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The Privatization and Civilianization of Policing

NCJ Number
Date Published
61 pages
This essay examines recent shifts toward privatization and civilianization in policing, with attention to the dimensions of these shifts, their causes, and their effects on five critical dimensions of public safety: effectiveness, cost, equity, choice, and legitimacy.
Recent trends toward privatization and civilianization are contrasted with the centuries-long movement toward reliance on sworn officers to provide public safety, a movement that culminated in the 1960's. The author explores the implications of the privatization and civilianization trends in terms of the utilitarian dimensions of effectiveness and costs, as well as in terms of non-utilitarian considerations such as equity and legitimacy. A variety of prospective policies and reforms aimed at minimizing the potentially harmful aspects of privatization and civilianization are examined in both the public and private domains. These include improving private security service through licensing and bonding of agents and agencies; reducing problems associated with public monopolization of policing through improved accountability systems and accreditation; improving procedures for screening, training, and managing civilian specialists; making more effective use of civil remedies for harms in both the public and private sectors; and finding ways to clarify roles and improve coordination among the public, private, and civilian components of policing. The essay concludes with a look to the future of privatization and civilianization, including an identification of critical issues related to current trends and an examination of directions that appear most promising for improving service in both the public and private domains of policing. 2 exhibits, 64 notes, and 130 references

Date Published: January 1, 2000