Yesterday, we held a conference titled A New Era in Public Safety and Security: Innovating the Service Delivery Model, which examined the challenges that police services across the country are facing and how public-private partnerships can play an effective role in keeping these services sustainable.
International experts and panelists explained that police forces are facing rising costs and reduced budgets, high public expectations, and technological changes, as cybercrime becomes more prevalent. This is one of the toughest times that policing has ever faced.
Officers are often called upon to perform a wide range of tasks outside their core responsibilities, such as transportation of prisoners, traffic management and administrative support. Specialists are suggesting that outsourcing these tasks to private security firms would allow police officers to focus on the tasks that require their specialized skill set.
The private sector is subject to strict regulation and oversight. There are over 140,000 licensed guards available. According to the Montreal Economic Institute, having police support duties performed by the private sector could generate substantial savings, with some estimates of over 50%.
One of the biggest challenges in innovating police services to incorporate the private sector is public perception. Public reassurance is critical and it needs to be made clear that accountability still rests firmly with the public sector. Cooperation will be required from all sectors, including government, the police forces and civil society, but there is tremendous opportunity here.
The scope of private security involvement needs to be clearly defined. Their role is to provide complementary service to the police force, not to be a competitor.
There is consensus that innovating the public service delivery model is necessary. The way we’ve done things in the past will not be feasible in the future. Having private security take over the non-essential tasks of police officers would not only be an economical solution, but create a more effective and motivated police force, dedicated to preventing and investigating crimes and keeping the public safe.