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‘Quiet revolution’ in private policing

We are in the midst of a ‘quiet revolution’ in policing, Prof Mark Button has concluded in the second edition of his book Private Policing, an update of his 2002 first edition.

Appropriately for a second edition of a book, it’s in fact a second revolution, linked to the expansion of cyberspace and to how many things are ever more done online: ‘purchasing products and services, friendship, finding love etc’. The first revolution in policing pre-dated the internet and was physical private security taking on some of the roles of public police, so that private policing has become substantial; even pre-eminent.

He writes: “The changes in the space we use have also fuelled changes in crime so that, as was noted earlier in this book, around half of crime against individuals is fraud- and cyber-related in England and Wales. Individuals and organisations have sought to protect themselves from this growing problem in the absence of an adequate state service. A substantial and rapidly expanding ‘new private security industry’ has emerged as a consequence. It also has a largely preventative orientation, and these changes have also taken place with very little debate and research among scholars and policy-makers.”

Mark Button, a professor of criminology at the University of Portsmouth, pictured, points also to ‘substantial contribution of hybrid policing bodies to policing, drawn from the state and NGOs, as well as various forms of voluntary policing. It has shown that in many nodal contexts policy-makers have choices in policing provision: use the public police, create a new public body, establish a specialised police force, leave it to an NGO [non-governmental organisation], establish an in-house security department or use a contract security firm. The choices made and resources provided might also have implications for the possible emergence of voluntary contributions , such as vigilantes.’

The policing focus is now on prevention rather than cure. He closes by noting that 16 years after the first edition there has been much more research from which to write a deeper book – but still not enough. “Hopefully the significant changes occurring in policing, along with works such as this, will also spark the necessary ‘quiet revolution’ in policing research.”

The paperback is published by Routledge, priced £29.99.


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