Public vs. Private Police: Which Would You Choose?

Published On May 7, 2010 | By Ademo Freeman | Articles

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.

Funding

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.

Customer Service

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

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.

Conclusion

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?

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About The Author

Ademo Freeman is an advocate for a voluntary society, one where people are free to live their lives so long as they don't initiate force on others. Ademo has also been involved with other projects such as the MotorhomeDiaries.com, FreeKeene.com and LibertyOnTour.com You can get more content created by Ademo at his Facebook page and YouTube channel. Enjoy Ademo's post/work? Want to show him your gratitude, simply click here. Thanks in advance for your support, it's greatly appreciated.
  • Jenn

    Well said, very nice article.

  • jacksmith

    I want to commend all of you for working so hard and being so strong at helping the whitehouse and congress begin to address our U.S. and Global healthcare crisis. You have been AWESOME! my fellow Americans and peoples of the World. America and the World is better and safer for it. My greatest pride is the knowledge that I am one of you. And that you really get it. You really understand the importance of it all.

    There are some potentially very good things in the healthcare legislation. Especially with the reconciliation fix’s. The Democrats, Bernie Sanders and the Whitehouse did a GREAT! job of fighting to produce the best healthcare legislation that they could. They have earned all our strong support. And we should give it to them.

    But it was your relentless pressure and hard work that made the difference. Whatever good comes from this healthcare legislation, America and the peoples of the World will have each of you to thank. You were smart, creative, courageous and relentless. You fought together for the best legislation possible. And when you had to, you fought alone. No matter who stumbled and fell you continued to push and forge ahead. Fighting for the lives and health of the American people and the World. YOU SHOULD BE PROUD OF YOUR-SELVES :-)

    It may come to pass that future generations will look back on us and say that we were ALL Americas Greatest Generations. And that healthcare reform was our finest hour. You should be proud of our leaders President Obama, Speaker Pelosi, Majority Leader Reid and the many other Democratic and independent fighters for the people in congress. They proved them-self worthy of the leadership of a GREAT! PEOPLE.

    But we are not done yet. This was just the beginning of healthcare reform, not the end. WE THE PEOPLE OF THE UNITED STATES, ARE NOT! divided on healthcare legislation. The vast majority of you have been consistently crystal clear that this legislation does not go far enough. You want a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. And you want it NOW! YOU MUST NOT ALLOW AN INDIVIDUAL MANDATE TO STAND WITHOUT A STRONG GOVERNMENT-RUN PUBLIC OPTION CHOICE! AVAILABLE TO EVERYONE.

    WE THE PEOPLE have been crystal clear that we want an end to dependence on for-profit healthcare and the for-profit proxies called private for non-profit healthcare. The American people want the CHOICE! of a strong Government-run Public Option to replace their need or dependence on healthcare providers whose primary motivation is profit. Rather than providing the highest quality, easiest accessible and most affordable medically necessary healthcare possible. This is what the rest of the developed World has. And the American people want it too. They want healthcare ASSURANCE! Not, for-profit health insurance. And they want it NOW!

    Now is the time to continue the push for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone that wants it on day one. Rationally it’s clear what we have to do to get this done. SUPPORT THE DEMOCRATS that supported you with a Public Option, and REMOVE as many republicans as you can. Not one republican in congress was willing to step across the isle to support a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE!! available to everyone on day one. NOT ONE! Let no candidate prevail this November that does not support a Strong Government-run Public Option.

    47,000 AMERICANS die each year from lack of healthcare. 120,000 die from treatable illness that don’t die in other developed countries. Hundreds of thousands of you are dieing from medical accidents in a rush to profit. And Millions are injured. Millions are driven into bankruptcy. All for the privilege of paying two to three times as much as any other people in the developed world for healthcare. HOGWASH!

    Additionally, tens of thousands of you and your children were killed and millions sickened and injured from a terror attack with H1N1 (swine flu). Released on the American people and the World by the for-profit healthcare industry. All in an attempt to panic and frighten you into accepting the oxymoronic criminal enterprise of private for-profit healthcare (The most costly, deadly, dangerous, and disgraceful product sold in America). H1N1 is still sickening people and killing them. Especially children, the young and the middle aged. And there will be a third wave. These are the terrorist you need to worry about the most. Even the so-called international terrorist would not do something so INSANE! But greed driven medical profiteers would and did.

    Apparently as far as republicans in GOVERNMENT are concerned, YOU! my fellow Americans – CAN JUST DROP DEAD! Including their own family members. Fools! Hundreds of thousands of you, and possibly millions of you will die from the long-term effects of your infection and poisoning with H1N1.

    So my fellow Human Beings. Rest-up, Take good care of the basics (Balanced nutrition, hydration, exercise, rest and POSITIVE emotional supports). Then wade back into the FIGHT! for a strong Government-run Public Option CHOICE! available to everyone on day one. Drug re-importation, Abolishment or strong restrictions on patents for biologic and prescription drugs. And government controlled and negotiated drug and medical cost, NOW! You must take back control of your healthcare system from the Medical Industrial Complex. This is a matter of National and Global security. There can be NO MORE EXCUSES.

