Private security groups move into frontline policing

Last week I wrote about The Mall in Norwich, which had given its security guards police powers to fine and detain trouble-makers despite the guards having only minimal training.

FivePolicemen Now, the Financial Times is reporting that G4S - a FTSE 100 security group - has begun to supply full teams of investigators on complex criminal cases.

As they report:

John Shaw, who recently took charge of the G4S policing business, said: “We have a team of 30 of our guys in one force on a major investigation right now, practically doing all of the roles except that of the senior investigating officer.”

Mr Shaw conceded the push by the private sector into areas once deemed off-limits would be resisted by some officers and needed to be done in collaboration with forces. But he argued the squeeze on law enforcement budgets meant all police roles were “up for grabs” except those requiring powers of arrest.

This is a genuinely worrying development. The police are not perfect, but they are accountable and bodies such as the IPCC and interventions from the Home Office are generally enough to make sure that when it comes to bad policing, the culprits are identified, punished and the victims compensated.

Private security firms would not have these same checks and balances. We cannot FOI them; we cannot hold them to account for having been trained or employed at the taxpayers' expense; and it is only a matter of time before a private security officer does something wrong and is quietly released out the back door.

It doesn't matter how 'squeezed' budgets are – police powers should only be held by the police.

By Dylan Sharpe