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Private vs. Public Policing: Innovation and Creativity in Local Law Enforcement

Summary and Keywords

Private and public policing agencies share a rich history. Each was set up, designed, and organized to address specific problems, whether street crime or corporate security. Each organization type has its strengths and weaknesses depending on its environment and the types of duties assigned. However, it is only in the early 21st century that city government actors have begun to look at private police agencies as a way to supplement traditional policing services at a lower cost. The extant literature is replete with articles detailing the scope, nature, and legal authority of private police agencies, but little real-world experimentation has been done where private police agencies have been used to supplement police services in diverse high-crime neighborhoods. This article examines the history of both public and private police agencies and then details the results of an experiment in Orange County, Florida, where the sheriff contracted with one of the world’s largest private police agencies to patrol and provide additional police services to two communities in need. The results can be generalized to communities that are most in need of police services.

Keywords: policing, private policing, police mission, criminal justice history

Law enforcement has been a staple of local government since the Norman Conquest. During early times, the elders or local sovereigns of a community appointed or elected a representative of the community to enforce local laws and customs and hold violators for justice until a court could adjudicate them. The names of the heads of local law enforcement agencies have varied across time, but their mission has remained constant: to protect the citizens of the community from those who break the law or violate the manners and customs of society.

Private policing too has a long and rich history. Whether the actors and agents that made up private policing were labeled as such has been historically open for debate, but there have always been individuals willing to pitch in and help sheriffs, constables, and other local law enforcement agencies enforce the law for a fee. However, it wasn’t until the mid-1850s in American history that private investigative organizations were established for the manifest purpose of supplementing law enforcement and their investigative efforts. These agencies were the preferred method of securing and protecting goods, since public law enforcement agencies were viewed as corrupt, ineffective, and unreliable (Benson, 1998).

In contemporary society, public opinion has changed. Currently most citizens now view public police officers and agencies as the true professionals. They view local deputy sheriffs and law enforcement officers as paraprofessionals who have been educated and trained in the latest crime fighting and preventing techniques. They see local, state, and federal law enforcement officers as the only ones they can rely on to remedy the problems that they face in times of need. What is interesting is that this is true for the general citizenry but not necessarily for large businesses and corporations. Many of the world’s largest corporations around the globe have contracts with private security agencies not only to provide security on their premises but because they need a force that can understand the complex work environment they compete in. Private security agencies often hire experts in cybersecurity and other areas that public policing organizations do not have the workforce or staff or maintain.

This article will look briefly at the history of private and public police agencies. It will look at the missions of each and how these two types of organizations can work in unison across a variety of jurisdictions and environments—including providing increased police presence in high-crime areas, assisting local law enforcement in reducing the overall fear of crime. Examples will be drawn from a recent pilot project in Orange County, Florida (Orlando), where a local sheriff’s office contracted out one of the largest private security agencies in the world to provide additional police presence.

Brief History of Policing

The origins of modern police organizations date back to antiquity. Almost every civilization has had some form of state-run or organized police force. In some cultures, the police were closely aligned with the military. These types of organizations likely evolved where there were high degrees of political and environmental uncertainty. In other cultures, where the political class was much more stable, local control of police agencies was more likely to emerge.

Tracing the history of policing and organizations across time is a treatise itself, and there is not enough time or space in this article to provide adequate coverage, so it will concentrate on the evolution of modern-day policing and its mission in the United States.

Public Policing

The earliest English settlers brought America the system of policing that they were most familiar with, the watch system. The watch system was a system and style of policing where able-bodied male members of the community would donate their time, mostly overnight, to assist the local sovereigns in keeping their cities and town safe (Johnson, 1981). While every man was technically obliged to serve in the watch, those who were financially well off typically paid others to serve in their place.

Then as cities grew and, in most cases, crime became more of a violent and lucrative enterprise, the volunteer system espoused by the watch system gradually became less efficient. In 1749, Philadelphia passed legislation creating the position of a paid administrative officer, called a warden, whose job it was to organize and hire those willing to serve on the night watch. Following the success of the Philadelphia model, other cities soon followed, and policing in American towns became the responsibilities of these wardens aided by their paid watchmen (Miller, 2000). However, these officials were not free of political interference. There were numerous reports, many of them well founded, where criminals and those of the political gentry would pay the wardens to look the other way.

