What could possibly go wrong?

From the Guardian:

Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two of the largest police forces in the [UK].

West Midlands and Surrey have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.

The contract is the largest on police privatisation so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved.

This scale dwarfs the recent £200m contract between Lincolnshire police and G4S, under which half the force’s civilian staff are to join the private security company, which will also build and run a police station for the first time.

The home secretary, Theresa May, who has imposed a 20% cut in Whitehall grants on forces, has said frontline policing can be protected by using the private sector to transform services provided to the public, but this is the first clear indication of what that will mean in practice. May said on Thursday that she hoped the “business partnership” programme would be in place next spring.

*

The timetable for the programme means it will be subject to final sign-off by the first police and crime commissioner for the West Midlands after their election in November. The existing police authority only gave the go-ahead for the tendering stage last month after a “robust and forthright discussion” which ended with a rare 11-5 split vote.

The joint West Midlands/Surrey “transformation” programme, which has strong backing from the Home Office, looks set to completely redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.

The programme has the potential to become the main vehicle for outsourcing police services in England and Wales. It has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has just moved to the Metropolitan police from the post of Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers.

The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.

A West Midlands police authority spokesman said: “Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business – improving the service provided to the public.

h/t Steve Hynd at the Agonist

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