Skip to main content

Powers and Accountability of Private Police

Abstract

Substantial growth in private policing has been documented in countries throughout the world, and the division of responsibilities for policing between public and private authorities has become increasingly blurred and contested during the last three decades. Because private policing is so frequently assessed on the basis of criteria established with respect to the public police, substantial myths have developed about the powers and accountability of private police; specifically, it is commonly asserted that private police have no significant power(s), and are essentially not accountable, in comparison with the public police. The author argues that such assertions misrepresent the very substantial coercive power of private police as well as the variety of mechanisms through which they may be held accountable, and also commonly exaggerate the effective accountability of the public police. The author concludes that a greater appreciation of the actual power and accountability of private police will provide an improved basis for the development of sound public policy with respect to both private and public policing, and with respect to appropriate relationships between private and public policing organisations.

This is a preview of subscription content, access via your institution.

REFERENCES

  • Addario, S., C. Shearing and P. Stenning, Behind union lines: The setting of evidential boundaries. In: J. Lowman, R. Menzies and T. Palys (Eds), Transcarceration: Essays in the Sociology of Social Control, pp. 153-169. Aldershot: Gower Publishing Co., 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anzic, A. (Ed.), Zasebno varovanje in detektivska dejavnost: dileme in perspektive [Private security and detective activities: Dilemmas and perspectives]. Ljubljana: Visoka Policijsko-varnostna Sola, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anzic, A. (Ed.), Zasebno varovanje in detektivska dejavnost: novi izzivi [Private security and detective activities: New challenges]. Ljubljana: Visoka Policijsko-varnostna Sola, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Anzic, A. (Ed.), Nove moznosti zasebnega varstva v Slovenij [New possibilities for private security in Slovenia]. Ljubljana: Visoka Policijsko-varnostna Sola, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Aydin, A., Private and voluntary policing service in Turkey. Security Journal, 7(2), pp. 129-133, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ayres, I. and J. Braithwaite, Responsive Regulation: Transcending the Deregulation Debate. Oxford/New York: Oxford University Press, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bayley, D. and C. Shearing, The future of policing. Law and Society Review, 30(3), pp. 585-606, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bilek, A., J. Klotter and R. Federal, Legal Aspects of Private Security. Cincinnati, Ohio: Anderson Publishing Co., 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  • Bittner, E., The Functions of the Police in Modern Society. Chevy Chase, Maryland: National Institute of Mental Health, 1970.

    Google Scholar 

  • Blair, I., Where do the police fit into policing? Unpublished speech delivered to ACPO conference. UK, 16 July 1998; copy available from the author.

  • Boon, K., Private policing: Developments and consequences for public police forces. International Criminal Police Review, (443), pp. 24-36, 1993.

  • Braun, M. and D. Lee, Private police forces: Legal powers and limitations. University of Chicago Law Review, 38, pp. 555-582, 1970-1971.

    Google Scholar 

  • Brodeur, J-P., Undercover policing in Canada: Wanting what is wrong. Crime, Law and Social Change, 18(1/2), pp. 105-136, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • Button, M., Beyond the public gaze: The exclusion of private investigators from the British debate over regulating private security. International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 26, pp. 1-16, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Button, M., An unseen force: The powers of private security officers. Unpublished paper presented at the British Criminology Conference, Liverpool, July 1999.

  • Canadian General Standards Board, National Standard of Canada: Security Guards, Uniformed. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1992a.

    Google Scholar 

  • Canadian General Standards Board, National Standard of Canada: Uniformed Security Guard Supervisors. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1992b.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cunningham, W., J. Strauchs and C. Van Meter, The Hallcrest Report II: Private Security Trends, 1970-2000. Stonehan, Massachusetts: Butterworth-Heinemann, 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  • Cunningham, W. and T. Taylor, The Hallcrest Report: Private Security and Police in America. Portland, Oregon: Chancellor Press, 1985.

