We should consider increasing private policing

Last month, the Daily Mail newspaper in the United Kingdom published a viral story about a private police force which has proven to be very effective. The company, TM Eye, is lead by former Scotland Yard senior officers, and has a conviction rate of 100 per cent. The key: this police force has been taking on offences which state police officers are too busy to crack down on, including fraud, missing persons, theft or stalking, but also murder and rape. According to the Daily Mail: “In the past six months, its 60 investigators have snared suspects wanted by police for attempted murder and rape. Recently a stalker was jailed for four years on the basis of its work.” They also offer services such as routine patrols for the households that pay for their security services. Total cost: £200 a month (€220).

State-run police officials reacted by stating that such a system would encourage a system in which rich people can afford better services than less fortunate households. Which of course makes perfect sense, considering that all of us already drive the same shitty cars, right?

However, it is true that this services happens to be more expensive than state police forces currently cost through taxation, so what would be a coherent case for the privatisation of police forces anyway? Let’s go through the arguments:

There are many disagreements in economics, and yet there is agreement, on the question of monopolies: economists of all schools agree that a monopoly position leads to negative effects. Examples of this are price developments by electricity giants like the French EDF, the state-run postal service or, in the historical example, the disaster of state-run agriculture and retailers under communism. The same problem arises in the area of ​​police tasks: without competition, quality decreases

Market reactions in case of misconduct

If your favorite restaurant is repeatedly serving you bad food, you won’t be willing to return and eat there. However, if this restaurant is the only one within 100 kilometers, it makes things a bit more difficult. The same is true of the police: we are regularly confronted with police misconduct leading from disrespect to abuse of power, as well as corruption. Nevertheless, in such cases it is always just “a few bad apples” that are then suspended until the cycle of misconduct repeats itself.

This situation is different on the open market: private security firms, which are now already a partial privatisation of police duties, must take financial losses into account if their staff misbehaves, and therefore have a greater incentive not to commit these mistakes.

The concept is not new

In US cities like San Francisco and Detroit, where local police are no longer able to cope with the challenges of law enforcement, citizens are resorting to private police companies, several of which existed as early as the 19th century. The only difficulty here is the over-regulation of the market that has arisen through the lobby of the police unions, which makes it difficult for private companies to gain a foothold. [1] Users of these companies are less fearful of misconduct and claim that the overall service is better and, above all, faster. The US National Center for Policy Analysis adds that private police companies are also far cheaper: in the case of San Francisco the price decrease is over 50 per cent.

Independence of the judiciary

Private police forces would continue to be subject to the general judicial system, but would have another employment relationship with that particular system under the rule of law. Since at the moment judges and defendants (in the case of a policeman’s wrongdoing) are public servants who often work together in reconnaissance work, we find a problematic relationship. Since the judiciary and police have the same interest in having the population trust them, it is not uncommon for judges to be more lenient in misconduct towards law enforcement officers. This conflict of interest does not exist in private companies: the judiciary would have no equally ingenious reasons to protect a private police company.

The question of privatizing police tasks is a matter of choice: having individuals on a free market making decisions always has overwhelming positive results. Anyone who does not agree with that must also question private insurance companies, car dealers or air traffic.

No, police reform is not easy to implement, as union-based public servants are a powerful lobby for voters who are not afraid to maintain their status quo. So we continue to keep a police force that supports the disastrous drug policy and is committed to the intrusive surveillance state.

The proposal is therefore simple: do not reform: replace.


[1] “A company owns a “beat”—that is, the exclusive license to practice in a given area—but it can rent or sell that beat to other firms in the same way that a taxi medallion owner can rent or sell its medallion to other taxi drivers. Within each beat, businesses and individuals have the option of subscribing to the beat owner; they can hire an unarmed stationary security guard from another company, but they cannot hire a rival Patrol Special Police firm.” Reason Magazine


This article was first published by Freedom Today.

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About Bill Wirtz

My name is Bill, I'm from Luxembourg and I write about the virtues of a free society. I favour individual and economic freedom and I believe in the capabilities people can develop when they have to take their own responsibilities.

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