    God Bless You My Fellow Human Beings. I’m glad to know of you. And proud to be one of you.

    See you on the battle field.

    Sincerely

    jacksmith – WorkingClass :-)

  • http://youtube.com/peteeyre Pete Eyre

    Awesome overview. Good job distilling down what’s admittedly seen as a complicated issue – due mainly to misinformation and State propaganda – on its surface.

    Privatize it!

  • http://nocoercion.com Darren O’Connor

    “…it’s beyond me why anyone would allow a monopoly on something as important as protection.”

    Yep, that’s the key thing. Well said.

  • http://libertapedia.org/ Nathan Larson

    Most of American law enforcement has already been privatized. In the ordinary course of a day, you encounter lots more privately-owned surveillance cameras, car alarms, security guards, armored car drivers, plainclothes loss prevention officers, private citizens carrying guns, etc., than government police. We just happen to notice the government police more because the private sector focuses on crime prevention and is more likely to deal with crime privately (e.g. by firing an embezzler or banning a shoplifter from the store). If we had to rely only on government police, our society would be as chaotic and crime-ridden as any third-world country.

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  • http://georgedonnelly.com George Donnelly

    I’d like to see cooperative police, ie “co-op” police. Instead of either of the traditional top-down public vs private options, co-op police are owned equally by members of the community who purchase reasonably-priced shares. There could be still be profit-sharing and revenues would be generated by charging people for services, coverage or on a per-incident basis. This organizational structure might predispose it to a more egalitarian bent and greater local accountability.

  • Jenn

    What is Jack Smith talking about? Did I miss something? What does healthcare have to do with privatization of police?

  • http://www.winliberty.com John P. Slevin

    One can compare the rates and types of crime committed under situations where the security is provided by taxpayers vs those where it’s privately funded. Just compare large regional shopping malls to crimes outside such private property areas. Each large regional mall represents a “city” unto itself. While serious crimes like murder, assault and rape do occur at such facilities it’s at a rate not even approaching that outside the confines of the private facilities. View each large regional shopping center, policed by private security, as an island oasis of low incidence of crime compared to the “outside world”. Oh, and the private cops aren’t nearly as expensive as the taxpayer financed cops.

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  • Jim Brown

    Nice write-up Adam, I have a huge problem with privatization of police for profit. I too am a liberty lover but the profit motive is far too great to unleash on a “free” society. Policing is always better left to the Police. It’s the laws that needs to be changed and to do that we must change the lawmakers.

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/kinleyhard K.C.

    jacksmith obviously posted here about healthscare by mistake rather than in a Democrat donkey mire or Liberal lackey board. Healthcare is a service for sale, just as medicines are goods for sale, to the free market, neither an entitlement nor a privilege.

    Private police/protection/security has already been around for decades. They are called asset protection, body guards, bounty hunters, loss prevention, private investigators and security guards. They also can be very expensive and unreliable. They are subject to and yield to government law enforcement, just like we citizens. So hiring your own police protection can not and will not by-pass the official gang thugs.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/entr0py Christopher Brooks

    “When fascism comes to America it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying a cross”. True no matter who said it.
    The support of a corporate fascist America bewilders me. I look forward to fighting against your cause.

  • RIchard

    Florida Highway Patrol is a private company. It is part of Florida Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, also a private company. They in turn are “agencies” of the STATE OF FLORIDA which is a for profit corporation.

    So, with FHP being a private company, they do not own the roads. The troopers are in effect, private contractors since FHP is not a state government agency.

    The Traffic courts are also for profit corporations and are NOT judicial.

    So how can FHP claim to be able to police public roads, highways, stop drivers, etc. when these are all corporations of which I am not a member? How can FHP police anything when they are a private for profit company?

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  • ryan

    im sorry but i dont support privatizing law enforcement, why should a cop be nice, except out of choice, not because they are forced, and well them searching your car well sorry they have the right to do that because of well idk, um try Probable cause. and if they search your car without your permisson and they find anything, well their is this thing called the 4 amendment which is for specific search and seizure procedures, and if they search your car without your permission have it throw out of court siting 4th amendment violation. and whos to say if its privatized well, ohh this cop gave me a ticket, well i think im gonna complain against him so he can get fired, or ill just not do anything associoated with the company that runs them, to be honest Robocop is a perfect example of what can happen if you privatize law enforcement. Your argument is well thoughtout but i feel a things like law enforcement should be ran by the government, not a free enterprise. so im going to go with, public ran law enforcement. why i feel im credible to state my opinion mostly because im a law enforcement/ criminal justice major.

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  • RKNJL

    Must have never heard of gangs before…

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  • jack frost

    i agree with your opinion, but find it rather hard to believe your’re educated in law enforcement/criminal justice with such atrocious typographical errors.