Better policing with private security?

September 16, 2010

A new research report published today suggests the police service may have a resource in private security that could contribute to savings of up to £1 billion through collaboration and new ways of working as challenged by the Audit Commission and HMIC.

Interviews with police chiefs suggest that while many feel there is untapped potential in using private security as a resource in this testing climate; others feel that the private security sector lacks credibility and closer collaboration could damage the reputation of the police. Key findings include:Moreover, a survey of Superintendents found that three quarters felt that the lack of accountability of the security sector was an impediment to closer working. Yet more than 8 in10 saw benefits in closer partnership working.

Professor Martin Gill who leads Perpetuity Research and Consultancy International, a spin-out company from the University of Leicester that conducted the study said:

'It is clear that the police service has not properly considered its position on private security. There are more private security officers than there are police officers and some senior officers clearly recognised the potential for enhancement and savings. Yet often, by their own admission, this has not been properly thought through. It seems that the police, the Government and ultimately the public are missing a trick. Properly managed, private security offer an option for supplementing police work, badly managed and they can undermine the perception of the police. Both positions are fairly founded but suggest a need for closer collaboration. The time is right for leaders in the police, private security and the Government to work together on the best models for engagement'.

Peter Davies, who is the ACPO lead on the private security sector said;

"We welcome this report and as an Association we supported Martin Gill and his team in their groundbreaking research. In tough financial times we need to consider every option available to keep people safe and help them to feel safe. The private security industry presents many opportunities but also risks. There are great examples of partnership in action but also uncertainty and doubt about how and whether to develop our relationship. This research is very informative and gives us a factual basis on which to discuss our future strategy."
Professor Martin Gill is contactable on 0774 0284286; email:

Peter Davies is contactable on 01522 558003, email:

The full report can be obtained from Katrina Lister, 0116 222 5555.

ACPO provided access to its members and the findings are based on interviews with 32 ACPO representatives and 11 from other police organisations; and 25 representatives from the private and corporate security sectors. The Superintendents' Association provided access to its members and an online survey elicited responses from 71 Superintendents (including Chief Superintends) in 17 forces. The research was undertaken as part of the Security Research Initiative, for more information go to

Perpetuity is a spin out company from the University of Leicester specialising in security and community safety research and consultancy, for more information go to

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