for a few years now. The plans being discussed in the article are a significant expansion of that, adding yet more police duties to those companies.

      I do support the use of private security guards to wander around in places where all that is needed is a biped capable of moving while wearing a uniform. There are many places that don't need police patrols. However, I am very much opposed to going any further than that into real police activities. Investigating crimes is something that only real trained and authorised police officers should be doing. These proposals do include that.
      • I do support the use of private security guards to wander around in places where all that is needed is a biped capable of moving while wearing a uniform. There are many places that don't need police patrols. However, I am very much opposed to going any further than that into real police activities. Investigating crimes is something that only real trained and authorised police officers should be doing. These proposals do include that.

        What are they allowed to do? Can they step in and have rights of cops? Are they allowed to touch you if you don't touch them? Can they be videotaped?
        Or do they just basically have citizens rights, and that's enough for their work?

        • by skywire (469351)

          Are you saying that where you live, police are immune from the laws against assault, and that while in public, where they have no expectation of privacy, they cannot be photographed (which is to say, one cannot capture an image in a public place if police will be visible in it)? If so, then your country not merely in practise, but formally, is a police state.

          • ?????
            No I am not saying that. In fact I was wondering if those private security guards are harder to hold accountable as public servants than cops.

    • "The UK" is not getting a private police force. Two small police forces in England are planning on contracting out patrolling some areas like city centre shopping districts to private firms.

      And also other police duties such as investigation of crime. In what way is this NOT privatisation of the police? This is exactly the way that privatisation that are contrary to the will of the people are done. Piecemeal.

      As it turns out, it's not actually legally possible for them to do this, so it's unlikely to happen any time soon.

      Anything is legal if the government pass a law to make it legal. Unlike the USA, Britain doesn't have a written constitution to limit what legislators may do.

      • by M1FCJ (586251)

        And not only that, the main bidder will be G4S, which has already killed an innocent man unlawfully and so far managed to get away with it with all parties being released under bail. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/jimmy-mubenga). Worse, his death has not changed any policies and more killings are bound to happen.

        And the Tories want to give more power to these clowns.

    • by davidoff404 (764733) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @05:38PM (#39233957)

      "Two small police forces in England are planning on contracting out patrolling some areas like city centre shopping districts to private firms."

      Unfortunately, none of this is accurate. Firstly, Surrey and, in particular, West Midlands Police could in no way be described as "small" forces. Secondly, they're inviting bids on behalf of police forces across England and Wales (see here [guardian.co.uk]).

      This is, in effect, an attempt at an almost total privatization of most of the core responsibilities and services provided by our police forces. Although it's not likely in any way to actually happen now that police chiefs appear to be coming out against it, it's still hugely worrying for two reasons: 1) it shows that there are people in government who are crazy enough actually to back this kind of idea, and 2) it's a harbinger of the kind of privatization that will occur in the police, the prison service, and the justice system more generally over the remainder of this parliament.

      It's all terribly, terribly depressing even to me, a quite loyal Conservative voter.

  • by medcalf (68293) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:56PM (#39233247) Homepage
    Almost all law enforcement was private. Outside of a small number of elected officials and their deputies, Law was generally enforced (in the Anglosphere anyway) by citizens. Organized government controlled police forces are a relatively recent phenomenon.
    • by TFAFalcon (1839122) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:04PM (#39233321)

      Well in some ways it might be good to return to that kind of an arrangement for a few days each year. Just long enough to lynch the outgoing politicians on the day after elections. Now that would be a pretty good motivator to stop pissing voters off.

    • by BasilBrush (643681) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:15PM (#39233385)

      Witch hunts were also common back then. Real ones, where they'd take women who'd committed no crime and burn them at the stake.

      • Re: (Score:3, Funny)

        by Anonymous Coward

        Witch hunts were also common back then. Real ones, where they'd take women who'd committed no crime and burn them at the stake.

        No crime except witchcraft.

    • by rrohbeck (944847)

      I see several trends of going backwards in the world. That makes sense given that the energy supply cannot sustain societal complexity any more. Can't cross the Atlantic at supersonic speed, can't go to the moon any more... I think we've already seen Peak Civilization.

      • by metacell (523607)

        It's not that we can't, it's that we don't want to. The practical use of going to the moon was very small. It only happened because the USA needed to make a show of force towards the USSR.

        Consider all the other things we do today which were inconceivable in the era of the moon landings, such as information technology, which have a much greater impact on people's lives. We've also made substantial progress towards eliminating disease and hunger across the globe.

        • by rrohbeck (944847)

          More precisely, we can't afford to. Of course we could but the cost would be more than society can bear.

  • Sad (Score:5, Informative)

    by MightyMartian (840721) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @03:58PM (#39233269) Journal

    The Metropolitan Police Force was one of Sir Robert Peel's (an actual real Tory, and not just the fake post-Thatcher kind) greatest achievements, and a model for police forces the world over. It was precisely because of fragmentation that Peel went this route, producing a stunningly effective law enforcement agency.

    • by bmsleight (710084)

      Yep - it sad when the Tory party can even do Tory-stuff. Their are something where is it more efficient to do a group purchasing (i.e. The Government), then the waste of Tendering.

