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Plural policing



One of the main developments over the past two decades in the field of policing and security has been the pluralisation of policing. Many countries were faced with the rise of new pro-viders of policing, in addition to the regular police. To a significant degree this process of pluralisation is a local phenomenon. Generally the new forms of policing concentrate on the surveillance and control of petty crime and social disorder in public places. Multiple pro-viders, both public and private, may be involved in the prevention and governance of petty crime and social disorder. International studies are needed to understand plural policing and its broader consequences. In addition to important similarities, it may be expected that be-tween the different jurisdictions there are also significant differences in plural policing, as well as in its legal, social, political and economic contexts and in the impact that this evolu-tion has on other domains of security. It may be expected that in different countries plural policing may raise different kind of problems and that different strategies are created to cope with these problems. This special issue will focus on plural policing of public places in different European countries. Most papers will discuss the origins, legal settlement, organi-sation and implementation of plural policing in one specific EU-country. Issues that will be dealt with are (among others) the legal infrastructure, local public and private policy, ac-countability and legitimacy issues, operational setting, the cooperation with the public po-lice, and the practices of the different non-police providers of policing (like city-wardens, police support officers, inspectorates, etc.). For each country some relevant elements that may seen as specific for plural policing in that (national) context will also be dealt with.
Special Issue: Plural Policing
Guest editors: Jan Terpstra & Elke Devroe
Introduction 233
Antoinette Verhage, Lieselot Bisschop & Wim Hardyns
Plural Policing in Western Europe. A Comparison 235
Elke Devroe & Jan Terpstra
The Policing of Public Space. Recent Developments in Plural Policing
in England and Wales 245
Trevor Jones & Stuart Lister
Pluralisation of Local Policing in Germany. Security Between the
State’s Monopoly of Force and the Market 267
Bernhard Frevel
Plural Policing of Public Places in France. Between Private and
Local Policing 285
François Bonnet, Jacques de Maillard & Sebastian Roché
Purple Vests. The origins of Plural Policing in Belgium 304
Elke Devroe
Plural Policing in Comparative Perspective. Four Models of Regulation 325
Jan Terpstra & Bas van Stokkom
Country Updates
– Germany 344
Thomas Feltes
– Bulgaria 344
Dobrinka Chankova
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Aims and Scope
The European Journal of Policing Studies is a peer-reviewed journal that publishes
articles addressing the topic of policing and police studies in the broad sense. EJPS
aims to provide insights into contemporary policing debates. It focuses on issues
that are of interest to the police and other policing actors, and that shape (the future
of) policing.
It offers contributions in a broad domain, including contemporary academic
(empirical) research on policing (by the police as well as other actors), phenomena
that may be of interest to policing actors, education, policing strategies and styles,
accountability and democratic rights, legal and political developments and policing
policy and practice.
With its primary aim of disclosing European research into, views on and analyses
of policing to the international community, EJPS wants to reach both policing
researchers and practitioners. In its ambition to help overcome the language barrier,
EJPS aims to disclose research from countries which often remain out of sight in
publications and also applauds international comparative research.
The Journal concentrates on contributions from European countries, but contribu-
tions from other countries are also welcomed, if they provide added value for the
European context. EJPS aspires to have an international reach and the editors aim
for inclusion in the Thomson Reuters database (Web of Science). It is published
four times a year, aiming for a combination of mixed issues (dealing with several
topics, consisting of proactive submissions) and special issues (focused on a specific
theme and hosted by one or more guest editor(s)).
EJPS offers quick but thorough review procedures through the expert guidance of
an international editorial board and invites authors to submit their articles through
the online web application.
As from its fourth issue, EJPS presents ‘Country Updates’, providing readers with
the latest news on police, policing and police research in each country or region
that is connected to the journal through our board of regional editors.
Current Issue
This issue of the European Journal of Policing Studies is a special issue, focusing
on Plural Policing. The editors, Jan Terpstra and Elke Devroe, have succeeded in
bringing five papers together, all centred around the concept of plural policing,
though focusing on different European countries. This international comparative
issue combines contributions on England & Wales, Germany, France, Belgium,
and presents the results of an international comparative study on plural policing
in its fifth paper.
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234 EJPS 2(3) / 2015
We leave it to the editors, in the editors’ introduction, to explain how this remark-
able issue came about, which empirical gaps it tries to fill and which comparative
challenge they wanted to undertake.
Country Updates are presented for Germany and Bulgaria.
March 2015,
Antoinette VERHAGE, Editor
Lieselot BISSCHOP & Wim HARDYNS, Assistant Editors
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Maklu 235
Elke Devroe
Jan Terpstra
Plural Policing
in Western Europe
A comparison
EuropEan Journal of policing StudiES,
2(3), 235-244
© 2015 Maklu | ISSN 2034-760X | March 2015
Elke Devroe is master in criminology, associate professor in Public Administration, university
Leiden, campus The Hague. She teaches in the international master ‘Crisis en Security Manage-
ment’ (CSM) the courses ‘Governance of crime and social disorder’, ‘Evidence-based policing
and ‘Research Design’. She conducts research on plural policing and governance of local security
problems in particular on incivilities (corresp.:
b Jan Terpstra is professor of criminology at the University of Nijmegen, the Netherlands (corresp.: He published books and articles about policing, local public safety policies,
(private) security and criminal justice. Recently he published the book Who patrols the Streets? (co-
authors B. van Stokkom and R. Spreeuwers) about plural policing in an international comparative
perspective, and the book Centralizing Forces? (co-editors N.R. Fyfe and P. Tops) about police reforms
in several Northern and Western European countries.
One of the almost undisputed findings of contemporary policing studies is that
the past few decades have witnessed a far-reaching pluralization of policing. Many
countries, in different regions of the world, were confronted with the rise of new
non-police providers of policing services. Increasingly, the myth of one organization
(the public police) with a monopoly on policing lost its power of persuasion as a
valid description of reality. Generally, the new agencies of policing concentrate on
the management of petty crime and social disorder in public places. With this new
situation, multiple providers, both public and private, have become involved in the
prevention and management of crime and social disorder. It is often assumed that
this development of the past three decades created a more or less quiet revolution
(or what Bayley and Shearing (1996) called a ‘watershed’) in the systems of crime
control and law enforcement. Although this claim has been disputed, also in the
Anglo-Saxon world (Jones & Newburn, 2002), the proposition of the pluralization
of policing often seems to have reached the status of a universal, world-wide trend.
