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Security, Conferences, 2010, Abstracts

When private and public policing merge: Thoughts on commercial policing

It’s common knowledge that the field of security has gone through dramatic transformations, these last years, most notably because of the growth of the private security industry. As stated by Ian Loader or Lucia Zedner, this is the direct result of a deeper shift in our societies towards a consumer culture where security has been reduced to a simple commodity.

Linked directly to these changes, many scholars have argued that the emergence of a private police could result in growing inequities in the provision of security. While the consumption of security has drawn massive attention on the private sector (the private security industry), less consideration has been given to a more discreet yet significant part of this shift: the growing number of police forces selling their services. Indeed, the police, through the commercialization of their services, have become an active and important member of the market of security.

Drawing from a case study of the commercialization department of a North American municipal police organization as well as few international examples, we will show how the market-driven activities of the police are transforming the organization itself. Moreover, we will argue that there’s a reciprocal isomorphism at stake between the private sector and the police, which should lead to a reshape of the relations between them, in particular to a strengthening of the competition. Thus, the already blurred distinction between private and public policing is becoming even more theoretically unfit and we’ll propose the notion of commercial policing to try to think beyond the notions of private and public policing.