      As a left-winger is sad. I always apply the Thatcher test - was it even crazy enough for her to do ?
      Privatising the Post office - Nope
      Privatising the Police - Nope
      Privatising the NHS - Nope

    • by DaveGod (703167)

      Discworld readers, yes it is Peel that Night Watch pays a heavy homage to.

  • by mjwalshe (1680392) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:02PM (#39233291)
    From whats coming out of the Leveson Inquiry I think Murdoch thought he already brought the MET :-(
  • by Tommy Bologna (2431404) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:06PM (#39233327)
    This must be a rerun ... http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=k6CkltzGAxY [youtube.com]
  • by Tumbleweed (3706) *

    Occupy Corporate Police!

  • by houghi (78078) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:09PM (#39233357)

    Instead of catching small time thieves, they could go after the bankers.

    One can dream

    • by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:42PM (#39233559) Journal

      Instead of catching small time thieves, they could go after the bankers.

      One can dream

      Odds are that they'd be a direct subsidiary of the same shadowy holding company that the finance company you'd want investigated is. And I'm sure that their commitment to the enforcement of the law would trump concern for shareholder value.

    • by Nidi62 (1525137)

      Instead of catching small time thieves, they could go after the bankers.

      One can dream

      Who do you think would own the private police forces?

  • 'Snow Crash' Choose whixh private jail you want to stay at, the Hoosegow or the Clink.
    • by jamstar7 (694492)
      The Hoosegow, any day. They had better food.

      I could go for some Roundup Chili right about now...
  • by PolygamousRanchKid (1290638) on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:34PM (#39233515)

    . . . and into private police uniforms where they belong!

    Bobby Helmets, the new look for Hoodies, Next Generation.

    Dim: Well. Well, well. Well, well, well, well, if it isn't little Alex. Long time no viddy, droog. How goes?
    Alex: It's... it's impossible. I don't believe it.
    Georgie: Evidence of the old glazzies. Nothing up their sleeves. No magic, little Alex. A job for two, who are now of job age. The police.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:35PM (#39233519)

    Just like every other privatization plan -- the goal is to offload the pension and health care. It won't save any money now, but it limits liability in the future. Often plans like this cost more in the present. If there were sane pension plans offered in the private sector then they couldn't do this -- but the private sector doesn't reward employees for faithful service beyond giving them two kicks in the hind quarters when they get to old (expensive) and are sacked. When private sector workers feel like fodder for businesses it's natural for them to think public sector should be too. Long ago, public sector jobs used to pay less than private sector but the benefits were better --- then somewhere when the public sector had to pick up a significant IT presence they wanted to get talent and had to pay for it. Because IT folks typically work on a short time horizon and retirement benefits didn't matter (moreover, they were sure they could do better than the market, better than the housing market etc because they are arrogant and just smart enough to be stupid) -- so public sector had to compete on salary and now they have to cut the long term benefits to fund the shift. Workers want money now at the expense of benefits later -- privatization is an easier way to that compensation configuration than changing contracts etc.
     

  • Horrors of privatizing government services that citizens have a right to. Next they'll probably think medicine should be privatized; but we all know that could never work.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Saturday March 03, 2012 @04:52PM (#39233627)

    Dispatch: Hello, what is the emergency?
    You: Someone is breaking into my house!
    Dispatch: I see. Please hold while I lookup your account.
    You: What? Hurry, I think he's inside!
    Dispatch: Okay, it looks like you have our Basic State protection. We can dispatch an officer within 20 minutes. If you upgrade now to our RapidResponse plan for only 10.99 a month for the first year, we can dispatch an officer immediately.
    You: Yeah, whatever, just send them now!
    Dispatch: I'll be glad to ma'am. May I please have your credit card number?
    You: No, it's in the room with the robber.
    Dispatch: I understand. I'll go ahead and send out our standard officer. You should expect one within 25 to 30 minutes. You can call back at anytime to upgrade to our RapidResponse plan. Don't forget to ask about our low crime rate discount.
    You: He's got a gun!
    Dispatch: Have a good day, ma'am!

  • Brits that love to berate your colonial brothers for our loss of rights will continue to be even less endowed. Your CCTV system is much more extensive than ours already, yet you continually say otherwise.
  • Ever since the Tories came into power, they've become almost a hysterical tabloid (albeit a left wing one). Everything is The Tories fault, you'd better check under your childrens bed before you tuck them in, Thatcher could be lying there in waiting (she took their milk, now she's come for their souls!!!).

    Hugely out of context quotes, calls for people to resign on a daily basis (usually for petty issues), an insane amount of spin on almost every domestic political article. They've become a parody of them
    • by jamstar7 (694492)

      Hugely out of context quotes, calls for people to resign on a daily basis (usually for petty issues), an insane amount of spin on almost every domestic political article. They've become a parody of themselves.

      Sounds like the Neocons in their relentless pursuit of Obama. Hardly a day goes by without some Neocon nutjob or wannabe claiming El Presidente's birth certificate is forged, no matter how much proof you show them. Hell, they wanted to open impeachment hearings on him the minute the polls closed the

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