Until recently, however, outside the Anglo-Saxon world there has been a lack of
empirical studies on plural policing. With the exception of the collection edited
by Jones and Newburn (2006), the recent study by Terpstra, Van Stokkom and
Spreeuwers (2013), and the volume edited by Edwards et al. (2014), there were no
other international comparative studies of this issue. As a result, until now the claim
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Elke Devroe & Jan Terpstra
of a universally similar trend of plural policing has remained largely uncontested.
In fact, the absence of international comparisons implied that theories and expla-
nations of plural policing were based only on a limited (Anglo-Saxon) sample of
countries. As a consequence, there was an unanswered question concerning the
extent to which descriptions and explanations of plural policing were also relevant
to understanding recent changes elsewhere. For example, one question that must be
asked is if there is something like a Western-European style of plural policing? Or
are the differences between these European countries so great that the developments
in policing cannot be gathered under a single conceptual label?
1. Questions of comparative research
The international comparative study of plural policing is confronted with a range
of fundamental questions. The answers to these questions are not only important
to understanding the differences between jurisdictions, but are also necessary to
gain a better view of the complexities of plural policing and to avoid the temptation
of premature theories, suggesting universal explanations, which in fact are based
only on specific circumstances, which from the continental-European perspective
are quite exceptional. These research questions may provide materials for a future
agenda for comparative research on plural policing.
First, there are questions that deal with the concept and phenomenon of plural
policing. To what extent are we really dealing with similar processes? For example,
in the international literature on this issue pluralization often seems to be mainly
associated with processes of privatization and marketization. In fact, however, the
relation between the two processes may be highly divergent, implying that theories
who try to understand pluralization by looking only at the increasing importance of
commodification or of a neo-liberal ideology, may be of a limited relevance. In fact,
in Western Europe pluralization often remains within the public, non-commercial
domain. From the continental European perspective, theories about plural policing
in terms of the ‘withering away of the state - originally a Marxian concept (Engels,
2001), but now often perceived as an element of the more radical variants of the
neo-liberal discourse - are not only speculative, but also premature, to say the
least. In addition, concepts like public and private, often used more or less as
taken for granted, may be highly context dependent. In some cases the traditional
strict dichotomy remained almost intact, whereas in other countries the difference
between public and private has become unclear, almost fluid. This also implies
that it is utterly vital to acquire more detailed information about the differences
between the regular police and the new (public and private) providers of policing in
terms of their formal powers and tasks. The comparison of plural policing between
jurisdictions may also be difficult, because the rise of plural policing proves to be
largely a local phenomenon (Terpstra, Van Stokkom & Spreeuwers, 2013). As a
result the differentiation within jurisdictions may be considerable, even at least as
great as the differences between them. Often, the concept of plural policing seems to
be coupled to supposed new (‘networked’ or ‘nodal’) forms of security governance
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(Wood & Shearing, 2007). In fact, it remains a question for empirical comparative
research if these two phenomena should be seen as conceptually related or not.
Secondly, international comparative studies should focus on the social, economic,
political, historical and cultural backgrounds of plural policing. What have been
(and still are) the most important drivers of this pluralization process? What is
the relevance of theories that are often cited internationally about, for instance,
the mass private property thesis (Hope, 2000; Shearing & Stenning, 1981). Could
it be that this is a relevant factor in some countries, but not in others (cf. Jones &
Newburn, 1999)? Explaining the pluralization of policing may be difficult because
in many cases this process is only to a very limited extent a matter of goal-oriented
government policies. In fact, insofar as governments had a policy on this issue, it
was often incremental and mainly reactive, as well as highly dependent on incidents
and changes in political relations. In addition, many other actors, both public and
private, have usually been involved in these processes; and at different organiza-
tional and administrative levels. As a result, the pluralization is often a matter of
small steps and unintended side-effects (Terpstra, Van Stokkom & Spreeuwers,
2013). From this perspective one may also wonder about the extent to which the
pluralization of policing is, among other things, an unintended consequence of
the professionalization of the regular police, resulting in a withdrawal of the police,
both from specific tasks such as patrolling the public places and from local policing,
especially in rural areas. This leaves wide room for initiatives for policing by other
agencies than the police. It also implies that the impact of the neo-liberal discourse
on the pluralization of policing may be less direct in a continental context than is
often assumed. The search for general explanations for the rise of plural policing
may even be unfruitful, given its close dependence on local contexts.
The third category of relevant questions concerns the consequences of plural
policing. To what extent does pluralization result in the fragmentation of the police
system, with increasing complexity in the governance of policing? Does this result
in different strategies and forms of governance, regulation, and coordination of
the plural policing complex, with the involvement of state and non-state actors,
which may differ from country to country? What are the consequences for citizens,
their trust in policing agencies, their reassurance, and feelings of security? What
consequences does the pluralization (and fragmentation) have for the regular
police, not only in terms of their tasks and formal powers, but also with regard
to their symbolic powers and legitimacy? To what extent is the notion of a public
good a matter of concern in different countries? What are the dominating views in
these countries on this issue? And what strategies are used to guarantee that the
public good will not be eroded? Does the pluralization of policing imply a loss of
room for democratic control and accountability? Or does it, on the contrary, create
new forms of direct citizen control? Do we notice an expanding culture of control
(Garland, 2001), including more direct forms of controlling indecent behavior, in
order to create a common ‘city etiquette’ (Devroe, 2012)? What consequences may
this process have for the public’s access to urban spaces and for the control and
exclusion of those citizens who are seen and treated as non-respectable, dangerous,
or problematic? Does plural policing imply a shift towards a ‘politics of behavior
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Elke Devroe & Jan Terpstra
(Field, 2003), leading to a widening of the punitive net? Does the pluralization of
policing result in new divisions of security, in which the availability of policing comes
to depend on the citizens’ financial resources, either individually or as a group?
2. Typologies
Comparative research on plural policing is faced with the question, which is both
practical and fundamental, of how to categorize and classify the huge diversity of
all these pluralized, fragmented and differentiated patchworks of policing. Would
it be possible to create an adequate typology of plural policing models (comparable
to the classification of police models by Mawby, 2008), that would be helpful to
understand the differences between jurisdictions and that would do justice to each
country’s specific peculiarities? Such a classification is a necessary precondition
for an adequate theoretical understanding of similarities and differences in plural
policing between different national contexts.
