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Public-Private Partnerships: Assessing Support Structures at the Local Level

By Arthur A. Gann, Chief of Police (Retired), Evansville, Indiana, Police Department, and Manager, Corporate Security, Bristol-Myers Squibb, Mount Vernon, Indiana; Kristie R. Blevins, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Criminal Justice, Eastern Kentucky University; and George W. Anderson, Assistant Chief (Retired), New York City Police Department, and Co-Chair, IACP Private Sector Liaison Committee

n this age of declining budgets and expanding needs and mandates, the importance of effective partnerships between the public and private sector never has been clearer. Experienced police commanders know and value the establishment of effective partnerships with the private sector, which may take on many different forms such as partnerships with community groups, business districts, security organizations, and other stakeholders. Partnerships can

  • be force multipliers, by increasing the number of “boots on the ground” trained by the police to serve as eyes and ears;
  • decrease workload; and
  • provide opportunities to increase community involvement in crime control.

In 1986, the IACP established the Private Sector Liaison Committee (PSLC). According to the IACP website, the PSLC was created “to strive to improve the relationship between the private sector and public sector by the discussion and dissemination of meaningful data on a continuing basis.”1 Over the years, the IACP has demonstrated its commitment to partnership development through the activities of the PSLC, including participating in the establishment of Operation Cooperation; 2 developing model procedural guidelines in cooperation with the alarm industry for false alarms activation;3 working with the Department of Justice, Office of Community Oriented Policing Services; and hosting a national policy summit about building public-private partnerships (P3s) to reduce crime and respond to terrorism.4 Most recently, the IACP PSLC and the Law Enforcement Liaison Council (LELC) of ASIS-International entered into a formal memorandum of understanding (MOU) to create a working liaison among the organizations to exemplify the importance of P3 relationships and to work to enhance the effectiveness of partnerships between the public police service and private security providers.5

In the context of this new relationship with ASIS-International, the leadership of the PSLC undertook an effort to gauge the level of support for the establishment, nurturing, and growth of partnership efforts at the state chief associations’ level. Motivating this inquiry was an appreciation for the commitment shown by the IACP to the importance of P3 efforts by establishing a standing committee charged with the responsibility for enhancing this relationship and by the execution of the MOU with ASIS-International. A survey instrument was used to gauge the presence of organizational structures (such as a standing committee) directly involvedwith nurturing P3 efforts.

Additional questions regarding participation in established P3 programs also were part of the survey instrument,6 along with questions concerning training efforts and recognition programs aimed at private partners. Finally, the survey delved into an assessment of the quality of partnership efforts at the state level, from the responding organization’s perspective.

In the spirit of the newly executed MOU with ASIS-International, the PSLC approached the leadership of the LELC with the concept of using this survey to ask similar questions of local ASIS chapters around the country concerning their levels of support, through structures at the chapter level, for nurturing P3 efforts. The leadership of both the IACP and ASIS-International approved the effort, and the survey was undertaken.


A survey instrument was developed by a subcommittee of the PSLC and reviewed and pilot tested in an effort to ensure questions were understandable and useful to gauge P3 support efforts. The survey was administered electronically though Survey-Monkey, and each state association of chiefs of police (SACOP) received a letter from the IACP president announcing the survey and requesting participation. Similarly, ASISInternational distributed announcements internally about the availability of the survey online. A total of 32 individual questions were asked on the survey—some questions directed at SACOP respondents and some at ASIS chapter respondents.


There were 49 total responses to the survey—48 responses to the web-based survey and one response via a hard copy of the survey. Responses came from 34 ASIS chapters, 14 SACOPs, and one “other” agency that was self-identified in the survey as “ASIS and IACP.” The 42 valid responses to the item asking about the state or location of respondents’ chapters indicate representation from 24 states (see table 1).

