Comparison Between Public and Private Policing

Police are individuals or agencies that are specially trained and empowered to ensure that law and order are maintained in the society (Barr, 2004). They help in effecting public and social order through use of various specialized means including legitimate use of force. They are protected and guided by given rules and regulations that are well defined by their code of conduct. Police fall under different categories specialized in different areas. They exercise their powers within defined legal frameworks or territorial areas of responsibility. The members of police force include police officers, sheriffs, constables, troopers, rangers and others.

            In several countries and states, there are various police and other organizations that offer security services. Many are public police whereas there are also private police. They both have varied and related roles and responsibilities to play in the society.

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            Private policing refers to the policing activity of crime prevention, detection and apprehension carried out by private organizations or agents for commercial purposes (Barr, 2004). These may include those individuals working for security firms or even those employed by individuals or firms to offer security related services like, control of crowds and carrying out private investigations. Private police are more like public police because they share core objectives. Despite the differences, they tend to be alike functionally (Barr, 2004).

            To understand the roles and responsibilities of private policing one first needs to have a close look at the general roles and responsibilities of public police. Regardless of their differences, key roles and responsibilities of private police are determined and shaped by the roles of public policing.

            In many countries there is a distinction between uniformed police and detectives. Generally public police function according to their categories. There are various categories of police with varied roles and responsibilities. These include carrying out criminal investigations, protecting life and property, enforcing law and order, controlling traffic in various places, Controlling and directing crowds during functions and other public safety roles (Barr, 2004). Mostly those who carry out these roles wear distinctive uniforms and can be easily identified from civilians.

            Traffic police are trained to control traffic. They are usually found along major roads, and highways directing vehicles from various routes to ease traffic. They help in promoting law and order among motorists. They bring sanity to the road users who tend to defy traffic laws and order. They stop and question motorists who over speed and those who misuse their driving freedom to enable all road users reach their destinations safely (Barr, 2003). They help to minimize the rate of accidents on roads by ensuring that safety standards and measures are well taken care of.

            Patrol police usually move around to ensure that nobody breaks the law. They help to protect both public and private property. They offer services to the citizens ensuring that law and order is functional. They arrest and detain law breakers who are later taken to police stations for questioning. Patrol police carry out multiple functions. They are always available at scenes of crime to try guarding and protecting human life.

            In addition they are usually quick to respond to crimes especially when they are in progress. Patrol police perform bulk of social duties expected of them as law enforcers. They implement security measures where conditions are volatile, protecting not only human life but also individual and organizational assets (Barr, 2002). In most urban areas police agencies and officers are involved in community policing. They help to mobilize the public to help in fighting crime and burglary.

            Some public police undergo specialized training to offer services in chemical analysis, firearm instruction and even fingerprint and handwriting identification which helps in the process of identifying criminal suspects. Others are specialized to work using horsebacks, motorcycles, special weapons and tactics (SWAT) and many more to enforce law and order (Barr, 2004).

            Police detectives are not uniformed. This is because of the roles they perform. Mostly, they work best when they avoid identification. Sometimes they work undercover as they set out to investigate various crimes especially organized crimes or those that involve narcotics (Barr, 2004).   They work to solve out complex and well organized crimes. They work under tight security measures. These are plain cloth investigators who conduct close interviews, examine records, monitor the activities of suspects and participate in raids and arrests (Barr, 2004).

            Generally public police have different roles as stated by their countries or states. They are trained and employed by their governments according to their areas of specialization. Some work under more complex situations than others. However they are all aimed at giving services to the society and making sure that there are necessary conditions of normalcy worth human survival and development.

            These responsibilities form a basis for the functioning of private policing. In most countries like US, public and private institutions cooperate and often share modes of operation. (Barr, 2003).  .Private policing therefore is the involvement of the private sector in helping the state to maintain public law and order.

            Just like public policing, private policing aims at enforcing law and order in the society and protecting lives and properties of people. The security concerns that people have make them instill crime prevention measures. These measures include seeking the services of private policing firms. Private policing is also well structured and individuals are also trained by various firms on how to perform specific security tasks. They assist in crowd control especially in places where there are functions. Sometimes they are also able to carry out private investigations (Barr, 2004).

            Private police also assist in providing services that are also offered by public police. They offer security services in schools, religious gatherings, sports meetings and any community activity. Private policing therefore is professional industry just like public policing. The private security services are usually licensed by the government. They are mostly required to supplement public police in maintaining order and carrying out investigations (Howarth, 2004).

            Although on a very general level public and private policing aim at achieving the same objectives, the two groups differ at some point in structure, policy and organization. The public police are formally organized by the government to detect arrest and even punish lawlessness. They are also organized to offer humanitarian and peace-keeping services (Barr, 2004). This contrasts private policing which is formally organized to maintain private order and preventing any form of disruption.

          Private policing face a lot of limitations since their role in enforcing criminal law can only be achieved by informing and mobilizing public police (Barr, 2004). They lack the legal authority to perform any form of legal actions and procedures. In this way they usually depend on the public police to carry out some activities. In this way they just become collaborators to public police.

            Public police are generally hired and trained by the government to protect the public. They are granted special powers like searching suspected individuals, arresting them and even detaining them until investigations are concluded. They are used in the interests of the whole public. However private police are usually hired to serve and protect the interests of their clients and to protect private property (Barr, 2004).  They do not have the powers to arrest or search or even detain any suspect.

            Public police act as agents of a country or state. They are subject to a code of laws and regulations that govern their conduct and define their roles. They are held accountable for any violation of this code. However this is limited in the private policing. Private police are accountable not only to their respective employees but also to government which can revoke their license incase the officers break the law.

            To a large extent, private policing is seen to be passive policing in comparison to active policing. They are also seen as proactive and preventative rather than reactive (Barr, 2004).  This is in comparison to public policing which has the mandate to react to any form of lawlessness immediately using force as stipulated by their code of conduct. Public policing is reactive. Private policing is not allowed to carry out any activity that seems to undermine the role of public police.

            The biggest challenge for private policing is their inability to carry out specialized and sophisticated missions like public police. They are not given specialized training to carry out intensive investigations or crack down well-organized crime (Barr, 2004). Public police undergo intensive training that is worth their profession. Some police have a wide knowledge through training. Private police apart from carrying the normal curbing of lawlessness they cannot perform other sophisticated roles.

            In most cases private policing comes in to try and assist public policing in achieving their goals. Although they have a lot in common, they follow different ways in achieving their objectives. Private policing comes with the need to assist public police in improving the living conditions of people by establishing law and order (Barr, 2004).

            Private policing cannot however perform the role of traffic police. They cannot help in controlling traffic in major highways and roads. This can only be offered by public police who are able to use their skills to man the flow of traffic. However private police can help in instituting and assisting motorists to follow parking regulations especially in shopping malls, airports and hotels. This are places where public police might not venture because mostly they involve private undertakings.

            In practice generally private police should not be seen to exercise authority that is beyond public police (Barr, 2004). They work and follow regulations as defined under the law given by their employers. Therefore they cannot function exactly as public police. They do not have the legal authority to perform all roles ascribed to public police by the law. However, there contribution to the society cannot be downgraded. They are as important as public police.

            The roles and responsibilities of public policing are more extensive and intensive when compared to those of the private police. Although they look alike they do not have equal powers and authority to perform same tasks. Many tasks performed by public police cannot be performed by private police because they (private police) lack necessary training to undertake them. The private police therefore liaise with public police to improve their services to the community in general. The firms that provide private policing should therefore be able to improve their training strategies to enable private police to upgrade and increase their skills to enable them offer more quality services to the public.


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