Private security operators can significantly improve the efficiency of police agencies through partnerships. As a former Chief of Police in the state of New Jersey, I’ve seen how public/private partnerships can work first-hand. The concept of Police/Private Security partnerships, although not new, is particularly timely due to current events and community safety needs.
As the country emerges from the effects of the pandemic, public and private organizational leaders are faced with achieving their mandates by finding ways to increase the effectiveness of their organizations despite new-found constraints. Police executives are navigating the challenges of the pandemic and the potential effects of proposed policing reforms on their mission and their resources.
Concurrently, leaders of private security organizations must consistently demonstrate value by meeting clients’ current needs by providing increasingly effective security services. So, a strong case can be made for partnering in the current environment. Smart partnering for mutual benefit just makes sense.
The police-partnership concept has been explored previously through various law enforcement and private security initiatives. These include
- The establishment of the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) Private Sector Liaison Committee in 1986
- The creation of “Operation Cooperation” through the Bureau of Justice Assistance and American Society for Industrial Security in 2001
- A National Policy Summit entitled “Building Private Security/Public Policing Partnerships to Prevent and Respond to Terrorism and Public Disorder” convened by the IACP and the US Department of Justice Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) in 2004.
Each of these initiatives encouraged partnerships between law enforcement and private security professionals and acknowledged various benefits to law enforcement agencies.
Police agencies, as well as businesses, can identify duties and functions traditionally performed by sworn officers that may be effectively performed by professional private security operators. Some examples include; acting as informational ambassadors to the public, being a uniformed presence to serve as a deterrent to enhance the perception of safety, effectively identifying and reporting suspicious behavior or crimes in progress, and assisting with crowd and traffic control.
Some jurisdictions have even used security guards for prisoner transportation and incident response. When these security functions reduce demands on law enforcement resources police, resources can be more targeted and effective. So, law enforcement and security leaders clearly have opportunities to maximize their effectiveness through the partnership model.
These partnerships have grown more popular with the increased use of Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) nationally. These statutorily authorized business entities are permitted to establish some form of private security service to serve the business district’s safety needs, supplement the police and limit the need for police to address low-level quality of life issues.
Currently, these advanced partnerships are operating in many communities. Two nationally recognized Business Improvement Districts are New York’s Time Square Alliance and Philadelphia’s Center City. These districts have shown dramatic improvement to their image after having been previously challenged by crime and disorder.
As a further indication of the effectiveness of these partnerships, A 2009 RAND Corporation study of BIDs in Los Angeles, California, found that neighborhoods whose BIDs contracted for added security had significantly less crime than those without the added security. According to the lead researcher, “These districts make a place, not such an attractive place for crimes of opportunities, such as robbery.” This is a powerful outcome that many businesses would do well to explore.
HOW DO AGENCIES PARTNER?
Since all state laws and regional needs differ, these partnerships will always be situation and agency-specific. The structure of partnership programs can be as simple or elaborate as the organizations choose and the law will allow.
The most basic form of cooperation cited for police-security partnerships is simple information sharing. It’s really an extension of basic community policing concepts- develop relationships with those who know the area and work with people to improve quality of life. More involved partnership programs can prepare security officers with basic training to report suspicious activity or crimes in progress.
Even more developed programs may train guards to differentiate needs for emergency responses and preferred reporting of specific incidents and even include security operators in emergency preparedness drills along with sworn officers and other emergency service personnel.
Some agencies may choose to have a community services unit oversee such partnerships, while others may designate a supervisor as the liaison to the security agencies, but whatever the structure, it will be welcomed by the security agencies, property owners, and the guards themselves.
After concluding my service as Chief of Police and working for a private security company now, I’m called upon to offer guard services for residential complexes as well as commercial properties. These properties span a wide range of demographic areas – each with unique safety challenges.
The common goal for all of these security assignments, of course, is enhancing safety through professionalism. Our guards are tasked with providing security as client’s needs dictate. But, in doing so, the surrounding areas and ultimately the community at large can gain the benefits of the guards’ presence and their actions.
Our supervisors see a noticeable improvement to our operational effectiveness and in the motivation of our guards in the jurisdictions where law enforcement has proactively reached out to our security team to share information and work cooperatively.
So whether you see such partnerships as an extension of the concept of Community Oriented Policing or simply recognize the benefit of good public relations and good information flow- there’s much to gain in developing the police -private security partnership model in your agency.
Ultimately each law enforcement agency must decide how they will interact with or partner with the security personnel working in their jurisdiction. Having the benefit of my own 37 years of police service and private security experiences, I can endorse the mutual benefits of the police-security partnerships.
The most effective partnerships, like most successful programs, require a firm foundation, strong structure, proper training, and buy-in on the part of both the police and the security agencies. But based on my experience and the examples presented here, the efforts required of a police agency to partner and work in concert with private security firms can pay good dividends in terms of better police-security working relationships, a more effective operating environment for police officers, and security personnel and ultimately enhanced community safety overall.
“Above all, it’s about going home at the end of the shift … “
We couldn’t agree more.
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