Against actual existing neoliberalism! (Policing Crowds)

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

Like 6 ·  
Rating: 3.6 of 5.20 vote(s).
Security, Conferences, 2010

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; cf. Eick et al., 2007): Private security companies, at least since the early 1990s, have started to conquer public spaces and are developing some expertise in policing (Rigakos, 2002; Wakefield, 2003; Eick, 2006; Mulone & Dupont, 2006; Button, 2007). 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 incur human security work (ESRAB, 2006; Berenberg Bank & HWWI, 2008; Freedonia Group, 2008; VDI & VDE, 2009).

State police has also undergone significant changes, including commercialization, new public management, and »police-private-partnerships« (Stober, 1997; cf. Henry & Smith, 2007). Alongside these developments, the police apparatus has trans-nationalized (Sheptycki, 2000) and violence, in particular against transnational protesters, has reemerged significantly since the early 1990s (della Porta et al., 2006).

Phenomena such as nonprofit organizations deploying long-term unemployed as security forces (Eick, 2007); ›Community Wardens‹ or ›Ambassadors‹ overseen by the local municipalities (Helms, 2008); or unpaid volunteers policing sports events such as the FIFA World Cup 2006 in Germany (Görke & Maroldt, 2006), thus extending the »policing family« (Crawford & Lister, 2004) into the realm of the ›civil society‹ have so far been less addressed in this process.


The focus of our conference will be on rent-a-cops and their nonprofit counterparts – as these ›family members‹ are growing significantly in scope, scale and sway. Such growth might even be accelerated by the current financial and economic crisis and, as recent research has underlined, this expansion reshapes (the understanding of) security, public space, and work – and intensifies social exclusion. It is in particular the urban poor (Belina, 2006; Flint, 2006) as well as illegalized migrants (Nair, 2006; Bigo et al., 2007; Broeders, 2007; Vogel & Kovacheva, 2009) and youths (Breyvogel, 1998; Scott, 2004; O'Dougherty, 2006) who are the main targets of these new ›space patrols‹.


Beginning with the German case, we can observe, in a first sighting, varied but, in our perspective, closely connected developments. Our hypothesis is that they are shaping a formation we propose to define as the ›urban security work space‹, new in both quality and quantity:


When, in 2005, the so-called Hartz IV Laws came into operation in Germany, they did not only end the insurance-based type of protection against unemployment, but JobCenters and employment offices immediately hired rent-a-cops to protect their staff from the potential violence of long-term unemployed being forced to live of less than 500 Euros per month. The Bundesagentur für Arbeit, the German Public Employment Service, expects the number of the current 6.8 million long-term unemployed receiving Hartz IV benefits to grow.


When, in the 1980s, (mainly in Berlin), nonprofits mobilized social welfare recipients as cleanliness and public order patrols, this was still the exception. Yet, from the mid- to late 1990s the deployment of long-term unemployed and (from 2005 onwards) of so-called Hartz IV beneficiaries became the rule rather than the exception. Therefore, as it turns out, policing the poor has become a task of the poor themselves.


When, since the 1990s, the German state police started to retreat from rural and urban sites, private security companies stepped in as so-called ›City Patrols‹ to fill the gap and to patrol public spaces in inner-city areas and residential areas in the outskirts. Since 1993, the year the first and still existing ›City Patrol‹ was deployed, their number has grown from 80 in 1997 (Innenministerium Nordrhein-Westfalen, 1998) to about 200 in 2009. Whilst the managerial logic within the police apparatus proceeds (Lange & Schenck, 2003), further takeovers of state police tasks are to be expected especially in public spaces.


When, in the winter of 2007/08, the Police Academy Hamburg started the first Studiengang Sicherheitsmanagement open to future police cops as well as to private security officers in order to »meet the complexities that come with the mastery of tasks of Homeland Defense«, professionalization and cooperation intensified. At that time, the Senate of Hamburg and the German Trade Association of Private Security Companies (BDWS) claimed that »cooperation between state police and the private security industry becomes more and more a necessity«, leading to better qualifications of ›security work‹ in the private sector in collaboration with state police as well as the emergence of a »cop culture« (Behr, 2000), this time commercial style. At the same time, it is the management of the organization that is »defining the concept of security embodied in the employee« (Briken, 2009), thus leading to the question what impact the crisis might have for the perception and practice of ›security as work‹.


It is against this (national) background that we want to discuss the recent situation in Europe and North America in a broader perspective, focusing on rent-a-cops and nonprofits. Looking at urban security work spaces in North America and Europe, we can identify three moments of redefinition and rearrangement of the (meaning of) public space, security and work that are related in various ways. Our understanding of ›urban security work space‹ is, firstly, guided by the fact that, at the present time, more than 50 percent of the population on planet earth live in ›urban‹ environments (OECD, 2006; Deutscher Bundestag, 2009), a highly contested terrain. Even before 9/11, ›security‹ (Kaufmann, 1973) underwent a (re)definition and inclusion of literally everything into the realm of ›homeland security‹ (US) and ›homeland defence‹ (EU) – most visible within the current discourse of ›erweiterter Sicherheitsbegriff‹ (›extended security concept‹) introduced in 2000 (BAKS, 2001; cf. Loader & Walker, 2007). ›Work‹, in turn, currently is understood as a ›gift‹ and a ›duty‹ at the same time (Lødemel & Trickey, 2000; Peck, 2001; Eick et al., 2004) 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 (Vera Institute, 2000), directly affecting ›urban security work‹.


Public space: Our aim here is to discuss how and at which point security ›nodes‹ are strengthened, loosened, or rearranged (Wood et al., 2006) – and what might be the consequences for the ›private‹ policing of public space in particular. 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‹ (Kempa et al., 2004), such as Shopping Malls and Business Improvement Districts (Mitchell, 1999; Ward, 2006; Töpfer et al., 2007). By the same token, aggressive policing of (transnational) protest seems to grow in line with the intensification of the current crisis (Noakes & Gillham, 2006; Fernandez, 2008).


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 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«. 


Work: Our third question focuses on private policing in praxi. ›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 (Briken, 2010). 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 (Eick, 2008) or organizing models (Bremme et al., 2008)?


With all this, 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.


In the following, you will find the program of the conference in detail and a list of the invited participants.


Hoping, to see you soon,

Kendra & Volker