Table 1: Location of respondents’ chapter

GeorgiaNew York

The first series of questions on the survey asked respondents about public-private partnership support efforts at the state or local chapter level. These results are presented in table 2. In regard to the questions that applied to all respondents, fewer than half of the total agencies provided an affirmative response to each question. On the one hand, certain responses were similar between groups. Specifically, 38.24 percent of ASIS chapters and 42.86 percent of SACOP representatives reported maintaining a public-private partnership committee (question 1), and 26.47 percent of ASIS chapters and 21.43 percent of SACOP representatives said that their organizations provide training to their own members about the establishment of public-private partnerships (question 2).7

Table 2: Affirmative responses to questions concerning public-private partnership support efforts at the state or local chapter levels

Survey ItemASIS ChaptersSACOPOtherTotal
1. Does your organization maintain a public-private partnership committee?1338.24642.861100.002040.82
2. Does your organization provide training to your own members about the establishment of public-private partnerships?926.47321.431100.001326.53
3. Does your organization provide joint training to both public and private entities about the establishment of public-private partnerships?1235.30214.2900.001428.57
4. Is your organization involved in a public-private partnership?1750.00642.861100.002449.98
5. Does your organization participate in Michigan State University’s Critical Incident Protocol-Community Facilitation Program?12.9400.0000.0012.04
6. Does your organization participate in Business Executives for National Security?25.8800.001100.0036.12
7. Does your organization have or participate in a Department of Homeland Security–funded program that has a public-private partnership component (e.g., Michigan State University Community Facilitation) or some other grant-sponsored partnership?514.71321.4300.00816.33
8. For ASIS chapters: Does your chapter sponsor or conduct a law enforcement appreciation or recognition activity?2470.59 - - 1100.002571.43
9. For SACOPs: Does your organization sponsor or conduct a private sector business/community/citizen appreciation or recognition activity? - - 00.00 - - 00.00
10. Does your organization participate in another public-private partnership program?720.59535.7100.001224.49

There are, however, some differences in the rate of “yes” responses between ASIS and SACOP responses. For example, 50 percent of ASIS chapters indicated they are in a public-private partnership (question 4), while fewer (42.86 percent) SACOP representatives said the same. Further, a much higher percentage (35.30 percent) of ASIS chapters reported providing joint training to both public and private entities about the establishment of public-private partnerships (question 3) than do SACOPs (14.29 percent).

The next section of the survey focused on specific public-private partnership information. The first question asked respondents to give an overview of the specific public-private partnerships in which they are involved. There were 22 answers to this question—18 from ASIS chapters, 3 from SACOPs, and 1 from the other respondent. The narratives from ASIS chapters included

  • joint tabletop exercises;
  • annual public–law enforcement appreciation and recognition luncheons and dinners;
  • partnerships with federal law enforcement and emergency management agencies;
  • ASIS members who are public law enforcement officials;
  • regular attendance at monthly meetings by law enforcement;
  • state law enforcement exchanges with local, state, and federal law enforcement hosting annual training;
  • police departments partnering with public security;
  • public-private security committees; and
  • local advisory councils open to the public as long as background checks are cleared.

Two of the three SACOP responses indicated that their committees are dormant, though they are trying to make them active again. The other SACOP narrative said that testing for new hires and for promotion is done through the community college. The “other” respondent indicated that the partnership involves numerous local partnerships and smaller organizations within the city.

No ASIS chapter or SACOP representative answered the next question, which asked about the name and sponsoring entity of the program. The only answer came from the “other” respondent, who indicated the program name and that it is sponsored by the city police department.

The next three questions asked respondents about the extent and direction of collaborative groups. About 35 percent of all respondents (35.30 percent of responding ASIS chapters and 28.57 percent of responding SACOPs) are involved in collaborative groups representing public and private sectors focusing on security, emergency preparedness, response, or recovery for the community. Of the ASIS collaborative groups, some are public-private codirected entities (41.67 percent), nonprofit-directed entities (33.33 percent), and government-directed entities (16.67 percent). Most of them (75 percent) consider the partnership type as an ASIS chapter, while two (16.67 percent) are joint terrorism task forces and one (8.33 percent) is InfraGard.

SACOP responses indicated that two collaborations (50 percent) consider themselves government-directed entities, one is a nonprofit-directed entity (25 percent), and one is a public-private codirected entity (25 percent). One respondent described the collaborative group type as an ASIS chapter, and one is best classified as a joint terrorism task force. The other two respondents chose the “other” option and described the collaboration as an antiterrorism advisory committee and a homeland security task force. The “other” respondent had a government-directed collaborative group that is best described as an ASIS chapter.

