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Global Increase in the Convergence of Private Security and Government Security Operations

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In recent years, the collaboration between private security suppliers and local law enforcement has seen a significant increasing trend, driven by various motivations. Many countries around the world consider the industry to be a “fourth” emergency service. Majority of the work being done is around technology and the technology being designed which links people to law enforcement. We now are seeing a trend in government run justice departments using private security contractors to run prisons and other forms of security. In the U.S, approximately 8.2% of prisons are privately run. Globally there are privately run prisons in the United Kingdom, South Africa, Australia, and other places.

In April 2023, TIME magazine published a series of articles about the increase in private security replacing local police in some communities where frontline police numbers had dropped by 10%. This is a global issue. The International Association of Chiefs of Police released an eight-page document outlining a recruitment crisis. 78% of agencies reported having difficulty in recruiting, 65% reported having too few candidates.

Globally, the demand in security continues to increase. Today we see a demand in retail, business security and residential security.

A great example in private and government law enforcement collaboration is when there are large sporting or VIP events. You will see Police working with private security in creating a layered security plan in preventing criminal activity and types of response to incidents.

Motivations for Collaboration in Private Security

A collaboration between security suppliers and local law enforcement is often motivated by a combination of factors. These may include resource augmentation. Private security firms can provide additional peoplepower, expertise, and specialised skills that complement agencies, helping to bridge gaps in resources and personnel.

Rapid Response

Private security firms can offer quick response times and flexibility, making them valuable partners in emergency situations or when additional support is needed at short notice.

Training and Skill Transfer

The global close protection industry has witnessed a transfer of training and skills between security firms and government agencies.

We often see this type of collaboration when private security trainers who are often former government security operators, are invited back to provide training and skill development to government security personal.

An example of this in New Zealand is when I invited Dr Itay Gil to run training in unarmed close protection. With my time in Diplomatic Protection for the New Zealand Police, I identified a skill shortage in unarmed combat training. The current training was dated, and training techniques required improvements. As close protection operators, you often find yourself travelling a lot and you will spend numerous hours on a commercial aircraft with VIPs. Yet, very little time was spent on training in an aircraft when a protection officer is at their most vulnerable, trying to work in a closed space with no possibility of extra support or ability to escape form an attack.

I hired an aircraft used by an airline training school for a full day workshop for Dr Itay Gil to take students from the industry and government agencies through unarmed combat skills on an aircraft. They learned how to move in their seats, use the small space to their advantage and how many items on an aircraft can be easily used as a weapon. This is a great example of private and government convergence in physical security and close protection.

Private Security

Public Perception and Accountability

There are always concerns when Government agencies work with private security companies, and it is important that the public are comfortable with any security arrangements with security providers. There would need to be clear transparency of joint operations or collaborations with private security and government agencies. Data Privacy would be a concern when sharing intelligence and dealing with members of the public. There would need to be clarity around accountability for any misconduct or errors made. Clear mechanisms for accountability and oversight need to be in place and transparent. This would be an opportunity to introduce regulation and standards for private security companies to obtain these contracts or enter any government partnership. The government can use this to uplift private security training but also introduce consistent practices across the entire security industry. As a result, in an emergency, the response between private and government security agencies must be seamless to provide effective and timely assistance without the risk of confusion.

Future Trends in Private Security

As we continue both here in New Zealand and globally with a decline in Police recruitment and dealing with the rapid increase in crime, there will be a point when there will be reliability on private security. From simple foot patrols and visible security to providing high level close protection to members of Parliament. This would provide a layer of security the government agencies can’t supply without impacting other security services to the public.

Private security guards will obtain authority to deal with low level crime like anti-social behaviour, public intoxication, and theft. This would free up government agencies to target organised crime and use their resources to focus on serious criminals and offending. These trends are currently being seen in the United Kingdom, USA, South Africa, and other places in the world where there is a greater reliance on private security. If done properly, the convergence of private and government security agencies can have a positive impacts on the communities by lowering crime and providing a higher level of visible security.

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