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Taking Care of Business: Public Police as Commercial Security Vendors

NCJ Number
Criminology and Criminal Justice Volume: 8 Issue: 1 Dated: February 2008 Pages: 27-50
Julie Ayling; Clifford Shearing
Date Published
February 2008
24 pages
This article examines practices in ‘user-pays’ policing (or public police as commercial security vendors).
User-pays or fee-for-service policing is a common and longstanding phenomenon in many jurisdictions. Charges are levied by police for a variety of different services, ranging from the simple provision of information, to special policing services provided on a longer term basis, to services to a particular industry or sector provided by a specialist body of public police. Charging fees for public policing services to private entities enables police to recover at least partially the costs of providing them. Just because public policing now encompasses newer economic forms like user-pays does not necessarily detract from its nature as a public service. This article argues that there is no necessary disjuncture between addressing local or private concerns and more general or public ones. User-pays policing can be, and often is compatible with public interests and the provision of public goods. When this is the case, there may be sound reasons for supporting it. However, user-pays policing can raise the possibility that private interests might have more influence on service provision than is appropriate. Today there are many and varied forms of participation in the market by the public police (State provided policing). Police are both vendors and purchasers of security and its related products. New forms of policing will challenge conceptions of State centrality in the ‘protection domain’ and raise questions about the extent of State regulation that is needed and about the appropriate level of accountability and responsibility for the services provided. Notes, references