A well-known typology of plural policing was presented by Ian Loader (2000). In
addition to policing by the (regular) police, he drew a distinction between several
categories of policing: (private) policing through the government, (transnational)
policing above the government, (security and policing markets) beyond the govern-
ment, and (policing by citizens) below the government. This classification is helpful
as a first step in describing and understanding differences in plural policing,
also between different countries. However, this classification is too general to be
useful for comparisons between different countries. This is, among other things, a
consequence of the fact that each country has its own specific combination of several
types of non-police providers of policing. This diversity is so great because plural
policing is predominantly a local phenomenon. Even in one country the differences
in plural policing between different cities or municipalities may be much greater
than comparisons between countries may suggest. The most important form of
plural policing in continental European countries does not fit in with Loader’s
classification. In countries such as Belgium, the Netherlands or Austria the most
important non-police providers of policing in the public space are municipal guards
and wardens (their names differ, as do their formal powers). This means that this
large segment of plural policing is provided by (local) government and not the
police. To use a term that is more or less comparable to those used by Loader: in
many of the continental European countries the most important form of non-police
policing is public, and exists beside the police.
Another classification of plural policing that is often referred to, was presented
by Crawford (2008). He drew a distinction between community support officers
(civilianised patrol officers who are members of the police force), specialised policing
bodies and regulatory authorities, municipal policing (including public wardens and
local authority patrols), civilian policing (policing by the public), embedded policing,
and commercial policing. Although many of the policing professions mentioned by
Crawford can also be found in other countries (often with important differences),
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the relevance of his typology is explicitly limited to the UK. In any other European
country other classifications would probably be more adequate.
A third classification with a more explicit theoretical basis, also presented by
Crawford (2008), deals with the specific issue of the relations between the regular
police and other policing agencies. He distinguishes between four models. In
the first ‘integrationist or monopolistic’ model, non-police forms of policing are
integrated in the regular police force. In the second ‘steering model’, the profes-
sional police take on the coordination of other policing actors. According to the
third model, called the ‘network’ model, different forms of policing are loosely
connected through horizontal alliances (Johnston & Shearing, 2003). Fourth, there
is the ‘market model’, with a competition structure between different providers of
policing. Finally, in the ‘private government’ model, policing in privately owned
spaces is delivered by private agencies (with the state police only invited to come
in when things have gone seriously wrong). The recent international comparative
study by Terpstra, Van Stokkom and Spreeuwers (2013) presents a typology that
is somewhat related to the one presented by Crawford, but also differs from it in
important respects. Their models deal mainly with the question of who is responsi-
ble for coordinating the large numbers of agencies involved in plural policing. These
models are: integration in the police, police as the coordinator, local government
as the coordinator, and marketization. The first and the last model correspond to
the first and fourth model mentioned by Crawford (2008). There are two reasons
why Terpstra, Van Stokkom and Spreeuwers (2013) created a new classification.
First, in their international comparative study they concluded that in countries in
continental Europe the relevance of both the network (or ‘nodal’) model and of
the private government model is very limited. Both models may be more related
to Anglo-Saxon contexts. Secondly, to understand plural policing in continental
European countries, the difference between the coordination of plural policing by
the police or by the local government is fundamental. This important element is
completely absent in Crawford’s classification.
3. The comparative approach of this special issue
This special issue of the European Journal of Policing Studies aims to contribute
to the international comparative study of plural policing. As mentioned before,
this field of study is still relatively underdeveloped. It is important, therefore, to
have available adequate empirical analyses of the current state of plural policing in
different countries. For that reason the authors were asked to write their contribu-
tion about the state-of-the-art of plural policing in their native country. Because
there are such important differences in plural policing between the countries, and
each country has its specific elements and debates on plural policing, the authors
also deal with some of the elements, developments or political debates that are
important to understand the current situation of plural policing in their country.
All the authors are faced with the problem that rather specific concepts are often
needed to understand plural policing in its social, historical, cultural, political and
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legal contexts. It is because of this close dependency of plural policing on context
that an inductive (‘grounded’) approach must be followed to develop a theoreti-
cal understanding of plural policing and to promote and improve international
comparative research on this issue, now and in the future.
The focus of the contributions to this special issue is restricted to the plural polic-
ing of the public and semi-public places, such as the street, the market, the recreational
areas, and the shopping mall. Because plural policing is to a considerable extent a
local phenomenon, many of the papers presented here concentrate on the local
(municipal) level. As a consequence, this special issue deals mainly with the manage-
ment and prevention of local crime and disorder. Other forms of plural policing,
although interesting and important, will be left aside here. For instance, forms
of plural policing can also be found at the national or even international levels.
Increasingly, the policing of transnational organized crime is delivered by both state
and non-state actors, at a number of different organizational and political levels.
The policing of organized crime is an outstanding example of strategies in which
criminal law, administrative law measures, and private initiatives are combined,
with responsibilities devolving upon a plurality of private and public agencies
(Fijnaut, 2010; Huisman & Nelen, 2007; Nelen & Huisman, 2008; Terpstra, 2011).
However, these very complex networks of plural policing demand specific studies
and approaches, which is the reason why they are omitted here.
4. Conclusions
The contributions to this special issue concentrate on the institutional, legal and
organisational aspects of plural policing in different European countries. This
special issue leaves aside some important questions in relation to plural policing,
simply because in most cases empirical data about such issues are currently absent.
Nevertheless, it is important to mention them briefly here, because they may be
important for a future agenda of (comparative) research on plural policing. First,
it is important to gain a better view of the position of citizens in relation to plural
policing. To what extent did feelings of insecurity and fear of crime contribute to
the pluralization of policing? To what extent is the rise of plural policing legitimated
as a policy aimed at reassuring the citizen? What are the consequences of the new
non-police providers of policing for the citizen’s feelings of security and trust? To
what extent does plural policing at the local level result in ‘net-widening’ effects or
social exclusion, because of the increasing ambition of local authorities to control
behaviour and order (in Belgium this is called the enforcement of ‘city etiquette’,
Devroe, 2012). Secondly, it would be relevant to study how plural policing operates
in practice at the street level. Lipsky (1980), among others, showed that there may
be a significant gap between the arrangements at formal policy and legal level and
what is happening at street level. Although there are some studies that deal with the
street level in plural policing, this is an issue that needs more elaborate research,
especially from an international comparative perspective. Finally, there is some
speculation about the negative consequences that plural policing may have for the
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position of the state. In continental European countries, local governments are
important providers of non-police policing, so in that context this does not seem
to be a plausible hypothesis. Nevertheless, the fragmentation of policing does call
for more research on the consequences of plural policing for the position and
legitimacy of the state and the regular police.