    Google Scholar 

  • Davis, M., R. Lundman and R. Martinez Jr., Private corporate justice: Store police, shoplifters, and civil recovery. Social Problems, 38(3), pp. 395-411, 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Waard, J., Private security in Europe. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 1(1), pp. 108-112, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Waard, J., The private security industry in the Netherlands: Developments and future perspectives. Security Journal, 7(3), pp. 227-234, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • De Waard, J., The private security industry in international perspective. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 7(2), pp. 143-174, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Draper, H., Private Police. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books Ltd., 1978.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ericson, R., Making Crime: A Study of Detective Work. Toronto: Butterworth and Co., 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  • Forst, B. and P. Manning, The Privatization of Policing; Two Views. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Freedman, D. and P. Stenning, Private Security, Police and the Law in Canada. Toronto: Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Garland, D., The limits of the sovereign State: Strategies of crime control in contemporary society. British Journal of Criminology, 36(4), pp. 445-471, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • George, B. and M. Button, 'Too little too late?' An assessment of recent proposals for the private security industry in the United Kingdom. Security Journal, 10(1), pp. 1-7, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Goldsmith, A. (Ed.), Complaints against the Police: The Trend to External Review. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  • Golsby, M. and R. O'Brien, A Co-operative Approach to Crime Prevention: Police and the Security Sectors Working Together. Adelaide: Security Institute of South Australia/South Australia Police, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  • Grabosky, P., Inside the pyramid: Towards a conceptual framework for the analysis of regulatory systems. International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 25(3), pp. 195-201, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • Greene, J., T. Seamon and P. Levy, Merging public and private security for collective benefit: Philadelphia's centre city district. American Journal of Police, 14(2), pp. 3-20, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  • Hoogenboom, B., Grey policing: A theoretical framework. Policing and Society, 2(1), pp. 17-30, 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  • Independent Committee of Inquiry into the Role and Responsibilities of the Police, The Role and Responsibilities of the Police. London: Police Foundation/Policy Studies Institute, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Jeffries, F., Private Policing: An Examination of In-House Operations. Toronto: Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnston, L., The Rebirth of Private Policing. London: Routledge, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnston, L., Policing communities of risk. In: P. Francis, P. Davies and V. Jupp (Eds), Policing Futures: The Police, Law Enforcement and the Twenty-First Century, pp. 186-207. London: MacMillan Press, 1997.

    Google Scholar 

  • Johnston, L., Transnational private policing: The impact of global commercial security. Unpublished paper, 1999.

  • Jones, T. and T. Newburn, Private Security and Public Policing. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kakalik, W. and S. Wildhorn, Private Police in the United States (the Rand Report) 5 vols. Washington, DC: US Department of Justice, National Institute of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice, 1971-1972.

    Google Scholar 

  • Kempa, M., R. Carrier, J. Wood and C. Shearing, Reflections on the evolving concept of 'private policing'. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 7(2), pp. 197-223, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Larson, E., Attention shoppers: Don't look now but you are being tailed. Smithsonian, 23(10), pp. 70-79, 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lea, J., Some structural aspects of police deviance in relations with minority groups. In: C. Shearing (Ed), Organizational Police Deviance: Its Structure and Control, pp. 49-82. Toronto: Butterworths, 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loader, I., Policing the social: Questions of symbolic power. British Journal of Sociology, 48(1), pp. 1-18, 1997a.

    Google Scholar 

  • Loader, I., Private security and the demand for protection in contemporary Britain. Policing and Society, 7(3), pp. 143-162, 1997b.

    Google Scholar 

  • Lustgarten, L., The Governance of Police. London: Sweet and Maxwell, 1986.

    Google Scholar 

  • Marx, G., I'll be watching you: Reflections on the new surveillance. Dissent (Winter), pp. 26-34, 1985.

  • Marx, G., Undercover: Police Surveillance in America. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1988.

    Google Scholar 

  • McClintock, F. and P. Wiles (Eds), The Security Industry in the UK: Papers Presented to the Cropwood Round-Table Conference, July 1971. Cambridge: Institute of Criminology, Cambridge University, 1972.

