As both crime and the fear of crime have increased in Australia, citizens
have become more concerned about their personal welfare and the protection
of their properties. In response, the private policing industry is growing
and changing in form and service capabilities. Fundamental to these
changes is a change to the model or paradigm for police services. Policing
is no longer perceived as solely a government responsibility but as
also a private endeavor. People are more willing to take responsibility
for their own security and more able to initiate their own policing
services. The ‘theme” of policing has changed towards increased private
initiative and society is witnessing an exercise in private or personal
Social behavior and expectations are also changing. Even governments
and government authorities running large public events and shows have
taken to hiring private security firms to police such events. It is
not only a matter of cost efficiency that produces such contractual
arrangements but it is also a matter of the nature of the actual services
private security companies provide. Specialised organisation and management
services, as well as cost effectiveness, now differentiate public from
private policing services and the public seem content to accept this
relatively new style of policing.
It has been the purpose of this paper to argue that the private policing
industry must be properly regulated to ensure social accountability
and proficiency of service in the midst of rapid and fundamental change
both within society and the industry itself. The industry cannot be
left to its own devices and free-floating market pressures to produce
adequate duty of care and social accountability. Society cannot afford
to have a duel police system - one where private police protect the
property of the rich and a demoralised and poorly funded public police
service contain growing social unrest among the poor.
Current laws do not significantly identify the private policing industry
for special attention or define and delineate the powers and restraints
of agents and companies other than for licensing and training. The nature
of justice, like policing itself, is changing as the community and business
sector search for new ways of protecting themselves. It is important
that our legal statutes and regulatory policies are improved to accommodate
these social needs. The laws which govern private policing powers and
authority need to be extracted from the legislation that presently conceals
them and new legislation created that defines their powers in the context
of responsibility to a regulatory body or standing commission.
As a first priority, all states need to institute regulatory safeguards
in the form of licensing procedures and training requirements. In this
context, industry representatives, academics and government bodies need
to create the dialogue and environment for improving the industry standards
and producing adequate means of accountability. At present, such a dialogue
is only just beginning in Australia and much more needs to be done.
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