5. Contributions to this issue
In September 2013, the authors organized a panel on ‘plural policing in Europe
was organized in collaboration with the ‘Policing’ working group, at the annual
conference of the European Society of Criminology in Budapest. Earlier versions of
four of the five articles included here were presented at that conference.
The first article, The Policing of Public Space: Recent developments in Plural Policing
in England & Wales by Trevor Jones and Stuart Lister, analyses trends of plural polic-
ing in England and Wales. The authors find it commonplace to argue that policing
in England & Wales has become increasingly ‘pluralized’, in that the key policing
functions of public reassurance, peacekeeping, crime investigation/prevention,
and law enforcement are now provided by an assemblage of private, public and
community agencies, as well as the public police service. Much of the discussion
of ‘pluralization’ focuses on developments emerging during the latter part of the
Century onwards, in particular the growth of the commercial security industry.
However, this is only one element (albeit the most visible) of the broader recogni-
tion of the empirical and conceptual complexity of policing provision. While these
changes are very significant, the authors also describe their deep historical roots.
The second article, entitledPlural policing in Germany by Bernhard Frevel, starts
with a short discussion of the development of plural policing within the political
system of Germany, followed by a description of its current forms and patterns.
This considers the characteristics of the security structure in the federal system
and the detachment of police, intelligence and competences of local authorities.
The roles of the most relevant stakeholders in plural policing are explored and the
fields of action in the urban space are discussed. Some relevant consequences and
handicaps of plural policing are analysed before the article ultimately considers the
changing role of the state and the steering of plural policing by safety and security
The paper by François Bonnet, Jacques de Maillard and Sebastian Roché concen-
trates on recent changes in the provision of security in public places in France. Their
paper shows that two elements are important to understand these changes. On the
one hand there have been important changes in the relations between public and
private forms of security provision. On the other hand however, although France
has a very long term tradition of centralized structures in public administration
and policing, they notice that for the past decade or so there have been important
changes in the relations between the national and local administrative levels in
this country. The authors present an analysis of the emergence and development
of a now frequent public-private mix in policing, based on the hot issue of the
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regulation of social behaviour in public places. They also discuss the significance
of the French model in terms of the nature of privatization and pluralization and
compared this with international trends elsewhere in Europe. The rise of a local
level public-private mix, while not unique in Europe, appears as a major shift in
the French environment traditionally characterized by the structural centralization
of its public forces.
In her article ‘Purple vests, The origins of plural policing in Belgium’, Elke Devroe
explores the origin of plural policing in Belgium. The results are based on a multiple
case study. This article focuses on key constitutional issues and political choices
that led to the presence of non-police wardens in ‘purple vests’ in the streets. The
results of the case studies reveal three important incentives for this trend. First of
all, the long-term social-democratic prevention policy of the Ministers of the Interior,
installing non-police prevention officers in the cities. Secondly, the Police Reform
Act of 1998 sharpened the need for low-paid, low-skilled extra personnel to achieve
visibility, control and surveillance. Thirdly, the legal enlargement of the autonomy
of the City Council not only to identify but also to sanction acts of incivility in the
municipality led to the engagement of community guards and community guard
recorders. These last recruits joined the existing group of non-police surveillance
officers in the cities. Policy assumptions underlying the choice to combine the
introduction of wardens with the implementation of the ‘Incivility Act’, called the
‘Municipal Administrative Sanctions Act’ (MAS), are explored. A brief overview is
presented of the formal powers and tasks of these guards and the requirements
to which they have to conform, such as training, identification and relations with
police officers. The penultimate section covers the private surveillance actors and
their competences. A concluding section offers questions and proposals for further
Finally, in ‘Plural policing in comparative perspective, Jan Terpstra and Bas van
Stokkom present the main findings and conclusions of an international comparative
study of the pluralization of policing in five countries (England & Wales, Canada,
Belgium, Austria, and the Netherlands). They focus on the main differences and
similarities in plural policing between these countries and how they can be under-
stood. A lot of attention is given to the position of non-police providers of policing
(employed by municipalities or security companies) in relation to the regular police.
To understand the peculiarities of this plural policing in each of these countries, and
the similarities and differences in plural policing between the countries, attention
was devoted to legal, historical, cultural and political aspects, to the organization
of the regular police, and the position of private security. This study shows that –
despite all differences – in these countries the police have lost their position as a
monopolist of policing, even if there is a dominant view that policing should be a
public task and should not be pluralized or privatized. In general, the pluralization
of policing was not the outcome of some goal-intended government policy. It is an
incremental process and the effect of an accumulation of unintended consequences
in which many actors and agencies are involved, not only at the national, but also
at the local level. This study shows that one should be careful with inadequate
generalizations, mainly based on the situation in Anglo-Saxon countries.
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Mawby, R.I. (2008). Models of policing. In T. Newburn (ed.), Handbook of Policing.
Cullompton: Willan (2nd ed.), 17-46.
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Nelen, H. & Huisman, W. (2008). Breaking the Power of Organized Crime? The
administrative approach in Amsterdam. In D. Siegel & H. Nelen (eds.), Organized
Crime: Culture, Markets and Policies. New York: Springer, 207-218.
Shearing, C.D. & Stenning, P.C. (1981). Modern private security: its growth and
implications. Crime and Justice: an annual review of research, Vol. 3. Chicago: Uni-
versity of Chicago Press.
Terpstra, J. (2012). The warning and advisory task of the police: forging a link
between police information and multi-agency partnerships. Policing: A Journal of
Policy and Practice, 6(1), 67-75.
Terpstra, J. Stokkom, B. van & Spreeuwers, R. (2013). Who patrols the streets? An
international comparative study of plural policing. The Hague: ELEVEN international
Wood, J. & Shearing, C. (2007). Imagining Security. Cullompton: Willan.
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Trevor Jones
Stuart Lister
The Policing of Public Space
Recent Developments in Plural
Policing in England and Wales
This paper reviews contemporary plural policing developments in England and Wales with a focus
on the local policing of public spaces. Based on a review of the existing research literature, it sets
out developments in pluralization along some of the dimensions of plural policing elucidated by
Loader (2000), namely, policing ‘by’, ‘through’, ‘beyond’ and ‘below’ government. This analysis
suggests that policing in England and Wales has continued to become more pluralized during the
1990s and 2000s, with significant developments in policing ‘beyond’ government (commercial
security) and ‘through’ government (out-sourcing of public policing functions). However, the
austerity programme introduced by the Coalition Government since 2010 has seen a slowing of
these developments, with an increased emphasis on pluralization ‘below’ government (informal
voluntary or community-delivered policing). The paper goes on to consider the regulation and
accountability of plural policing, and consider the impact of the introduction of elected Police and
Crime Commissioners (PCCs). It suggests that whilst PCCs have yet to develop as an effective
oversight of plural policing networks in local areas, the reforms may eventually contribute to further
fragmentation and pluralization of the policing landscape in England and Wales.
