Newly-appointed Minister of State for Policing and Criminal Justice, Damian Green MP, highlighted the clear benefits of private sector involvement in policing at a Parliamentary roundtable meeting hosted by the British Security Industry Association (BSIA) earlier this month.
The forthcoming impact of Police and Crime Commissioners and the role of private security companies in the changing delivery of policing services were the topics debated at the event, held at the Houses of Parliament on Tuesday, 11th September. Among the attendees were members of the BSIA’s dedicated Police and Public Services Section as well as the Association’s Chairman, Geoff Zeidler, alongside MPs with an interest in security and policing and several Police and Crime Commissioner candidates.
The event generated a lively and frank debate on the ways in which the private security industry and police have worked together in the past, and what future opportunities are likely to develop as a result of the cost-saving priority given to PCCs when they’re elected later this year.
Addressing attendees, Green reinforced the importance of an open-minded approach to collaboration, claiming that the most effective Police and Crime Commissioners will be innovative and look for new ways to make cost savings.
For PCCs to rule out collaboration was also deemed as unwise, as they will have to outline how cost savings can be made without reducing Police numbers.
Green also added that the introduction of PCCs will be a unique opportunity to put decision-making on police issues under democratic control, giving the public a seat at the table when important decisions are being made.
Earlier in the day, Green addressed Police and Crime Commissioner candidates, reinforcing the value that private sector support can bring to the police service. He said: “I hope you will all consider the value of private sector partnering to achieve both cost savings and better services for the public…
“Every pound saved means a pound saved to be used on the front-line, putting officers on the streets. I want more officers to be out there getting on with the job of fighting crime – we all know they can’t do it if they are bogged down with red tape.”
BSIA President, Sir Keith Povey QPM, was keen to dispel the myth of a ‘privatised police force’, adding: “The private security industry is not interested in undertaking frontline policing; that is for the Police. What we are interested in is providing supporting functions to strengthen and support the Police.”
“Private security companies can contribute to police work in much broader functions as part of the wider policing family. Work such as managing cordons, area searches and taking witness statements, do not require a warranted police officer, and by allocating such tasks to private security personnel, forces can free up police officers to return to the front line.”
At present, BSIA members are involved in delivering a number of support functions to reinforce the strength of the UK’s police force, including assisting British Transport Police to combat high incidents of metal theft, and operating custody suites, one example of which has resulted in 53 warranted officers returning to front line duty, and delivering £1.39 million worth of efficiency savings per year. In this example, customer satisfaction was high, with 96% of police officers involved in managing the contract rating the BSIA member’s helpfulness as excellent.
The BSIA and members of its Police and Public Services section have been engaging with MPs and Parliamentarians over recent years to overcome the perceived barriers to partnership working and to raise awareness of the ability of the private sector to provide this essential support.
To find out more about the BSIA and its Police and Public Services Section, visit www.bsia.co.uk/police-and-public-services