When asked about what types of professions, agencies, and businesses participate in the partnership groups, the most common response across all types of reporting organizations was police (95.83 percent), followed by emergency management (66.67 percent) and homeland security (62.5 percent). Fire and EMS (emergency medical services) also were included in most partnerships. ASIS chapters more frequently included public utility, public facility management, elected officials, public health, public information officers, public port security, and public transportation. One ASIS chapter also included public streets in its partnership group.

Every respondent reported involvement at the local or municipal level. All SACOP respondents also indicated there was involvement from the state level, and there was a high degree (83.33 percent) of federal involvement for SACOP. More than half (64.17 percent) of ASIS chapters also had state-level involvement, but there was less (35.29 percent) federal involvement. ASIS chapters were much more likely than SACOP to have involvement from business safety and hospitals (58.82 percent of ASIS chapters had involvement from each). The Red Cross and chambers of commerce were involved with only one ASIS chapter partnership.

A variety of topics are covered within the various partnership groups. Information sharing is the topic most commonly reported for both ASIS chapters (100 percent) and SACOP groups (66.67 percent). At least half of all respondents in both groups also reported focusing on training. Preparedness and emergency management were also selected frequently, though they were more common among ASIS chapters than SACOP. A higher percentage of SACOP groups, however, did report planning (50 percent ) and antiterrorism (33.33 percent) as topics as compared to the ASIS chapters (41.18 percent for planning and 17.65 percent for antiterrorism). Two ASIS chapter respondents selected the “other” category and specified that they focus on SWAT and hazardous devices and security.

Most (58.82 percent) of the ASIS chapter partnership groups meet monthly. Half of the SACOP partnership groups meet twice a year, while some (33.33 percent) meet quarterly and one meets annually. Two ASIS chapters have produced MOUs among the entities involved in the partnership groups, and no SACOP groups reported having such documents (question 2). One-quarter of respondents indicated that their groups have directed or guided the transfer of technology among public and private sector entities (question 3). When compared to SACOP groups, ASIS chapter groups more frequently reported directing the use of Incident Command System training, as well as guiding the protection of critical infrastructurein the community between public and private sector entities (questions 4 and 5—41.18 percent for ASIS and 16.67 percent for SACOP for both items). Further, a greater percentage of ASIS chapter groups (47.06 percent) than SACOP groups (33.33 percent) reported directing emergency response exercises (question 6). When asked about what types of exercises are conducted, the most common responses were tabletop, drill, and full-scale exercises.

The last question in this section asks if the group has directed or guided the inclusion of the business community in the community’s emergency operations center. None of the SACOP groups reported having been involved in such an effort, while four ASIS chapter groups (23.53 percent) indicated they were involved in these types of endeavors.

Respondents then were asked to indicate how long, in years, their partnerships have been in existence. Fourteen of the ASIS chapters and four SACOP respondents answered this question, and there is a wide range in responses. The ASIS chapter partnerships have existed from 1 to 51 years, while the SACOP partnerships range from 1 to 10 years. The average age of ASIS chapter partnerships is 9.04 years, and the average is 5.5 years for SACOP partnership groups.

The last item on the survey asked respondents to rate five statements based on their experiences in partnership groups. Only 12 ASIS chapters and 6 SACOP respondents answered this set of questions. None of the respondents strongly disagreed with any of the statements. The majority (57.89 percent) of respondents agreed that their groups are successful at public-private sector collaboration. About 67 percent of ASIS chapters agreed with that statement, while 25 percent disagreed with that statement. Only 1 chapter was neutral about that statement. The SACOP responses showed a different pattern—one-third agreed with that statement, another third disagreed with that statement, and the last third were neutral about that statement.

Respondents overwhelmingly supported the remainder of the statements. Specifically, everyone either agreed or strongly agreed that private sector commitment is important to the success of the group, as is public sector commitment. The vast majority of respondents also felt that leadership is important to the success of the group (94.74 percent) and that a clear mission, objective, and goal are important to the success of the group (89.48 percent). Note that no respondent disagreed with these two items, but there was one neutral response on the former and two neutral responses on the latter statement.