Early English Reformers

At this time, there was considerable concern about the future and mission of policing in large towns and cities. As cities grew larger, the watch and ward system simply was not able to handle the magnitude of problems. In England, famous police reformers such as Patrick Colquhoun and Robert Peel began to write and later implement reforms to the watch and ward system to professionalize the police and make them “free” of political interference (Barlow, 2000). Many of these ideas were picked up by American reformers, and slowly police reform began to permeate the shores of the United States.

The Reform Era

However, it wasn’t until early 1900s that police reform in America was taken seriously. It began with the writings of August Vollmer, who was police chief in Berkeley, California, from 1905 until 1932. Vollmer believed that the police needed to reform their image and become the professionals he thought them to be. He began by centralizing police administrative units, improving the quality of officers and increasing their educational requirements (Cox, Marchionna, & Fitch, 2017). Further, he, like leaders of federal law enforcement, began emphasizing both the crime fighting and service role of policing in addition to the traditional law enforcement role. Through intense marketing and use of the media, classic police reformers such as Vollmer and his protégé O. W. Wilson, and at the federal level J. Edgar Hoover, were able to remake the image of contemporary police to that of professional crime fighters (Langworthy & Travis, 1999).

Public Policing in the Modern Era

Despite the attention to their crime-fighting roles, the separation of politics from police organizations, and promises to improve the quality of life for everyday citizens, problems in cities got worse. Crime continued to increase, scandals continued to be episodic, poverty and racism were ever-present, and more recently the internet has exploded, allowing more complicated types of criminality; the influx of money from the drug trade left police questioning what effect they could have on the ills that plagued the country. Many policymakers and academics alike called for more community involvement in policing, while others looked elsewhere for solutions.

Private Policing

Just what constitutes private policing is a difficult question. There are private police organizations, private security officers, organizations that provide security service at bars and taverns, as well as off-duty law enforcement that supplement police presence. The focus of this discussion will be on those that provide police services to a larger organization or entity. Thus, just as the mission as the mission and substance of public policing evolved over the course of centuries, so do those of private police agencies. However, not as much is known or written on the history of these organizations. Early private police entities were often former members of the military who became paid mercenaries to protect foreign and political dignitaries. There are hints of semi-private entities in both Greek and Roman times as well as a smattering of others where private units assembled for particular purposes. However, private policing did not garner the attention of historians until the late 18th and 19th centuries. And most of the attention stemmed from the parallel system shared with public policing, the watch and ward system.

As mentioned previously, when the first settlers came to America they merely borrowed the existing form of policing that they were accustomed to. This system involved the use of volunteers to patrol the city gates, streets, and alleys at night. Later, as this assignment became more tenuous (and dangerous), those who could afford to avoid it hired alternates to stand in their place. Soon private agencies developed that would provide paid temps to stand in on the watch. Graft and corruption soon followed, as individuals would be paid or told to look the other way while criminal activity occurred under cover of darkness.

Commerce and the Rise of Private Police Agencies

The face of private policing soon changed as commerce began to flourish and goods and services produced in one region needed to be safely transported to other areas. Many companies shipping valuable cargo hired individuals with prior military experience to accompany their goods and keep them safe. And around the time the transcontinental railroad was built, firms like Wells Fargo and Brink’s were founded to ensure secure transport of money and other valuable commodities.

Rise of Private Policing/Investigative Corporations

With the success of Wells Fargo, Brink’s, and American District Telegraph, other private policing and detective agencies emerged nationwide. These organizations not only protected cargo but provided investigative services in places and towns where public police agencies either didn’t operate or couldn’t be counted on. In fact, William Burns, who at one time headed up the precursor to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the Secret Service, founded his own detective agency, called the Burns International Detective Agency (Fischer, Halibozek, & Green, 2008).

These agencies flourished, as they were believed to be more accomplished investigators and security providers than traditional public police organizations. Their expertise, however, did not come free. While many of those employed by private police agencies were experts in their craft, they were not organized or designed to assume the roles of traditional police services. Instead, many organizations concentrated on selling their services to large companies and those that could afford them.