Keywords: plural policing, private security, regulation, governance, accountability
EuropEan Journal of policing StudiES,
2(3), 245-266
© 2015 Maklu | ISSN 2034-760X | March 2015
a Trevor Jones is Professor of Criminology in the School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University. He
has published widely in the fields of private policing and the governance of security (corresp.:
b Stuart Lister is a Senior Lecturer in Criminal Justice in the School of Law, Leeds University. He has
undertaken research on private and plural policing, and also published work on developments in
police governance in England and Wales.
1. Introduction
It is now commonplace to argue that policing in England and Wales has become
increasingly ‘pluralized’. Key policing functions of public reassurance, peacekeep-
ing, crime investigation/prevention, and law enforcement are now provided by an
assemblage of private, public and community agencies as well as the public police
service. Much of the discussion of ‘pluralization’ focuses on developments emerging
from the latter part of the 20
Century onwards, in particular the growth of the
commercial security industry. This is, however, only one element (albeit the most
visible) of the broader recognition of the complexity of contemporary policing and
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security provision. Policing is now fragmented, multi-tiered and dispersed. It is
both authorized and delivered by diverse ‘networks’ of agents and agencies, which
straddle the traditional public/private divide (Bayley & Shearing, 1996; Johnston
& Shearing 2003; Dupont, 2007). As a result, a complex division of policing labour
between a variety of state and non-state actors can now be found operating at the
local level (Jones & Newburn, 1998; Crawford & Lister, 2006).
Recognition of the conceptual and empirical decoupling of ‘police’ and ‘policing
has generated a breadth of scholarly debate concerning how we might make sense
of contemporary systems of crime control, regulation and social ordering, how they
are organised, what social functions they fulfil and whose interests they serve, as well
as understanding the implications that arise for relations between state, market and
civil society (see for example, Bayley & Shearing, 1996; Johnston & Shearing, 2003;
Crawford, 2006; van Steden & Sarre, 2007; Reiner, 2010; White & Gill, 2013). The
contours of these debates charting the so-called ‘fragmentation’ or ‘pluralization
of policing, therefore consider and, to varying degrees, emphasise the implications
for the sovereign’s state’s ability and willingness to provide security for its citizenry
(Garland, 1996; 2001). It is in this broad context that empirical portraits of the role
of state and non-state ‘policing’ agencies in overseeing security provision should
be situated – and to which this paper seeks to contribute.
This paper has two key aims. The first is to provide an overview of contemporary
plural policing developments in England and Wales with a focus on the policing
of public spaces.
There is insufficient space here to discuss the important areas
of pluralization in the spheres of transnational policing or policing responses to
financial crime, although we acknowledge the important inter-connections between
‘local’, ‘national’ and ‘global’ levels in policing and security provision, particularly
in relation to the threats of terrorism and serious organised crime (Bowling &
Sheptycki 2012).
The second aim is to explore developments in the regulation and
accountability of plural policing, and consider the possible impacts on pluraliza-
tion of recent law and policy reforms in England and Wales. The paper is divided
into five parts, the first four of which set out the main contours of pluralization
along some of the dimensions of plural policing elucidated by Loader (2000).
These examine, respectively, the extent and nature of pluralization of policing ‘by’,
‘through’, ‘beyond’ and ‘below’ government. The final section of the paper explores
the challenges that these developments raise for regulation and accountability. In
so doing, it considers the possible impacts on policing pluralization of the Coalition
government’s introduction of elected Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs) in
England and Wales, a key aim of which was to enhance local control of policing.
1 We define ‘public spaces’ broadly here, as an important element of the discussion concerns the
growing tendency for the collective (and in an important sense ‘public’) activities of citizens to
occur in geographical spaces that are either privately owned by or leased to large corporations.
2 See also Johnston (2000b) and Williams (2005) for a further exploration of these issues.
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2. Pluralization of ‘policing by government’
Since the mid-1970s, public policing in England and Wales has been organised
primarily via 41 provincial police forces operating outside of the capital, and two
police forces covering London. This structure reflects a long-standing suspicion of
the idea of a formally-constituted national police force. In practice, however, the de
facto trend for at least the last century has been towards greater centralised control
of local policing (Jones, 2008). Various factors have contributed to this, not least the
growing influence of bodies such as the Home Office (especially in promoting a
performance management framework), and the establishment of ‘national’ policing
units (for more detail see Jones & van Sluis, 2013). Until 2010, recent Conservative
and Labour governments had actively sought to expand employment in public
policing, with police officer numbers reaching a record level of over 141,000. Fol-
lowing the election of the Coalition Government in 2010, however, significant public
expenditure cuts were announced amounting to a 20 per cent reduction in Home
Office funding of the police over the period to 2015. As a consequence, there are
planned to be 16,300 fewer police officers in England and Wales (an approximate
reduction of 11 per cent) (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2014). Even
during the long period of growth in police officer numbers, however, it is clear
that there was already significant pluralization of policing within the state sphere
with the explicit aim of further supplementing the provision of policing services
delivered by professional police officers. This can be seen in a number of ways.
There has been a long established deployment of ‘volunteer’ auxiliary police
officers in the form of the Special Constabulary. Established in its contemporary
form by the 1964 Police Act, each police force has its own Special Constabulary
consisting of citizen volunteers who commit a minimum of four hours per week
to the role. Special constables wear similar uniforms to regular police officers and
have recourse to the same legal powers when on duty (Mawby & Wright, 2008). As of
September 2013, there were almost 20,000 special constables in England and Wales,
an increase of over 20 per cent from 2010 (Home Office, 2014), and the current
Government has repeatedly stated its desire to increase further this lay capacity
of the police. This ambition has been matched in many force areas by incoming
Police and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), looking to off-set planned reductions
in professional police officers and staff by increasing the mix and number of lay
volunteers. For example, in Lincolnshire the PCC has introduced the ‘Volunteer
Challenge Project’, the aim of which is to recruit 1000 volunteers, including 350
Special Constables, 250 police support volunteers, 150 cadets and 250 ‘volunteer
police community support officers’, to work alongside 1100 police officers (Her
Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2013). In forces such as Lincolnshire, the
planned response to government funding cuts suggests there will be a marked
change in the nature of the police workforce with potentially significant implications
for the pluralization of policing.