A review of the findings of this survey reveals a significant commitment to the concepts of public-private partnerships among respondents from both the SACOP and ASIS local chapter levels, but some differences in responses were present that call for review and strategic thinking by the IACP. The findings of note are described below, and commentary about these findings will follow.

  • Six of fourteen SACOP respondents (42.86 percent) reported that a standing committee or other organizational structure at the state chapter level was concerned with the issue of P3 partnerships. Two of the six SACOP respondents reported their committees were dormant, resulting in an effective percentage of 28.57 percent.
  • Only 26.74 percent of ASIS chapters and 21.43 percent of SACOP respondents reported providing training on the subject of public-private partnerships.
  • While 18 of 34 ASIS chapters reported involvement in specific partnerships, only three SACOP respondents named specific partnerships they were involved in.
  • ASIS chapters more frequently reported involvement in partnerships with utilities, elected officials, public health providers, public ports and transport facilities, business safety elements, and hospitals, while SACOP respondents reported more traditional partnerships involving the police, emergency management officials, and homeland security.
  • ASIS chapters reported a greater frequency of meetings involving P3 efforts, with a monthly frequency for almost 60 percent of respondents, as compared to SACOP respondents, which ranged from twice yearly for half of the respondents, to quarterly for a third.
  • Characterizing the success of partnership efforts, 67 percent of ASIS chapter respondents agreed their efforts were successful while 25 percent disagreed. For SACOP respondents, only one-third agreed that their efforts were successful, while one-third were neutral and one-third disagreed.

Standing Committees. Although response rates were about average for a survey of this kind, raw numbers and percentages both seem to indicate that having a standing committee at the state chief’s association level is an exception rather than a rule. For respondents to this survey, only 4 of 14 SACOPs reported existence of a committee or other structure concerned with partnership issues.8 As a percentage, this means 28.57 percent of respondents had such a structure. If this figure were applied to all 49 SACOPs, only 14 of 49 would have such a structure.9

The authors submit that SACOPs should consider whether conditions within their states merit the establishment of such a committee dedicated to the enhancement of partnership efforts. The establishment of the PSLC demonstrates the commitment of Visit us at booth #1106 the IACP to the dissemination of information about P3 efforts to members of the IACP. Efforts undertaken at the local level will have the benefit of being informed by local conditions and can serve to further the success of P3 efforts throughout the United States.

Training. Only one-quarter of respondents reported that training on partnership issues is provided by local chapters and SACOPs. Training is an effective way to distribute information about the importance of P3s to the success of police efforts to control crime and enhance community safety. Training officers how to diagnose situations that might benefit from private sector elements, be they community, business, or security providers, partnering with the police can only serve to increase occasions when these situations might be identified. Training supervisors and executives in best practices in partnership management will likewise encourage the establishment of effective productive partnerships.

Knowledge of Specific Partnerships. A greater number of ASIS chapters were able to report on specific partnership programs and efforts undertaken than were SACOP chapters. Although the survey instrument cannot identify why this difference would exist, the authors can posit that perhaps ASIS respondents are more focused on these partnership issues by virtue of their relative importance vis-à-vis their responsibilities, or that a greater number of these respondents happen to be involved in specific, named partnership programs of the kind about which the survey inquired. However, a more subtle interpretation can proffer a general explanation—perhaps these efforts are not well known at the state level due to a dearth of structures designed to acquire knowledge of these partnership efforts and disseminate the successes, failures, and best practices around the state. Greater knowledge of specific partnership efforts around the state can be a factor in the increase of successful partnerships in which agencies engage.

Characteristics of Partnerships. Survey respondents from ASIS chapters reported a greater range of partner organizations, including with utilities, elected officials, public health providers, public ports and transport facilities, business safety elements, and hospitals, while SACOP respondents reported more traditional partnerships involving the police, emergency management officials, and homeland security. This survey finding can be interpreted to mean that law enforcement officials should continue to explore opportunities for partnerships with a wide range of stakeholders. Superior P3 efforts exemplified by applicants and winners of the partnership awards offered by the IACP (the Michael Shanahan Award) and ASIS-International (the Matthew Simeone Award) demonstrate that partnerships involve many stakeholders, including the business community, educational institutions, and health care facilities, to name a few.