Over the course of years, private security agencies found it was not in their best interest either politically or economically to venture into public policing. Public policing entailed too many risks, both legally and financially, to be a lucrative market. Instead, they would investigate significant crimes when paid by wealthy benefactors and turn their evidence over to the police when a crime was committed, or they would provide security in private spaces typically owned and maintained by private corporations (Fischer, Halibozek, & Green, 2008).

Private Policing in the Modern Era

Then, beginning in the late 1960s, loss prevention and intellectual property protection became a major issue with corporate America, and private police agencies experienced a resurgence. With billions of dollars being directed into research and development in the military, pharmaceutical, aeronautics, and other high-tech industries, corporate and trade secrets were of paramount importance. To secure plants and the intellectual property rights of corporations, plants needed to be secured. And probably even more important, the digital infrastructure of these organizations had to be locked down, and any leak or digital intrusion investigated. As with other highly skilled tasks, the skills required to provide this type of protection are often beyond those of local law enforcement or outside of the purview of those employed by the local criminal justice system (Nalla, 2009)

Private and Public Police Agencies—Commonalities and Research Questions

Both private and public police organizations developed a fill a particular niche or void. Both have been through periods of rampant growth and professionalization, and can now lay claim to specializing in their task environments. However, few have thought to ask whether these two types of agencies, each with different organizational missions, can work together to solve some of the major problems and issues facing society today.

These questions include:

  1. 1. Are there tasks that private police officers and agencies can do to assist public agencies in their quest to reduce crime, fear, and disorder?

  2. 2. Are there areas where private police agencies can be employed to provide needed community services at a reduced cost to citizens?

  3. 3. Is it possible that these two types of officers and agencies can work together, considering the strong organizational culture of public policing?

  4. 4. How would citizens react to the use of private police officers employed in high-crime areas?

  5. 5. And finally, what role could private police officers have in assisting local government in performing needed and wanted community tasks that law enforcement do not have the time or resources to complete?

Each of these questions is important and may help dictate the future of community law enforcement. The thought is that there are just too many tasks that traditionally belong in the service function of policing that are important to the community. It is these tasks that traditional police officers and agencies often fail to perform because they are too busy responding to calls for service in traditional high-crime areas, which appears to open the door to alternatives to traditional police patrol.

Innovation in Law Enforcement—Public-Private Policing Partnership

To answer these questions and many more, Sheriff Jerry Demings of the Orange County, Florida Sheriff’s Office put together a task force to see how the agency could make better use of their resources and provide better service to the citizens. Traditional ways of making better use of scarce resources in policing include making better use of data, employing analytic techniques to see where calls for service are higher traditionally and require more time and effort and then matching that with patrol staffing. This approach has been used over the last half century with mixed results (Bristow, 1969; Wilson & Weiss, 2014). Traditional measures of this type of approach include reduced time from call to arrival, reduction of overall reported crime, and general citizen surveys to see how satisfied the citizenry is with items like the visibility of the police to their overall concern with the plight of residents.

These measures are all necessary, but they do little to help an agency understand what is going on in communities below the surface. For instance, when a law enforcement vehicle passes through a neighborhood or community, people notice. But if crime continues or is allowed to flourish in neighborhoods even with increased police visibility or presence, how much of an impact has that contact had? Likely very little (Kelling & Wilson, 1982).

If the community policing movement that began in the 1980s has taught any lesson, it is that the police must become one with the community (Stevens, 2001). The police must get out of their cars. They must get to know residents. They must understand neighborhood problems and issues. And they must be viewed as an agency that takes community issues seriously, attempts to fix them, and works with residents to make the town or village a better place to live (Trojanowicz, Kappeler, Gaines, & Bucqueroux, 1998).

The problem with this understanding and conceptualization of effective and locally accountable policing is that these tasks and responsibilities not only take time but consume a tremendous amount of resources that police agencies across the country just don’t have.

While some agencies have dabbled with different variants of community policing, many other agencies have enlisted non-sworn officers in capacities where force may not be required. Supplementing the non-sworn officers are police volunteers (Forst, 2000). However, no agency to date has signed a public-sector contract with a private security agency to perform to perform traditional law enforcement duties in high-crime areas with a majority-minority population.

