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Home » Security » Kendra Briken & Volker Eick: Introduction: Urban Security Work Spaces Policing the Crisis – Policing in Crisis

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Security, Conferences, 2010, Urbanization

Introduction: Urban Security Work Spaces Policing the Crisis – Policing in Crisis

The 21st century is witnessing what has been called the »pluralization of policing« (Jones & Newburn, 2006): Private security companies have conquered urban spaces and are developing some expertise in public policing. Current studies claim that the private security industry will grow further and take over more tasks formerly executed by state police; at the same time technologies complement and even incur human security work.

State police has also undergone significant changes, including commercialization, new public management, and »police-private-partnerships« (Stober 1997). Alongside these developments, the police apparatus has trans-nationalized and rigorous strategies, in particular against transnational protesters, have reemerged significantly since the early 1990s. Last not least, the »policing family« (Crawford & Lister, 2004) itself diversified, and we can witness (relatively) new phenomena such as nonprofit organizations deploying long-term unemployed as security forces; ›Community Wardens‹ or ›Ambassadors‹ overseen by the local municipalities; or unpaid volunteers policing sports events such as the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany. With these in-law family members the tasks of policing extended into the realm of the ›civil society‹, and the consequences still need to be discussed.


Looking at North America and Europe, we can observe specific varieties of policing that appear, in a first sighting, very heterogeneous, but that are, in our perspective, closely connected. They are shaping a formation we propose to define as the ›urban security work space‹, new in both quality and quantity. This idea is, firstly, guided by the fact that, at the present time, more than 50 percent of the population on planet earth lives in ›urban‹ environments, a highly contested terrain. Even before 9/11, ›security‹ underwent a (re)definition and inclusion of literally everything into the realm of ›homeland security‹ (US) and ›homeland defence‹ (EU) – most visible in the German case within the current discourse of »erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff« (extended security concept) introduced in 2000 (BAKS, 2001). ›Work‹, in turn, currently is understood as a ›gift‹ and a ›duty‹ at the same time and relates to ›security‹ in ways that lead to »the poor policing the poor« (Eick, 2003). Finally, in neoliberal times ›space‹ undergoes a transformation that shuffles, supersedes, and/or substitutes public space with semi-public and private space, directly affecting ›urban security work‹. Our hypothesis is that 


It is against this background that we want to discuss the recent situation in Europe and North America. We can identify three levels of redefinition and rearrangement of the ›urban security work space‹ that are guiding our conference: 


Public space: The current crisis might lead to the extension of privately managed urban space, and/or mixed forms, described as the extension of ›mass private property‹, such as Shopping Malls and Business Improvement Districts. By the same token, aggressive policing of (transnational) protest seems to grow. Our aim here is to discuss how and at which point security ›nodes‹ are strengthened, loosened, or rearranged – and what might be the consequences for the ›private‹ policing of public space in particular. 

Security: Competition is increasing and previously outsourced security might in part be again provided in-house by the former commercial customers while former state responsibilities might be supplied by rent-a-cops or in public/police private partnerships. The current crisis might create new opportunity structures for the security management strategies to fulfill their self-declared goal, the »peace keeping mission with regard to society« (Lehnert 2009).

Work: ›Security as work‹ obviously is not only related to the individual but also directly linked to labor relations. We want to explore the potentials for workers' resistance and union organizing with regard to the deepening pressures of competition in one of the classic low-wage sectors. Is there a chance for change, backed by European Union projects like the ›Social Dialogue‹ between employers' and employees' organizations within the private security industry or organizing models?


The conference intends to shed light on these heterogeneous situations in the field of ›urban security work spaces‹ by bringing together international experts to combine theoretical as well as empirical insights.