Frequency of Meetings. It goes without saying that the effectiveness of any relationship is often measured by how valued the participants feel. This survey showed some differences in frequency of reported meetings between ASIS respondents and SACOP respondents. Again, the survey was not designed to delve into the specifics of various factors which might influence meeting frequency, but as a general finding, it merits consideration by police leaders. Increasing the frequency of contacts in a partnership will likely provide greater opportunities to discuss issues, provide for formal exchanges of information among partnership leaders, and cement the importance of the relationship to all stakeholders.

Overall Assessment of the Success of Partnership Efforts. The overall assessment of the success of partnership efforts reveals there is a substantial difference in how survey respondents characterized the overall effectiveness of partnership efforts. Sixty-seven percent or about two-thirds of ASIS chapter respondents reported that they agreed with the statement that partnership efforts were successful, while two-thirds of SACOP respondents disagreed or were neutral about that statement. Although this may be a case of “the glass is half full or half empty,” depending on one’s point of view, it is a finding that merits consideration by leadership within the IACP and state chapters. If partnerships are important to successful policing, what can be done to improve the assessment of these efforts? In this regard, it is worth noting that a detailed analysis of the response data provided by SACOPs reveals that no SACOP respondents with an active partnership committee disagreed with the statement that their partnership efforts were effective, while two from SACOPs without committees disagreed with this statement. It seems that having a partnership committee influences the overall assessment of the success of partnership efforts in a positive way, perhaps by focusing attention to the issue of partnership effectiveness or by providing greater attention to partnership efforts overall.


The leadership of the PSLC and authors of this article hope that the survey has accomplished the objective set forth by the committee when it was developed specifically to serve as a catalyst for discussion and action within the IACP concerning the role of public-private partnerships in the delivery of effective policing to the communities law enforcement officers protect and serve. While the survey was not designed to acquire indepth analysis of the causes of the responses to the questions, it was designed to assess the overall nature of P3 support efforts within state chiefs associations and ASIS chapters. By virtue of the establishment of the PSLC and the signing of an MOU between the IACP and ASIS-International’s LELC, the authors are confident that the leadership of both organization’s value public-private partnerships and appreciate the efforts necessary to support and nurture their development. The results of this survey can serve as a starting point for discussions at the state level to encourage police leaders at all levels to be alert to the importance of P3 efforts, engage in activities to support the development of effective partnerships, and disseminate information about best practices around the state. ♦


1IACP, “Private Sector Liaison Committee,” (accessed August 1, 2012).
2Bureau of Justice Assistance, Office of Justice Programs, U.S. Department of Justice, Operation Cooperation: Guidelines for Partnerships between Law Enforcement and Private Security Organizations (2000), (accessed August 1, 2012).
3Ohlhausen Research Incorporated and IACP, False Alarm Perspectives: A Solution Orientated Resource (September 1993), (accessed August 1, 2012).
4IACP and Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, National Policy Summit: Building Private Security/Public Policing Partnerships to Prevent and Respond to Terrorism and Public Disorder (2004), (accessed August 1, 2012).
5A copy of the Memorandum of Understanding is available on the PSLC website, (accessed August 1, 2012).
6For example, the Critical Incident Protocol—Community Facilitation Program, Business Executives for National Security, Michigan State University.
7It is worth noting here that in a later question, two SACOP respondents indicated their committees were dormant and that attempts at getting them restarted were being made. This drops the effective number of positive responses to this question to four or a valid percentage of 28.57 percent.
8This figure takes into account the two SACOP respondents who reported their committees were dormant.
9The authors note that the lack of statistical significance because the low number of respondents in this study prevents definitive application of this percentage as a matter of science. However, the trend of the data is worth noting.

Please cite as:

Arthur A. Gann et al., "Public-Private Partnerships: Assessing Support Structures at the Local Level," The Police Chief 79 (October 2012): 48–65.



From The Police Chief, vol. LXXIX, no. 10, October 2012. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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