The Orange County Sheriff’s Office Public-Private Partnership

To this end, the sheriff of Orange County, Florida, tasked his department with finding creative ways to improve the efficiency of operations within his jurisdiction and to provide residents with better-quality service. The sheriff’s goal was to improve the quality of life, increase police presence, and reduce crime in the highest-crime neighborhoods without diverting resources away from other areas. One of the ideas floated was to make more and better use of law enforcement volunteers in these two high-crime areas, but that idea was soon dismissed because volunteers were already in use across the county and at special events. The agency didn’t have additional capacity to spare. So there had to be some way to provide the neighborhoods with additional police presence. The idea was then floated of using a private security agency. It was believed that this would be a viable solution because of the speed and cost with which the officers could be deployed. Addressing time to deployment first, since the agency would provide the cars, uniforms, and training for these additional officers, the time to get the officers on the street could be expedited. The private police agency already had trained officers who could be deployed after minimal extra training. Otherwise, it could take nine months to a year for officers to attend the academy, fulfill their field training requirements, and be placed on regular duty. Under this scenario, the county would also be looking at an increase in fixed cost long after an experimental period. As for time to deployment, since the county already had a contract with one private security agency for physical security at its administration building, getting the county to approve another should not be a herculean task.

Funding the Experiment

Connecting the two agencies was easy. The major issues were cost—namely, who was going to pay for it—and how the experiment would be received by the rank-and-file police officers within the agency. To this end, the sheriff began a discussion with the state attorney general’s office about the possibility of using asset forfeiture dollars to fund this experiment. Since the neighborhoods being targeted for additional police presence were primarily minority areas with high crime, the Sheriff’s Office received permission to use approximately $150,000 to fund these patrols and the evaluation. The officers began to patrol in February of 2016, and the experiment ended on July 2 of the same year.

The Communities

The first neighborhood was one of the oldest residential areas in east Orange County. During the last 20 years, many of its original residents have moved away from the area, and it is now a community inhabited predominately by elderly Caucasian residents or Hispanics. Scheduled interviews with community and their neighborhood association revealed that they residents felt the major problems in their area include those that involve drugs, juveniles, speeding cars, and property neglect.

The second neighborhood lies just south and west of the central business district of Orlando in unincorporated Orange County. This is one of the county’s hottest areas for prostitution and the drug trade. Meetings with resident groups confirmed this. Most wanted something done about drugs being freely traded in the streets and parks as well as “working girls” strolling through their residential areas. Since 1980, U.S. Census data reveals that it has lost two-thirds of its residents and housing stock. While the Census Bureau states that it is approximately 50% Caucasian, the experimental area for this study was predominately African American.

Operational Parameters of the Private Security Patrols

The private security agency utilized for this study patrolled the two communities for 137 days, or 4.6 months. In the first neighborhood (Neighborhood A), the officers patrolled in one-person vehicles from 6:00 a.m. until 10:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. In the second neighborhood (Neighborhood B), the officers patrolled Tuesday through Saturday from 4:00 p.m. until 12:00 midnight. Patrols in each area after the private security shift had ended were strictly the responsibility of the Sheriff’s Office.

The private security company provided armed, uniformed, and licensed private security officers for each area, who were, by the contract developed by the Orange County Sheriff’s Office, to provide a constant presence in the communities while on patrol. Security officers were to report blighted properties, broken streetlights, and suspicious persons/vehicles to the proper authorities. They were to document citizen contacts and notify the Sheriff’s Office of actionable intelligence and any crimes in progress.

Research Methodology

To assess the effectiveness of the private security patrols in these two areas, a three-pronged research methodology was utilized. First, a survey instrument was sent to all residential addresses in these two neighborhoods (5,410 people) about residents’ perceptions of crime, fear, and disorder at the beginning of the evaluation period, and a second survey was sent to respondents from the first wave to ask for additional perceptions.

Second, Sheriff’s Office deputies who work in the area were surveyed about their perceptions of the effectiveness and professionalism of the G4S security officers and the impact in the communities. Third, ride-alongs and interviews were conducted with the private security officers to assess their view of the project, their role, and how they interacted with the community. Finally, official crime statistics were gathered and collected to assess if there was any measurable impact on crime in the study areas.

