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Back to Archives | Back to September 2003 Contents 

President's Message

Building Partnerships between Private-Sector Security and Public-Sector Police

Chief Joseph Samuels Jr. Richmond, California

Chief Joseph Samuels Jr. Richmond, California

n the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, federal, state, tribal, and local law enforcement officials have been asked to meet new demands, while at the same continuing our traditional anticrime efforts. It is my belief that the law enforcement profession has responded magnificently to this challenge and that our communities are safer today than they were two years ago.

However, meeting this challenge has not been easy. It has required law enforcement to look for assistance and find innovative ways to protect and serve our communities.

In this context, it is important to remember that law enforcement agencies are not the only protective force operating in towns and cities around the globe. Private-sector security represents a vast and vital resource, and we must strengthen our existing partnership with them.

Current estimates of public-sector policing strength by the Bureau of Justice Statistics indicate that there are 16,661 state, local, and county law enforcement agencies in the United States, and they employ a total of 677,933 sworn officers. Studies on private security force staffing indicate there may be as many as 10,000 private security agencies employing slightly less than 2 million private security officers in the United States. Clearly, if these numbers are accurate, then private security officers are a vast potential resource that can assist law enforcement agencies in fulfilling our mission.

In addition, we also know that many retired police officials at the federal, state and local level migrate to post-retirement positions within private sector security. These officers, supervisors, and executives are dispersed across the many security firms nationally. For example, one retired FBI agent, an expert in counterintelligence, now works for a detective agency specializing in employee background checks. A former director of a state police agency now runs the security division for a major bank.

We also know that what may appear to be firm lines of demarcation between public- and private-sector policing can often blur. For example, the Amtrak Corporation Police Department (more than 300 sworn officers), a large, private-sector police force, works closely with many federal, state, county, and local agencies to ensure the safety of Amtrak's passenger and freight rail lines. And on thousands of college and university campuses, private-sector police and security agencies protect millions of stakeholders, often using collaborative relationships with adjacent city and county police agencies.

Clearly, we have enough information at hand to know that private-sector security could bring a substantial level of skills and resources to bear on issues such as public disorder and terrorism prevention and response. Many private security agencies are very sophisticated in their application and use of high-end technologies. In addition, they also possess large amounts of critical intelligence information. We also know that partnerships between the private and public sectors have made huge improvements in other areas of policing-in the investigation of computer-related crimes, for example. Operation Cooperation, a joint venture between the IACP and the American Society for Industrial Security, helped illustrate the potential value found in of public-private partnerships.

However, there are also significant differences among public- and private-sector security and policing agencies. Certification and training for public-sector police officers has, in the past three decades, become both rigorous and standardized, at both state and national levels. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for private-sector security. Within the ranks of private sector security, there is a wide continuum of minimally trained and qualified officers at one end, and highly qualified and educated officers at the other.

For these reasons, the IACP, with support from the Office of Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS), will hold a summit early in 2004 to closely examine the potential that innovative public-private policing partnerships can bring to the problem of terrorism and public disorder response. Two key areas will be the focus of this exploration:

  • Force Multipliers: a presumption that the influx of capable private security officers will add substantial strength to the public-sector sworn component at various levels, ranks, and types of officers
  • Talent Multipliers: a presumption that many senior leaders in private security have migrated from the public sector, and that these leaders bring seasoned experience back to the public sector through new partnerships

Potential drawbacks to partnerships will also be explored. The most prevalent concerns are the disparities in officer screening, hiring, education, training, and policy between public-sector enforcement officers and private security officers.

The goal of the summit will be the development of a national strategy to increase and improve partnerships among the federal, state, tribal, and local public-sector police agencies and private-sector security agencies, focusing primarily on terrorism prevention and response and civil disorder. The summit's final report will be presented at the IACP's annual conference in Los Angeles in 2004.

I am grateful for the leadership that the IACP Private Sector Liaison Committee has shown in this initiative and for the support provided by the COPS Office. I am convinced that this summit will serve to foster the growth of these vital public-private partnerships and, as a result, increase our abilities to protect the communities we serve. ■



From The Police Chief, vol. 70, no. 9, September 2003. Copyright held by the International Association of Chiefs of Police, 515 North Washington Street, Alexandria, VA 22314 USA.

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