Public vs. Private Police: Which Would You Choose?
As a believer in removing government from just about every aspect of our lives, I wanted to write about the differences in public police vs. private security forces. To understand this you must realize that several things need to change before this is even possible. Allowing people to own land (like roads, parks, ect.), to conduct business (trash collection, policing, ect.) as they see fit (even if done poorly) and not allowing government the authority to preside over any of it would be a great start.
A good source for understanding negative impact of government on society is Murray N. Rothbard’s book For a New Liberty: The Libertarian Manifest.
In this post I intend to cover several aspects of policing/protection. From how it’s funded, accountability, customer service and more. I hope to show you that even though policing will never be perfect, there are ways to limit the hardships the current system is often responsible for. I’ll try not to bore you with an endless amount of facts or quotes from others who share the same belief. Instead I’ll just try to highlight some basic points on each topic, explaining how today’s public police force could be better served in the private sector. This is a very controversial topic, one that could take a series of posts to explain, but I’ll do my best.
The difference in funding of public police to those that are private is simple: one is backed by force and the other is voluntary. Taxation is the payment method of the public sector, where budgets balloon and collectivism is the constant bailout for those who fail to properly manage their department. The public option of policing is paid before you receive any good or service, and still taken if you refuse or fail to use such service. The public sector of police does a horrible job of managing their growth, budget and needs of the consumer. Their budgets, power, and influence grow without the checks and balances of those who operate private businesses.
A company that makes widgets (for example) would base future investments, whether that be hiring more employees, investing in equipment or building space, on research that would show areas of needed growth and areas that can be scaled back based off the demands of their consumers. Failure to realize these trends and growth of the times would be disastrous for a private company. They would lose customers and therefore jeopardize the entire business.
That’s exactly why the private sector is a better answer. Companies who choose to do business as private police forces would know this. They would only provide services which people agree to pay for, e.g, conducting investigations of break-ins, working with other agencies (presumably private) to retrieve stolen property, or monitoring the property (such as roads, businesses, and homes) of their customers.
The private police would have to worry about maintaining relationships with its consumer for fear going out of business. Public police don’t have to worry about being put out of business and it’s proven in how they treat their consumers, which brings me to the next point.
As any business owner knows customer service is a critical factor in maintaining a business. Even those with a highly demanded product know customer service tops everything. Failure to keep customers happy only leads to a ‘going out of business’ sale. At least in the private sector.
It’s hard to talk about the public police and the customer service they have, as it’s pretty much non-existent. Not to mention the ‘duties’ of public police would be broken into several different fields of private policing/security forces (some might police private roads, businesses, ect.). For this example we’ll use a traffic stop to highlight the difference in customer relations.
The public police, whom you’re paying for regardless, pull you over for speeding. The officer comes to your window, states that s/he’s pulled you over for speeding and demands ID. If you’re lucky the incident ends with a warning and you’re mildly inconvenienced. For most, one or several of the following things happen; you’re asked to step out of your car, you and your property are searched extensively, you’re questioned and/or threatened, you’re taken away to booking or even to jail. The public police demand respect and answers to their questions, along with your cooperation — no matter how immoral, illegal, or insane the request.
Then there is the court process you, in most cases, must go through. Again, you lose time, money, and possibly your right to travel or even your freedom. The process favors the public police because those who partake in this system all work for the same organization: the state. They also create the man-made “laws” they claim you’ve broken, even benefiting from the result (if putting something on paper deems it just). Even though money generated from tickets does go back into the system, rarely does it cover the cost of the system, making the justice system one of the poorest run businesses on the planet.
When you speed on a private road, owned by Company X, that has ‘police’ patrolling to ensure the safety of other customers, it would be a day and night experience. First of all, the private officer would most likely treat you with respect, instead of demanding it from you. They wouldn’t have the right, let alone the desire, to search your personal belongings. They would attempt several options like, educating you, offering discounts for consecutive safe driving days and more as opposed to taking you to arbitration. As a business that relies on you to drive on their roads to make a profit, they would realize that lengthy court hearings are expensive. If you ending up abusing their rules, you would either pay a higher price to travel on their property or not be allowed to at all. If the company instituted an aggressive policy of searching property, violating rights and abusing people physically, their reputation would suffer. And so would the profits, making the business worthless and likely to be sold off to better investors/business men.
Which brings us to the next topic.
Accountability can be tricky when talking about public vs. private policing as both are accountable for their actions in monetary terms. The difference though is who pays for that accountability and how it differs from the organization to the employee.
In the public policing system when an employee uses bad judgment or commits a physical offense against someone, rarely do they pay for it directly. Normally in lawsuits against public police departments it’s the taxpayers who foots the bill for the actions of abusive police. I know there are some lawsuits paid for by insurance companies, but who pays the increased premium next billing cycle? Yep, taxpayers. So you’re not only paying for a service you rarely use, but one that’s more likely to aggress on you, then still stick you with the bill for their misbehaving employees on top of it. From a business perspective, this is not only wrong, it’s downright evil, as all of it is backed with force.
The accountability only gets worse when you try to get an employee of public police held accountable for their actions. With a monopoly on policing it’s easy for other public police to cover the bad acts of other employees. Even when found in the wrong, through whatever means, rarely do public police face the same punishments or hardships that those without badges do. Police commonly get reduced sentences, fines, and often keep their jobs. The lack of accountability and the double standard in police is an extremely dangerous combination, especially when you add the endless income from taxation.
On the other hand, private police companies would be responsible for their employees. Employees might be responsible in extreme cases where they flat out defy company policy. Private police wouldn’t have such an aggressive policy, therefore reducing the risk factor that public police often put themselves into. Then there is the all mighty dollar, where if a company protected its own by hiding evidence or engaging in rights violating activities that public police do, they would lose customers. And unlike the public police they don’t have money given (stolen if you ask me) to them to cover such acts. They know they could be held financially responsible to the fullest and would do everything to prevent costly payouts that public police seem to have no problem paying, seeing as how it’s not their money.
If you fear that one of these private protection agencies could take over the world or have bigger guns than you, that’s no different than what we have today. The public police seem to be doing one hell of a job at limiting our rights and taking our money at the same time. The fact is that it would be almost impossible for one company to grow to the size of the police state in this country due to the beauty of competition.
To me it is clear: privatization and removal of government as our protectors is a must. After looking into how the police system works, it’s beyond me why anyone would allow a monopoly on something as important as protection. It’s obvious that funding, customer service and accountability would improve across the board. That 100’s or 1,000’s of competing business would provide a better, safer service for us all.
Which would you choose?