The Citizen Surveys and Informed Consumers of Policing Services

The response rate from the citizens in the two neighborhoods was not as strong as expected. Of the 5,410 surveys that were sent out, only 269 were returned in the first wave, for a response rate of approximately 5%. This response rate is extremely low for social science research, but may be an indication of individual detachment and neighborhoods in transition. Respondents in each neighborhood were provided with the opportunity to respond in Spanish, but only 11 of the initial 5,410 chose to take that option, and none in the follow-up did.

Approximately 65% of respondents were from Neighborhood A and the other 35% were from Neighborhood B. Further, of those who responded to either survey wave, 80% were Caucasian and approximately 65% were female. What is interesting is that even though the survey did not represent what we believed the population of this area looked like, representatives from both the Sheriff’s Office and the private security agency stated that these were indeed the constituents who were most active in the areas and the most likely to either call the police when they saw something or to stop an officer to complain of criminal or suspicious activity.

With regard to their perceptions of the police, the respondents agreed that the police were good people, cared about the residents, and were trustworthy. Further, about 25% reported that they had a casual contact (wave from car, 24.8%) or conversation (22.5%) with law enforcement or the police in the three months before the initial mailing.

The Follow-Up Survey

In early June of 2016, five months into the project, the research team sent follow-up surveys to those residents who had responded to the initial mailing. To maximize the response rate, three follow-up mailings were distributed, approximately three weeks apart. Of the 269 residents in the first wave, 144 were returned complete. The net result was a response rate of 53.5%. Although this response rate is not as high as would be expected with this type of survey research, this does provide enough comparative surveys to allow for statistical analysis over time.

In the follow-up survey, about half of the respondents reported hearing a gunshot in the past 30 days, and about the same percentage stated that they would move if they could afford to do so. However, something changed. The respondents reported a significant increase in official police presence as well as seeing private security officers patrolling the areas. Further, approximately 30% reported a perceived drop in crime, and 42% stated that they felt safer in their communities after the trial period had begun. And maybe even more important, in a series of questions relating to how they viewed the police, respondents began to see the police through a different lens. They repeatedly noted the police were listening to them and their problems and were working to help solve community problems.

Sheriff’s Office Deputy Perceptions

Just as important for students of organizations and their culture was how the private security officers were perceived by rank-and-file officers within the Sherriff’s Office. The extant research on police culture informs us that officers may be slow to accept this form of policing and view it as an intrusion into their task domain. In fact, this is precisely what we found. In this study, surveys were sent to officers who worked in these two areas. Of the 48 sworn officers invited to respond, 28 officers did. Those that did respond stated that they didn’t have much interaction with the private police officers, even though they were provided a place to work at the station house. But those that did ranked their level of professionalism very high.

What is interesting is that despite the fact that the Sheriff’s Office deputies had no issue with the professionalism or demeanor of the private security personnel, they appeared to have little trust or confidence that these patrols could make much of a difference in reducing crime or the perception of crime in these communities. The raw data indicate that the deputies were concerned about the viability of the program. The officers did not think private security officers patrolling neighborhoods would have an appreciable effect on fear of crime, nor did they believe that this project was a good use of public dollars.

It is not surprising that there may be some tension between the introduction of a private security force or entity that is assuming duties as deputies of the Sheriff’s Office. However, what could not be predicted was that despite the deputies viewing the individuals overall as being professional and on task, they did not see a need for them or their services.

It is not clear whether the overall negative view of these patrols by Sheriff’s Office deputies was a function of the limited services that the private security personnel were allowed to perform, or a matter of how the idea and project was sold to the “boots on the ground” in the sectors working the areas to be patrolled. It could not be determine whether the deputies perceived these private security patrols as a threat to the profession or if they simply felt that they would not be able to provide necessary services to the community.

Observational Study

The third point was the systematic social observation of precisely what the private security officers were doing in the neighborhoods. What they did in the streets might not correspond to their operational parameters. For this reason, a series of ride-alongs were conducted with the private security patrols. During these ride-alongs, researchers observed the communities and the style of patrol and interviewed the participating officers. This type of systematic social observation is a critical component of understanding the different styles of patrols in the two different neighborhoods. Multiple rides were scheduled with different officers in the two areas to limit observation bias as much as possible. What was discovered was that just as the areas are different regarding residents and crime problems, so were the “styles of policing” of the security officers.

