The emergence, growth and implications of private policing in Victoria

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Abstract

The growth of private policing has been the subject of numerous commentaries that perpetuate the rhetoric of Shearing & Stenning (1980) in announcing a quiet revolution. The figures that formed the basis of these original commentaries were largely based in the US and appeared to generalise readily into the Australian experience. Australian authors have used official statistics to support the notion that change of a similar scale is occurring in Australia.The research associated with this work examined the growth of private policing at the international and national levels and then used interviews to examine the Victorian experience in greater detail. The results call into question the assumptions of the past and bring to light inadequacies in research that has equated a licensed private security guard to a public police person. Simply put, it is a case of comparing apples with oranges. This is because the conditions of employment between the sectors are so different. Employees in private security often work on a part- time or short-term basis at special events such as the Sydney Olympics, the Grand Prix and football matches. This means that there are far more licence holders than would be working on any given day. In addition to this there is a very high level of attrition in the industry whereas licences are active for several years. Compounding this false impression of growth are national training incentives that encourage employers to put people through training courses, and consequently become licensed, without necessarily providing any long-term employment.While financial turnover in the industry has increased dramatically this is largely attributed to growth in very specific IT related fields. These include alarms, CCTV and access control rather than the personnel services areas that could more readily be said to encroach on public policing.Having articulated the debate in this way, the present emergence of private policing is examined along various themes identified from the literature and throughout the research. The relationships between public and private police are viewed against a long-standing theoretical framework reinforcing the view expressed by Sarre and Prenzler (2000) that no single theory is adequate to describe this complex and diverse phenomenon. The insight of the practitioners and industry leaders that formed the basis of this research enabled the development of a rich, Victoria specific, picture that will inform and shape future research.It is evident that there are a number of factors combining to encourage greater interaction and cooperation between public and private policing. Police forces are increasingly being held to account for public safety outcomes and Victoria is no exception in this regard. Multi-agency and community partnership responses to local crime problems are becoming more common and the natural consequence has been the engagement of the private sector in a range of public and semi-public safety roles. This research supports the contention that this path will be fraught with challenges particularly relating to public accountability and issues of demarcation. Sarre and Prenzler (2000) have developed an 'ideal' future model for interaction and the 'Regulated Intersection Model' is presented as the logical basis for the progression of a cooperative public safety agenda with least risk to public interest.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationGermany
PublisherLambert Academic Publishing
Number of pages83
Edition1st
ISBN (Print)9783847328254
Publication statusPublished - 2011

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