A further element of pluralization within state policing has been spurred by the
‘workforce modernization’ agenda, which has driven the increasing civilianisation
of the police (see e.g. Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2004). The most
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significant development here has been the introduction of ‘Police Community Support
Officers’ (PCSOs), a police auxiliary role introduced primarily to provide a greater
police presence on the streets through visible patrol. Established by s. 38 of the Police
Reform Act of 2002, these ‘civilian’ officers are directed and controlled by the Chief
Constable, but undergo less training and have fewer legal powers than constables.
With a core remit to reassure the public and reduce anti-social behaviour as well as
other forms of public nuisance, PCSOs represent the visible face of the Government’s
community safety’ agenda. As PCSOs are cheaper to deploy then police officers and
lend themselves to more stable assignments, they also offer an institutional means
for the police to assert control over the patrol function by competing more effectively
with other (non-police) providers in local markets for patrol (see Blair, 2003). Given
this, Crawford (2008) has suggested that PCSOs represent a ‘monopolistic’ approach
to regulating and harnessing the activities of plural policing, in which divergent forms
of policing are integrated within the police organisation.
As of September 2014 there were just over 13,500 PCSOs in England and Wales, a
fall of 6 per cent from the previous year (Home Office 2014). Over the period 2010 to
2015 forces plan to reduce PCSO numbers by 22 per cent, as a result of government
austerity policies (Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary 2004). Given PCSOs
have gained an increasing role in front-line policing in recent years, becoming an
integral part of local neighbourhood policing teams (O’Neill, 2014), such reductions
are likely to have serious implications for levels of police visibility in public spaces.
Furthermore, as police officer numbers have also reduced owing to budget cuts,
so PCSOs have been increasingly pulled away from public reassurance duties and
into more generalist policing activities such as emergency response (Her Majesty’s
Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2014). Nonetheless cuts to PCSO numbers have been
uneven across forces, introducing variation to local patterns of pluralisation. This
variation is driven by a complex mix of local contingencies, including the preferences
of PCCs and local police managers over workforce balance, the scale of the required
cuts within each force and whether budget savings can be found from other viable
sources, and the extent to which external funding of PCSOs, particularly by local
government, has been withdrawn.
Another important aspect of pluralization within state-provided policing concerns
the involvement of municipalities in the provision of policing services. Crawford
(2008) has identified several key aspects of municipal policing including the provision
of local authority patrols, the employment of public auxiliaries such as wardens and
ambassadors, and enforcement officers associated with the policing of low level inci-
vilities. Spurred partly by the perceived absence of a police presence, during the 1980s
and 1990s several local municipalities began to allocate resources to the provision
of localised patrol services in public places (see for example LAnson & Wiles, 1995;
Morgan & Newburn, 1997; Jones & Newburn, 1998). Mostly these schemes aimed
to manage housing stock and maintain the local environment, reduce crime, fear of
crime and anti-social behaviour. Similarly, the early 2000s saw the development of
various other public auxiliary patrolling schemes, which provided a visible presence
promoting order-maintenance and neighbourhood security (Crawford, 2008). The
national Neighbourhood Wardens programme was launched in 2000 as a central
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government initiative which funded over 80 schemes across England and Wales
(Social Exclusion Unit, 2001). These centrally-funded schemes were supplemented
by other warden initiatives, primarily drawing upon a mix of local authority and
community ‘regeneration’ funds. By 2003, it was estimated that almost 500 warden
schemes were in operation in England and Wales (NACRO, 2003). The number of
these schemes, however, has subsequently declined, partly as a result of the expansion
of PCSO numbers since 2004, although there are no up-to-date data for the numbers
of schemes or wardens currently operating (Terpstra et al., 2013).
A further important aspect of policing pluralization within the domain of the
state concerns how policing functions, broadly conceived, have come to be shared
by a range of agencies and departments in the public sector. Following the Crime
and Disorder Act 1998, local government has been given statutory responsibility
for the prevention of crime and disorder in their local areas. The Act requires
the development of multi-agency crime reduction partnerships, which involve a
range of local government bodies and voluntary sector agencies working together
to prevent crime and disorder in their local areas (Hughes, 2007). At the same
time, the increasing government emphasis on the criminalisation of disorder and
anti-social behaviour, along with this emphasis on partnership working, has linked
local municipalities and other public agencies into policing activities, particularly
those relating to behaviour in public spaces (Crawford, 2008).
3. Pluralization and ‘policing through government’
Loader (2000) defined policing ‘through’ government as activities co-ordinated and
funded by the state, but actually delivered by other bodies. In recent years this has
become a key area of pluralization of policing in England and Wales, not least as the
Government’s recent austerity drive has led to growing fiscal pressures on police
forces to ‘out-source’ various functions to commercial providers as a means of securing
efficiency savings. Police managers have become increasingly required ‘to do more
with less’ and find ways of maintaining ‘frontline’ policing services whilst implement-
ing significant expenditure cuts.
This new context of budgetary constraint, it is
argued, has shifted dramatically the perceptions of police managers of ‘out-sourcing
functions to the private sector (Crawford, 2013), resulting in greater willingness of
many to consider it. At the same time, the Coalition Government’s White Paper, Open
Public Services (Her Majesty’s Government, 2011), expressed strongly its commitment
to the ideology of economic rationalism by emphasising the role of markets and
commissioning in the arrangement and provision of public services. Of course, the
outsourcing of police functions pre-dates the current Government administration.
But despite government ideological commitments to privatisation across a range
of public services since the early 1980s, until relatively recently such policies only
impacted marginally on policing in England and Wales. Recent years, however, have
3 Following the HMIC, ‘frontline policing’ here involves ‘those who are in everyday contact with the
public and who directly intervene to keep people safe and enforce the law’ HMIC (2011: 18).
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seen out-sourcing penetrate more deeply into the police organisation encroaching
upon functions that have been traditionally seen as quintessentially ‘public’ in nature.
For example, many private firms now hold contracts with police forces to provide
detention services within police custody settings.
