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Security Law: Private Police = Para-Police?

By: James F. Pastor, Ph.D., J.D., CPP
Principal Expert/Managing Member
SecureLaw LLC, a Security & Legal Consultancy
Tel: (239) 327-9283
Email Dr. Pastor


In the past several years many in the security industry have advocated increasing professional standards. The hallmark criteria of professionalism usually relate to training, wages, recruitment standards, and accountability. These issues take on increased importance in light of the nature and scope of the security industry in contemporary America. Due to the threat of terrorism coupled with financial and operational constraints facing municipal policing agencies, the use of private police will increase in coming years. Understanding the legal and operational framework of security is critical as the scope of private policing grows.

More than 2 million people are employed in security positions, with about $52 billion in annual spending. In contrast, public police employ about 700,000 people, with only $30 billion in annual spending. In many places, private security personnel outnumber public police by a ratio of 4-5 to 1. Going beyond these raw statistics, there is a growing trend to employ private police officers in public areas, including within business districts, on public streets within residential communities, and in large municipal facilities such as concert and sports stadiums (also termed "mass private property"). Particularly because of the extended scope of private police within public and semi-public property, the need for professionalism within the industry has dramatically increased.

Two or three decades ago, there was much controversy in both the legal and medical professions related to the growing use of "para-professionals." Many in these professions viewed the introduction of "paramedics" and "paralegals" as an offensive, even dangerous, intrusion into the standards maintained within the industry. Looking at this concern from 21st century norms, any "controversy" seems pale. Indeed, not only have these respective professions been able to sustain high standards, but the work product of these individuals is critical to the service provision afforded to their clientele. The "parapolice" model has many similarities from these para-professionals, there are some distinctions, including an accepted and consistent training standard, wage levels and the like.

These issues were framed in extensive studies of private policing by Dr. James F. Pastor, the president of SecureLaw Ltd., a public safety and security consulting firm. He is also an associate professor of public safety at Calumet College of St. Joseph. These studies were initially published in Dr. Pastor"s groundbreaking book entitled, The Privatization of Police in America: An Analysis and Case Study. The book examines the myriad and often complicated issues related to private policing. One compelling conclusion of the book is that law enforcement and private security will become increasingly interrelated into a "public safety" industry. In order for this to occur, however, private police must exhibit increased professionalism at the patrol level, which can only be accomplished by a requisite increase in training, wages and accountability. Consequently, if "parapolice" are to function within the public realm, they must be prepared to contribute to the order maintenance and service needs of the community-thereby being the supportive "paraprofessionals" of municipal police departments.

Dr. Pastor subsequently published Security Law and Methods, a case book designed to extensively and critically examine legal issues that impact the provision of security services. The complexity of these issues is made increasingly pointed in light of the "security versus rights" debate that will last for as long as terrorism is considered a threat. Understanding this debate in light of legal precedent, criminological theories, security methods, and the concept and technique of terrorism has been the major purpose-and contribution-of this book.

Finally, Dr. Pastor brought these issues together in an extensively researched and uniquely structured book entitled: Terrorism and Public Safety Policing: Implications for the Obama Presidency. This book developed a new "model" of policing involving three key elements: Military Weaponry and Tactical Operations, Intelligence Methods and Surveillance Technologies, and Order Maintenance provisions (see below Figure for descriptive view of these elements). Each of these interrelated elements is critical to public safety and homeland security. Going forward, the provision of order maintenance services will be accomplished widely, if not extensively, by private police. These para-police providers will operate within public environments, particularly in business districts, critical infrastructure, mass transportation, sporting and concert facilities, and a host of other locations. In short, the movement toward private policing is substantial and will continue to increase as the threat of terrorism manifests itself.

Public Safety Policing Chart

If you are interested in this subject, please consider these books. Alternatively, if you desire to discuss these issues with one of the preeminent experts on private policing, please contact SecureLaw Ltd.


Dr. James F. Pastor, PhD, JD, CPP, brings a unique and remarkable 40+ year career in SecurityPolicing, and Public Safety, starting as a tactical officer in Gang Crime Enforcement for the Chicago Police Department, one of the most active policing units in the country. Augmented with a doctorate in Public Policy Analysis, he understands that policies create incentives and drive human behavior. As these directly impact public safety and crime, few possess his experience, his unique insight and his security sense.

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