The Shape of Things to Come?

In the light of the mess G4S have made of Olympic security, this should be a worrying warning about the future of our policing.

It’s a said state of affairs, isn’t it? The army have been called in to the Olympic Games, to cover for a shortfall in the number of security staff provided by private security firm G4S.

They were to be paid £284million, to provide 10,000 staff, but apparently won’t be able to meet it in time due to problems with “scheduling and development”. It’s looking very much like they tried to do things on the cheap, and got caught out.

Which is embarrassing, but at least the army can bail them out. The more worrying thing is G4S’ involvement in the ongoing scandal of police privatisation. Not only are they one of the bidders in West Midlands and Surrey police forces plans to outsource some of their policing duties to the private sector. They’re also going to be building and running a police station for Lincolnshire Police.

Privatisation of the police force scares me, honestly. The idea of streets being patrolled by private security guards, of law and order functions being handed over to these companies, should be something that we’re all opposed to, and I think the majority of people would. Privatisation has done little good for the customer in areas where it has been rolled out historically — whether the train companies or water companies — as the “public service” ethos always seems to get lost in a blind dash for profits.

And G4S don’t exactly have a rosy history themselves:

Not a favourable record (and don’t think that the other parties interested in police privatisation are any cleaner…), and especially worrying about the problem we already have with deaths in custody.

Enter into this volatile mix, the elections of police commissioners in November. Here in the Thames Valley, the only candidates we have declared so far is Labour’s Tim Starkey, and the Conservatives’ (“TOTALLY OFFICIAL” apparently) Anthony Stansfeld. I have heard with my own ears Tim disavow police privatisation, and so can say without a doubt that he would not countenance it. I cannot, sadly, say anything similar about Mr Stansfeld.

The Conservatives have nothing to offer in these elections. They are cutting police budgets by 20%, are pathologically against all taxes regardless of justifications, and have no new ideas of how to improve policing. They do, however, have a track history and zeal for selling off public services to the private sector, to the benefit of businesses and detriment of the public.

I, for one, shudder at the possibility that publicly accountable police officers could be replaced by thugs hired on the cheap to make quotas and profits for the likes of G4S. They’ve cocked up Olympic security, and the army have stepped in — but the army won’t be able to do the same on Thames Valley streets.

Will Anthony Stansfeld pledge not to privatise police if elected as Police & Crime Commissioner?

UPDATE: Well, one good thing seems to have come of the G4S Olympic shambles (and yes, Theresa May, your private security company drastically under providing for a major international sports competition is the very definition of shambolic): the BBC are reporting that Surrey Police have dropped plans for privatisation. Very good news, but I can’t help but fear that the plans might be stealthily resurrected following November’s police commissioner elections.

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