The climate of austerity and resulting cuts to police budgets appeared to suggest
that we stood on the cusp of a dramatic expansion of police out-sourcing. In 2012
Lincolnshire Police entered a landmark contract with the major private security
company G4S, worth £200 million over 10 years, to outsource 18 police functions,
including custody services (‘street to suite’), town enquiry officers, force control
room, the crime management bureau, and firearms licensing. This far-reaching
agreement was closely followed by an announcement that two forces (West Midlands
and Surrey) were collaborating in the preparation of multi-million pound contracts
to outsource to private contractors a wide range of police functions and tasks –
including the investigation of crime incidents, response to incidents, patrol and
community engagement, the management of offender and disruption of criminal
networks. Controversy, however, over the failure of G4S to deliver on its security
contract for the 2012 Olympics fuelled increasing political concerns about the risks
of such ‘business partnering’ arrangements (see Home Affairs Select Committee
2012). Subsequently both forces abandoned the proposals, citing widespread public
opposition to ‘police privatisation’ as the reason. However, in the face of ongoing
pressures on police budgets, and the engrained ideological hue of the government,
it would be surprising if this pause in police out-sourcing is permanent.
It is highly conceivable that debates over the out-sourcing of police functions
– inclusive of patrolling public space – will (re)gather pace in future years. The
centrality of visible patrol within Peelian narratives of the history of the British
Police, however, is likely to ensure that this idea is vociferously opposed by many
within the police. Unsurprisingly, for instance, current and former senior police
leaders began to add their own critical voices to recent debates, specifically stating
that patrol of public spaces ought to be off-limits for private sector providers (see
e.g. Blair, 2012). The Chief Constable of Greater Manchester Police, Sir Peter Fahy,
for instance, made the following intervention:
‘There has been considerable public debate regarding the private sector becoming
involved in policing and all parties agree that private sector industries should not
be involved in the routine patrols of public open space … We do not think that
the public would be happy with private company employees patrolling the streets
wearing body armour and camera equipment.’ (Manchester Evening News
Despite such concerns, the police remain relatively powerless to prevent such
arrangements where local government opts to contract private firms to provide
patrol services. Indeed, during the 1990s rather than directly providing such services
to housing estates and other public places through in-house provision, many local
municipalities, particularly local authority councils, began to contract-out the service
to commercial security companies. Subsequently, research by Crawford and Lister
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(2004) found that the patrol of public spaces in many parts of England and Wales
had become increasingly characterised by a ‘mixed economy’ of public and private
providers. This development, they suggested, signified that it had become increas-
ingly acceptable for organisations other than central government to take control of
their own policing needs and to select their own providers through market-based
mechanisms. For these commentators, the growth of such hybrid arrangements
is both a cause and effect of the expansion of local markets for security patrols, in
which local government had become a key player.
4. Pluralization and ‘policing beyond government’: The expansion of
commercial security
Whilst the contracting-out of public policing functions to the private sector, at
least in any significant way, is a relatively recent phenomenon in England and
Wales, there is a much longer history of private (commercial) policing taking place
‘beyond’ the realm of government. Much has been written about the expansion of
commercial security over recent decades, and the reader is referred elsewhere for
extended discussions of the size and shape of the private security sector in the UK
(e.g. Button, 2002; Jones & Newburn, 2006). Although problems of estimation mean
that all figures have to be treated with some caution, there is a consensus not only
that in England and Wales employment in commercial security now significantly
outnumbers staffing in the state’s public police forces, but also that employment
within the industry has expanded considerably over recent years.
The focus in this paper is upon the two elements of private security that are most
relevant to the policing of public spaces: the commercial or ‘manned’ guarding sector
and those elements of the security equipment sector engaged in the provision of
surveillance technology. Manned guarding companies provide a range of security
services to state, commercial and voluntary agencies, as well as private individuals.
Such services include guarding and asset protection services, body-guarding (or
close protection’), the escort of cash-in-transit, door supervision for public houses
and nightclubs, debt collection, and alarm monitoring/response services (Johnston,
2000a). Industry reports have long shown that guarding of commercial retail prem-
ises forms the largest single segment of this market (Business Round Table, 1994;
Keynote Report, 2004). Uniformed security guards can be found working inter alia
at shopping precincts, industrial estates, building sites, office complexes, hospitals,
educational institutions, government buildings, public and private housing estates,
and leisure parks. Given the labour-intensive nature of this work, it unsurprisingly
comprises the bulk of employment in commercial security (National Audit Office,
2008), though recent reports suggest that developments in electronic surveillance
equipment may well slow its growth.
Although the manned guarding sector is still characterized by many very small
local firms, in terms of turnover, the market is dominated by a few large transna-
tional corporations (White, 2010). Market growth has been sustained during recent
years, partly explained by a continued trend away from in-house security provision
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and towards contracting-in guarding services (White & Gill, 2013). General labour
market conditions will continue to have a particularly important effect on the
structure of this sector. Traditionally, it has been characterized by relatively low
overhead costs, low wages and high staff turnover, which partly explains how a large
number of small companies has been able to flourish (South, 1988). Developments
such as the introduction of a mandatory minimum wage, the regulations of the
Working Time Directive, and the establishment of a system of statutory regulation of
private security companies have most probably rendered it increasingly difficult for
smaller companies to compete with the larger firms in the security guarding market.
In terms of market value, by far the largest segment of the commercial security
industry is the manufacture and installation of mechanical and electronic security
equipment. Beyond the traditional ‘physical’ security equipment (locks and bolts,
bars, security shutters, gates and perimeter fencing), new technologies of surveil-
lance have played an increasing role in the policing of public spaces. In particular,
the spread of Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) systems in the public sphere mark
out England and Wales from many other countries in Europe and the rest of the
world. The dramatic expansion of CCTV in Britain over the past two decades has
been driven by financial support from central government, alongside a spiralling
demand from commercial businesses, local municipalities and social housing
providers. The UK now has more CCTV cameras monitoring public spaces than
any other country in the world and Norris et al. (2004) estimate that in the decade
from 1994 between £4 billion and £5 billion was spent on CCTV systems in the
UK. Many companies offer ever more sophisticated integrated security systems
including various forms of tracking and recognition technology. Satellite tracking, a
recent technological addition to the British criminal justice landscape, for example,
allows electronic monitoring of the position of GPS tagged individuals at all times
and wherever they are, including public and private spaces (Nellis, 2005).
Much of the debate about the role of private security has focused hitherto upon
policing activities that occur on private property. Increasingly, however, the analysis of
plural policing developments must consider the important influence of the changing
nature of land and property relations that blur the traditional public/private distinction.
