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Private Security and Public Law Enforcement

Success in community policing relies on success in partnership building. Actively seeking out new opportunities for collaboration opens the door for innovation in problem-solving. In particular, partnerships between private security and law enforcement are an area ripe for advancing community policing and addressing mutual goals.

Cutting-edge technology, information sharing, and personnel resources are just a few of the benefits that private security brings to these partnerships. With more than two million employees, this rapidly growing industry is taking on increasing responsibilities in the field of public safety. Unfortunately, misperception of private security can sometimes be a factor in hindering strong partnerships with law enforcement. 

The private security field, in fact, is much more diverse than what many may imagine. Annually, it spends more than $100 billion on security products and services. In contrast, federal, state, and local law enforcement spend less than half that amount. Additionally, many private security employees are experts in technology, fraud, and forensics investigation and often hold professional certifications and advanced degrees.

Private security and public law enforcement share many of the same goals: preventing crime and disorder, identifying criminals, and ensuring the security of people and property. As there are two private security practitioners for every one sworn law enforcement officer, effective partnerships can act as a much needed force multiplier. 

The COPS Office is committed to promoting private security and law enforcement partnerships. At a 2004 summit, the COPS Office, the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP), ASIS International, and other private security membership associations discussed the importance of this issue. Using the recommendations that came out of the summit, the COPS Office and the Institute for Law and Justice (ILJ) are collaborating on a guidebook entitled “Operation Partnership: Practices and Trends in Law Enforcement and Private Security Collaborations.” The guidebook, which offers strategies for building these partnerships, will be released both in print and on the COPS Office web site in summer 2008. In addition, COPS and ILJ have recently re-partnered to develop online training materials for use by law enforcement and private security. These training materials will be available in 2009.