Critics fear the creation of a private police force in Cambridge as companies bid for police powers.
The two private security companies, GSL Dardan and Combined Service Provider, are currently bidding for authority over Cambridge’s traffic management. This would result in drivers being forced to surrender their personal details, such as their name and address, to security guards.
These so-called “officers” will also have the power to impose fines.
Establishing a private police force allowed this level of authority may put citizens at risk to abuse of power. After all, these security guards work for a company, whose purpose is to gain profit, as opposed to for the people or the government, whose purpose is supposedly to serve and protect.
Nick Pickles, director of Big Brother Watch, said:
“This is policing on the cheap, handing out serious powers to people who don’t need them and who are not public servants by any stretch of the imagination.
“I fail to see why someone directing traffic at an event needs any legal power to wear a hi-vis jacket and point cars in certain directions. Private companies shouldn’t be handing out fines and demanding people’s details for disobeying instructions.”
Cambridge MP Julian Huppert is also worried that the powers could be abused:
“I am instinctively concerned at the idea of private companies being given policing powers — this needs to be very carefully controlled, and we have seen cases around the country where these powers have been given very widely and abused.
“However, I can see some merit in giving very limited and specific traffic management powers for managing events. If this can keep traffic flowing and minimise disruption while freeing up police officers to attend to other duties it is right that it should be considered.
“But there have to be absolutely rigorous checks in place, and the permission should be withdrawn if the companies step outside very tight limits.”
Handing over authoritative responsibilities to deputized security guards is a frugal approach to distribute power and free up police officers.
Alternative courses of action could be to recruit more officers or create a system with rotating shifts.
Manpower is hardly a good reason to give grave responsibilities to private companies, without fully realizing the consequences.
Trust is not something that comes along easily these days. With cases like identity theft and corruption so abundant in the news, it is asking too much for the public to trust individuals who are not working for them, but for a private company. The true intentions of these companies can never be assured.
The public can never be sure if the security guards are working on commission, or if they are given a quota of fines they have to reach in a day.
Putting abuse and brutality to one side for a moment, physical police presence in areas is meant to be assuring. Eliminating this presence may bring a spike in crime rates.
According to recent statistics, in June 2013 alone, there have been 719 crimes within a 1 mile radius of Cambridge. How can these security guards protect the citizens if they are not well versed with the protocols of the police force? Public safety has and always should be the top priority of the state. It should not be risked just because of lack of manpower.
Police officers are public servants. They should not be outsourced to private companies who offer mediocre service to the citizens.
The responsibility must not be passed on to corporations. Power comes with responsibility, and that responsibility should be held with the highest dignity of officers dedicated to the public, and only the public.