One of the merits of a formal police force is that it means that the sort of people who want to put on uniforms and coerce other people have to do so on a fully trained and professional basis.


In this way, everyone benefits.


That is why the latest tenders, reported by the Guardian, are so worrying.  Core functions of police activity, albeit short of the power of arrest itself, are to be put out for private contracts.  People, other than fully trained police officers, can – for example – contract in to detain prisoners and work on major investigations.


There is more to being a police officer than the simple power of arrest.  Good training and a professional outlook should affect a wide range of police work.  People rightly have high expectations of those charged to keep us safe and maintain public order.  This is why, in the main, we consent to be policed.


The tenders reported by the Guardian are not just misconceived.  They appear to stike at the very basis of a professional police force.


Nearly 200 years after Robert Peel introduced the Metropolitan Police, we really should not be going back to the Bow Street Runners.




Excellent post on issues in contractual liability for the police from Legal Bizzle.

5 Responses to Privatising the police: a return to the Bow Street Runners?

  • Peter in Dundee says:

    The problem is we failed to kick up enough stink about the thin end of the wedge: private prisons, private prisoner transport, privatised police detention suite management and staffing, privatised forensics. The list goes on. We have, scandals and lawsuits notwithstanding, complied with such ‘innovations’ so our Lords and Masters assumed we were all au fait with them. So in a way they are probably entitled to say ‘wtf? why now?’.

    Meanwhile this government seems on a mission to make me ever gladder that I live in Scotland. We have over two years of debate to go before I have to make up my mind but Cameron and Clegg seem determined to drive me into Alec Salmond’s arms (horrible image) long before time. And I’m not the only one.

    In 30-40 years when you English (and your unwilling Welsh) finally realise the mistakes you are making, we will be here showing you how it can be done. At which point we will charge you so much for our consultants the pips will squeak.

  • Andy J says:

    As Peter in Dundee says, many of the functions which might form part of the final contracts are already being done to a greater or lesser extent by the private sector, and their near cousins the PCSOs. It is the PCSO and related employments (such as Designated Detention Officers) which are the most likely candidates for transfer.
    Apart from the typical knee-jerk reaction from Unison (and the Guardian) has anyone put forward a cogent analysis of how this might really affect civil liberties etc?
    And Peter, after the ECHR judgment in Murray and the Supreme Court judgment in Cadder, I’m not entirely sure that the Scottish criminal justice system is the paragon you imply it is.

  • Peter in Dundee says:

    The Scottish Parliament has moved to change the law and make post arrest evidence gathering ECHR compliant. No legal system is perfect, what matters is what happens once problems are brought to light. It is arguable that the system worked. You can argue that people shouldn’t have to go to the Supreme Court to get change but ’twas ever thus I’m afraid. If lower courts could mandate changes everything would constantly be awhirl.

  • Sarah Jones says:

    Once again, a description of the police as ‘the sort of people who want to put on uniforms and coerce other people’. Lawyers (like you) are ‘the sort of people who want to keep violent criminals free instead of in prison’ I suppose. Or is that an equally stupid characterisation ?

  • Andrew Watt says:

    Mr Green,

    You rightly mention concerns which might arise in relation to privatisation of the Police.

    However, I suggest that the effects arising from privatisation of the various forensic science functions are a matter of great potential concern.

    If forensic science and forensic pathology is a business, then the temptation must be to ask only the easy (or cheap to test) questions.

    And, if the Police is the customer, won’t there be a nagging temptation to present results as “certain” when, in a more rigorous environment, some questions remain.

    If a Police force is placing contracts for forensic support services, the temptation to choose an outfit with a reputation for producing unequivocal or unqualified conclusions must be strong, I suggest.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>

Recent Posts