    Google Scholar 

  • Micucci, A., The changing of the guard: The transformation of private security. Journal of Security Administration, 18(1), pp. 21-45, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  • Mopas, M. and P. Stenning, Tools of the trade: The symbolic power of private security: An exploratory study. Policing and Society, 2000.

  • Nalla, M. and G. Newman, A Primer in Private Security. New York: Harrow and Heston, 1990.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nalla, M. and G. Newman, Public versus private control: A reassessment. Journal of Criminal Justice, 19(6), pp. 537-547, 1991.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nogala, D., Was ist eigentlich so privat an der Privatisierung sozialer Kontrolle? Anmerkungen zu Erscheinungen, Indikatoren, und Politokonomie der zivilen Sicherheitsindustrie. In: F. Sack, M. Voss, D. Freehse, A. Funk and H. Reinke (Eds), Privatisierung staatlicher Kontrolle: Befunde, Konzepte, Tendenzen, pp. 243-260. Baden-Baden: Nomos, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  • Nogala, D., Sicherheit verkaufen: Selbstdarstellung und marktstrategische Positionierung kommerzieller 'Sicherheitsproduzenten'. In: R. Hitzler and H. Peters (Eds), Inszenierung: Innere Sicherheit: Daten und Diskurse, pp. 131-154, Opladen: Leske und Budrich, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ocqueteau, F., Legitimation of the private security sector in France. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research, 1(4), pp. 108-122, 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ogliati, V., Control for hire: Private security agencies in Italy. In: M. Findlay and U. Zvekic (Eds), Alternative Policing Styles: Cross-Cultural Perspectives, pp. 181-202. Deventer/Boston: Kluwer Law and Taxation Publishers, 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  • O'Malley, P. and D. Palmer, Post-Keynesian policing. Economy and Society, 25(2), pp. 137-155, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ontario Royal Commission of Inquiry into the Confidentiality of Health Information. Mr. Justice H. Krever, Commissioner. Report, 3 vols. Toronto: Queen's Printer, 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  • Ontario Task Force on the Law Concerning Trespass to Publicly-Used Property as it Affects Youth and Minorities. Raj Anand, Chair. Report. Toronto: Ministry of the Attorney General of Ontario, 1987.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prenzler, T. and H. Hayes, An evaluation of the Queensland Security Providers Act: Implications for national regulation of the protective security industry. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 32(1), pp. 79-94, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Prenzler, T. and R. Sarre, Regulating private security in Australia. Trends and Issues in Crime and Criminal Justice, (98). Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Private Security, special issue. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 7(2), pp. 139-261, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rees, A. (Ed.), Policing and Private Security. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1983.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reiner, R., The Politics of the Police, 2nd edn. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • Reiss, A., Private Employment of Public Police. Washington, DC: US Government Printing Office, 1988.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rheingold, H., The Virtual Community: Homesteading on the Electronic Frontier. Reading, Massachusetts: Addison-Wesley Publishing Co., 1993.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rigakos, G., The new parapolice: Risk markets and commodified social control. PhD Dissertation, Ontario, York University, Department of Sociology, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rigakos, G. and D. Greener, Bubbles of governance: Private policing and the law in Canada. Canadian Journal of Law and Society, 15(1), 2000.

  • Rose, N., The death of the social? Re-figuring the territory of government. Economy and Society, 25(3), pp. 327-356, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Rose, N. and P. Miller, Political power beyond the State: Problematics of government. British Journal of Sociology, 43(2), pp. 173-205, 1992.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sarre, R., The legal powers of private police and security providers. In: P. Moyle (Ed.), Private Prisons and Police, pp. 259-280. Leichhardt: Pluto Press, 1994.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sarre, R., Accountability and the private sector: Putting accountability of the private security under the spotlight. Security Journal, 10(2), pp. 97-102, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sarre, R. and T. Prenzler, The regulation of private policing: Reviewing mechanisms of accountability. Crime Prevention and Community Safety: An International Journal, 1(3), pp. 17-28, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Scharbach, T., Private law enforcement: Dodging the charter. Appeal, 1, pp. 42-45, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shapland, J. and L. Van Outrive (Eds), Police et securité: control social et interaction public/privé [Policing and security: Social control and the public/private divide]. Paris: Edition L'Harmattan, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearer, D., Private Armies and Military Intervention. New York: Oxford University Press, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearing, C., M. Farnell and P. Stenning, Contract Security in Ontario. Toronto: Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 1980.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearing, C. and P. Stenning, Modern private security: Its growth and implications. In: M. Tonry and N. Morris (Eds), Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research, Vol III, pp. 193-245. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1981.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearing, C. and P. Stenning, Private security and its implications: A North American perspective. In: A. Rees (Ed.), Policing and Private Security, pp. 16-50. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology, 1983a.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearing, C. and P. Stenning, Private Security and Private Justice: The Challenge of the 80's. Montreal: Institute for Research on Public Policy, 1983b.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearing, C. and P. Stenning (Eds), Private Policing. Newbury Park, California: Sage Publications, 1987a.