In Neighborhood A, the private security patrols assumed a “service”-style approach. These officers drove through the neighborhood, stopping to wave and talk to residents. They attended community meetings and served as a visible presence to those in the community. The security officers called Orange County 311 to report issues with roads and drainage and to get large refuse items picked up and assisted residents when Animal Control was called. This service style matched the overall needs of this tight-knit community.

In Neighborhood B, the patrol style evolved to be radically different. This may be partially because of the needs expressed by the command staff of the Sheriff’s Office and partly because of the needs seen by the private security personnel assigned to patrol these neighborhoods. The officers assigned to this area quickly identified the largest issue facing residents in this area as prostitution and drugs. Using data and crime analysis reports provided by the Sheriff’s Office, they located their vehicles for high visibility and focused their patrols on addressing these issues specifically. The private security personnel would sit at street corners and record video of prostitutes working the streets and known or suspicious individuals thought to be trafficking in illicit narcotics so that they could report them to Sheriff’s Office personnel. While they never engaged (or in most cases even got out of their cars), they made sure the suspected individuals knew they were there and watching.

These officers got to know the owners and proprietors of many of the local businesses in the areas and were encouraged by them to monitor suspects from their parking lots. These officers felt that their job was threefold. First, it was to assist the Sheriff’s Office in identifying new actors and players in the criminal enterprise and provide this intelligence to the proper authorities. Second, to give a visible deterrence to criminal activity. And finally, to assist residents of these communities by “pushing” the prostitutes and other criminal actors out of the residential areas and back out to the main thoroughfares.

It was not clear how much of this difference in styles of policing was by design and at the assistance of the Sherriff’s Office and how much developed “ecologically” as the private security officers got to know the area and began to take ownership of its problems.

Crime Data and Statistics

The fourth aspect of the study focused on the intended outcomes of a more significant patrol presence in the communities of this study. It was anticipated that with the significant increase in police presence there would be a direct impact on the number of crimes reported. Relationships between crimes committed and offenses reported can vary, as an increase of a patrol presence could increase crime data because of a higher number of crimes being detected; conversely, an increased patrol presence could cause a reduction of crime for fear by perpetrators of being caught. Although the perception of crime in both of the examined areas is high, reported offenses specifically for drugs and prostitution in these areas was just above average.

Variations of reported crimes during the study followed the trend line for the crimes in each area. Interestingly, in the two years preceding the study and during the time of the survey, all trends indicated a declining number of crimes reported. Part 1 Crimes in Neighborhood A and Part 2 Crimes in Neighborhood B saw the most significant reduction overall for the two years preceding and during the study period.

Overall, however, the crime data do not show a significant change from data collected over the two years preceding the study. Variation appears to be within the normal trend pattern for each area in the study. Both neighborhoods experienced drops in the average number of Part I offenses during the study period compared with the same period during the previous two years (February through June). In both neighborhoods, these drops are primarily due to considerable reductions in both residential and commercial burglaries.

Changes in Part II crimes in neighborhood A are the result of an increase in both felony and misdemeanor drug arrests. Reductions in Part II crimes in neighborhood B were a result of a decrease in felony and misdemeanor drug offenses in addition to a nearly 55% reduction in other sex offense crimes. This substantial decline is likely due to the focused efforts of G4S officers to reduce prostitution on Tennessee Street.


The role of private and public policing in America as well as abroad has changed. At one time, private police officers and agencies were viewed as the most well-trained, professional, and efficient type of force. However, beginning in the early 20th century public policing experienced a renaissance and came to be viewed as professional crime fighters. Presently, each type of force, whether public or private, maintains supremacy in their task market. Public police agencies are seen as the preferred kind of organization in cities and towns where force against the public may be required and crime control is the primary goal, while private police are seen as more efficient to secure both physical and intellectual property. However, what the experiment in Orange County demonstrated is that private and public police agencies can coexist and work together in traditional neighborhoods and towns where there is a need for additional police services or presence.

Not only did the two agencies work well together and share intelligence, but the community perceived these additional patrols as a positive thing. The communities saw the private police patrols as a supplement to traditional police patrol and reported an overall increase in satisfaction with the police and their outreach to these areas. Further, the citizens in at least one of these neighborhoods felt that the private police officers were an additional avenue that citizens had to access local government services.

