(JD Heyes) A new trend is sweeping across America, and it’s an idea whose time may have come: Private police forces – as in, forces that do not subsist on tax dollars or work on behalf of local, city or county governments.
As reported by the Washington Post, the idea is built on one that is older than our republic. In the days of English common law, “conservators of the peace” were individuals empowered to protect communities and businesses, using established laws and rules.
“The conservator of the peace concept predates modern policing,” the paper reported. “It has its origins in English common law, and the first Virginia statute was enacted in 1860 to allow proprietors of ‘watering places’ to protect their establishments.”
In Virginia, especially, Special Conservators of the Peace, or SCOPs as they are called, are becoming increasingly common, though not everyone is a fan of them. The Post noted:
The trend has raised concerns in Virginia and elsewhere, because these armed officers often receive a small fraction of the training and oversight of their municipal counterparts. Arrests of private police officers and incidents involving SCOPs overstepping their authority have also raised concerns.
’61 percent less crime’
As such, and in typical fashion, lawmakers are looking for ways to quash this increasingly popular mode of policing. In Virginia, the state Legislature recently passed a measure that would require boosting the number of training hours SCOPs would have to complete. Also, the bill contains new rules that would regulate their actions. Other states are moving to implement stricter requirements as well.
But as noted by The Sputnik, the trend of overly-authoritarian requirements is bucking the trend of rising success among private police forces. In some places, crime has decreased by substantial double-digit percentages.
The Sputnik cited a town in Texas where crime rates have fallen drastically after private police were employed:
Rather than degenerate into a lawless land where criminals rule the streets, a Texas town that fired its entire police department has seen a 61 percent decrease in crime.
In 2012, Sharpstown, a community of 66,000 located just southwest of Houston, declined to renew its contract with the constable’s office, essentially dismissing its cops.
Instead, the Sharpstown Civic Association hired SEAL Security Solutions, a private firm, to patrol their streets.
“Since we’ve been in there, an independent crime study that they’ve had done [indicates] we’ve reduced the crime by 61% in just 20 months,” James Alexander, Director of Operations for SEAL, told another web site, Guns.com.
Competition will improve the overall product
In an opinion piece at the Guns.com, Scott Unzicker said it is high time that other communities consider the free-market option of privatizing police:
Questions of police accountability and efficacy have been prominent topics in the news of late. On a disturbingly regular basis, we hear and read stories of heavy-handed responses by officers, who, instead of de-escalating confrontations as a domestic police force ought, seem to prefer committing violence on the citizenry they’re ostensibly charged to protect.
Back in Virginia, one SCOP – Michael Youlen, a former police officer and president of Manassas Junction LLC – is a force of one. He has contracts with nine apartment and housing complexes in Manassas, and residents there are ecstatic. He, too, has overseen a reduction in crime while improving quality of life issues.
Opponents abound, however. Government-run police officials obviously oppose private enterprises, even though their results are better and the costs are not as steep. That is no different, however, than proponents of government-run Obamacare opposing so-called “boutique” or “concierge medicine,” which is a practice that no longer takes private or government health insurance but instead charges patients a monthly “membership” and small fees for service. Doctors love it because it frees them from the expensive morass of dealing with onerous amounts of paperwork; patients love it because they get ready access to their doctor 24-7, and for less money overall.
But if private policing continues to perform as well or better than government-run policing, expect more communities to switch to this model, and avoid fewer Fergusons and less militarization. If nothing else, maybe the competition from private police agencies will force the government-run departments to improve their performance.