    Google Scholar 

  • Shearing, C. and P. Stenning, Say 'Cheese': The Disney order that is not so Mickey Mouse. In: C. Shearing and P. Stenning (Eds), Private Policing, pp. 317-323. Newbury, California: Sage Publications, 1987b.

    Google Scholar 

  • Sklansky, D., The private police. UCLA Law Review, 46(4), pp. 1165-1287, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • South, N., Policing For Profit: The Private Security Sector. London: Sage Publications, 1988.

    Google Scholar 

  • Spitzer, S. and A. Scull, Privatization and capitalist development: The case of the private police. Social Problems, 25, pp. 18-29, 1977.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenning, P., Firearms and the Private Security Industry in Canada. Ottawa: Solicitor General Canada, 1979.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenning, P., Trusting the Chief: Legal aspects of the status and political accountability of the police in Canada. S.J.D. Thesis, Faculty of Law, University of Toronto, 1983.

  • Stenning, P., Private police and public police: Toward a redefinition of the police role. In: D. Loree (Ed.), Future Issues in Policing: Symposium Proceedings, pp. 169-192. Ottawa: Minister of Supply and Services Canada, 1989.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenning, P., Reclaiming policing back onto the community and municipal agenda. Currents: Readings in Race Relations, 9(2), pp. 28-31, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenning, P. and M. Cornish, The Legal Regulation and Control of Private Policing in Canada. Toronto: Centre of Criminology, University of Toronto, 1975.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenning, P. and C. Shearing, Search and Seizure Powers of Private Security Personnel. Ottawa: Ministry of Supply and Services Canada, 1979.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stenning, P. and C. Shearing, Corporate justice: Some preliminary thoughts. Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, 17(2), pp. 79-86, 1984.

    Google Scholar 

  • Stinchcombe, A., Institutions of privacy in determination of police administrative practice. American Journal of Sociology, 69, pp. 150-160, 1963.

    Google Scholar 

  • United Kingdom, Home Office, Review of Police Core and Ancillary Tasks. London: HMSO, 1995.

    Google Scholar 

  • United Kingdom, House of Commons Home Affairs Committee First Report, Session, 1994-95, The Private Security Industry, 2 vols. London: HMSO, 1996.

    Google Scholar 

  • Van Outrive, L., Des tâches policières privatisées a une police grise: quatre recherches Belges en la matière. Criminologie, 31(2), pp. 7-30, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

  • Weiser, B., City Hall to Pay Hells Angels in settlement. New York Times, p. A12, 3 April 1999.

  • Yoshida, N., The taming of the Japanese private security industry. Policing and Society, 9(3), pp. 241-261, 1999.

    Google Scholar 

  • Zarate, J., The emergence of a new dog of war: Private international security companies, international law and the new world disorder. Stanford Journal of International Law, 34, pp. 75-162, 1998.

    Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations

Authors

Rights and permissions

Reprints and Permissions

About this article

Cite this article

Stenning, P.C. Powers and Accountability of Private Police. European Journal on Criminal Policy and Research 8, 325–352 (2000). https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008729129953

Download citation

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: https://doi.org/10.1023/A:1008729129953

  • accountability
  • police powers
  • private policing
  • public/private police relationships