While the results of the project were overall extremely positive, they may not be generalizable beyond the populations studied. More research needs to be done with different types of neighborhoods and jurisdictions. However, before replication some issues need attention should additional jurisdictions attempt to integrate these two types of police services in the future. The most serious involved the integration of private police agencies into the culture of the local public police. As mentioned earlier, the deputies employed by the local sheriff’s agencies did not believe that the use of private police officers was a good idea or good use of public funds. While the project had the support of the overall administrative staff, line level officers were not as enthused. It is suggested that should the experiment be replicated; increased attention be paid to such individuals, so that they understand the nature and scope of the project and get to know the individuals who will be assisting them in their efforts in communities.

Overall, each type of policing (public and private) has had a rich history of success within its task environments. Students of policing and industry leaders will admit that some agencies perform better in some contexts than others. This has proven true over the course of history. However, in today’s world, where crime is becoming more complex, citizens demand more from government officials, and resources to provide these services are slow to follow, it makes sense for government agencies to reach out and experiment with ways that allow them to offer more (and sometimes better) police services. This use of police volunteers and private police agencies are one way that accomplish that. However, private police officers are often easier to roll out and get on the street, since training and personnel services are provided by the host agency and contracts can be signed and terminated at set intervals with little to no long-term financial obligations for local government.

Further Reading

Cunningham, W. C., & Taylor, T. H. (1985). The Hallcrest report: Private security and police in America. Portland, OR: Chancellor.Find this resource:

    Forst, B. (2000). The privatization and civilianization of policing. In C. M. Friel (Ed.), Criminal justice 2000, Vol. 2: Boundary changes in criminal justice organizations (pp. 19–79). Washington, DC: National Institute of Justice.Find this resource:

      Forst, B., & Manning, P. K. (1999). The privatization of policing: Two views. Washington, DC: Georgetown University Press.Find this resource:

        Jones, T., & Newburn, T. (1995). How big is the private security sector? Policing and Society. 5, 221–232.Find this resource:

          Shearing, C., & Stenning, P. (1981). Modern private security: Its growth and implications. In M. Tonry & N. Morris (Eds.), Crime and justice: An annual review of research (Vol. 3, pp. 193–245). Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.Find this resource:

            Wolf, R., Holmes, S., & Jones, C. (2016). Utilization and satisfaction of volunteer law enforcement officers in the office of the American sheriff: An exploratory nationwide study. Police Practice and Research: An International Journal, 17(5), 448–462.Find this resource:

              Wolf, R., Pepper, I., & Dobrin, A. (2017). An exploratory international comparison of professional confidence in volunteer policing. The Police Journal: Theories, Practice, and Principles, 90(2), 91–106.Find this resource:


                Barlow, H. D. (2000). Criminal justice in America, Upper Saddle Hill, NJ: Prentice Hall.Find this resource:

                  Benson, B. L. (1998). Potential benefits and pitfalls of contracting out for criminal justice. In B. L. Benson & M. E. Wolfgang (Eds.), To serve and protect: Privatization and community in criminal justice (pp. 26–49). New York, NY: New York University Press.Find this resource:

                    Bristow, A. P. (1969). Effective police manpower utilization. Springfield, IL: Charles C. Thomas.Find this resource:

                      Cohen, D. (1968). Policing and policing effectiveness. New York, NY: Bantam.Find this resource:

                        Cox, S., Marchionna, S., & Fitch, B. (2017). Introduction to policing (3rd ed.). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.Find this resource:

                          Fischer, R., Halibozek, E., & Green, G. (2008). Introduction to security (8th ed.). Boston, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.Find this resource:

                            Goldstein, A. (2007, January 2). The private arm of the law. Washington Post.Find this resource:

                              Johnson, D. R. (1981). American law enforcement: A history. St. Louis, MO: Forum.Find this resource:

                                Kelling, G., & Moore, M. (1988). The evolving strategy of policing: Perspectives on policing. Washington, DC: Government Printing Office.Find this resource:

                                  Kelling, G., & Wilson, J. (1982, March). Broken windows: The police and neighborhood safety. The Atlantic.Find this resource:

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                                      Miller, W. (2000). The good, the bad and the ugly: Policing in America. History Today, 50(8), 29–35.Find this resource:

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