Shearing and Stenning’s (1981) analysis suggested a ‘quiet revolution’ in policing
has occurred over the last fifty years, whereby the growth of what they termed ‘mass
private property’ has served to increase the domain of private security and reduced
that of the public police. These commentators define mass private property as large,
geographically-connected holdings of commercially-owned property to which access
is open to large numbers of people, such as shopping centres, holiday complexes,
retail parks, educational campuses, leisure parks, and private residential complexes
(or ‘gated communities’). Thus, many citizens increasingly live, work, shop and spend
their leisure time in these commercially-owned and governed spaces, rather than the
traditional public sphere. As a consequence they are increasingly subject to private
forms of policing which privilege the construction of corporately-defined orders over
the imposition of moral or legal conformity (Crawford, 2011). Access to such spaces
may be ‘open’ to the public, but it is frequently highly conditional on subjectivity,
including appearance, demeanour and behaviour.
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Whilst the trends identified by Shearing and Stenning are particularly applicable
to North America, a growing spatial complexity in contemporary urban environ-
ments is apparent in England and Wales, with a continuum of spatial types varying
in terms of legal ownership and openness (Wakefield, 2002; Kempa et al., 2004).
Over the last decade, for instance, we have increasingly witnessed what is often
referred to as the ‘privatization of the public realm’ (see e.g. Minton, 2002; 2012),
in which large tracts of public space, mostly of premium commercial investment
potential, have been handed over to private sector landlords to be managed usually
on very long leases. Crawford (2011) details, for example, how the commercial
renovation of Liverpool city centre is being delivered by the Paradise project an
investment vehicle of Grosvenor, a privately owned property development group,
and partners. The group has a 250 year lease from the city council to regenerate
and manage the 42 acre site, which comprises 1.6 million square feet of shopping.
It is unsurprising that the private landlords of sites such as Liverpool ONE tend to
employ private security guards to patrol proactively these spaces in order to establish
a corporately-defined social order that is commercially-attuned and focused entirely
on the pursuit of profitable return on capital investment.
The importance of ‘private government’ within these ‘quasi-public spaces’ has
been illustrated by several legal cases in England and Wales, which confirm the
right of the owners of mass private property to exclude people from their land. In
1995 the Court of Appeal upheld the right of the owners of a shopping centre in
Wellingbrough in the English Midlands to ban permanently a group of youths from
their property (Gray & Gray, 1999). In 2003 the European Court of Human Rights
(ECHR) ruled against the civil liberties group Liberty which had argued there should
be the human right to peaceful protest in ‘quasi-public spaces’. This ruling followed
an incident in 1998 when a group of residents in Washington, England, petitioning
against a controversial development in the local shopping complex were asked by
private security guards to leave the property because the corporation that owned it
had banned the promotion of political or religious causes on its land. The ECHR
ruled that the existence of alternative places for public protest meant that the human
rights of the residents had not been breached. Liberty continues to campaign for
a change in the law that would render the owners of some forms of quasi-public
space ‘public authorities’ under the Human Rights Act, which would provide the
right to protest (Liberty, 2008). The courts thus appear to have provided private
property owners in England and Wales with an almost unqualified right to exclude
(Crawford, 2006). Given the increasing location of a range of employment, retail
and leisure facilities on such property the use of banning orders clearly excludes
some citizens from a key part of public life (von Hirsch & Shearing, 2000), without
the requirement of legal due process or indeed proof of wrongdoing.
5. Pluralization ‘below’ the state
Recent years have seen a considerable degree of criminological attention given to
governing from below’ in the form of order-definition and maintenance, rule-making
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and regulation exercised by non-commercial community and voluntary organiza-
tions (Lea & Stenson, 2007). Part of this has arisen from new developments in the
‘responsibilization’ of non-state organizations to take control of their own security,
and the spreading language of partnership and ‘multi-agency’ community safety
(Garland, 1996; Hughes, 2007). Whilst much of this activity has involved commercial
organizations, the role played by community and voluntary organisations (or the
so-called ‘third sector’) is also viewed as important. The ‘Big Society’ ideas promoted
by some leading members of the current Coalition government propose the extended
participation of voluntary, community and faith groups in the local delivery of public
services (Cabinet Office, 2010). Although it is difficult to assess claims about changes
in community governance ‘from below’ in the absence of reliable longitudinal data, it
has been suggested that ‘citizen-led’ policing – in the form of neighbourhood watch
groups, crime prevention associations, protective escort services, and monitors around
schools, malls, and public parks – expanded in many countries in the latter part of the
Century (Bayley & Shearing, 1996). There have also been occasional discussions
of ‘vigilantism’, although it is again difficult to measure the extent and frequency of
such phenomena and whether it has changed over time (Johnston, 1996). Following
the riots that occurred in several English cities in August 2011 there were reports of
community groups mobilising in defence of their local areas (Beaumont et al., 2011).
These community patrols, however, are perhaps best seen as contingent reactions to
extraordinary events rather than signifying a new willingness on the part of citizens
to engage in the governance of security ‘from below’.
One important example of a voluntary initiative that has recently emerged and
spread rapidly in many towns and cities across England and Wales is the ‘Street
Pastors’, citizen patrol movement. First established in London in 2003 by the Rev Les
Isaac, Director of the Ascension Trust Street, it is an exclusively Christian organisa-
tion whose members are usually drawn from local churches. Street Pastors patrol
city centre locations providing an additional tier of policing within the night-time
economy. Akin to a volunteer outreach service, the patrols aim to support the work
of the police through welfare-oriented interventions, for example, by looking after
inebriated or injured revellers until paramedics or other help arrives. That said,
the Street Pastor movement was initially developed with a crime prevention focus,
and has made some large claims of its impact on levels of violence and anti-social
behaviour (Johns et al., 2009). The movement currently has around 9000 volunteers
across 250 initiatives in the UK, and there is some evidence of mission creep in its
range of activities, as suggested by the emergence of ‘School and College Pastors’ and
‘Response Pastors’. A key debate raised by the movement, as a faith-based initiative,
concerns any ambitions it may harbour to re-moralise public life by bringing an
overtly religious ideology on to the streets (Johns et al., 2009; Isaac & Davies, 2009).
Whether or not it retains a secular-focused agenda, however, the contrast with the
loss-prevention and profit driven motives of commercial forms of security present
in the night-time economy is striking.
A longer established community governance scheme is Neighbourhood Watch.
First introduced to the UK in the early 1980s, there are now approximately 150,000
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schemes across the country covering four million households.
Watch involves citizens in a particular neighbourhood actively working together
to reduce crime by, for example, looking out for suspicious activities and reporting
them to the police, as well as organising various crime prevention activities such as
property marking. Evidence shows that Neighbourhood Watch can have significant
crime reduction effects, although the problem remains that it is easier to establish
such schemes in low-crime areas that arguably need them least (Bennett et al., 2008).
The wider initiative has become increasingly formalised, and since 2007 has
had a national representative group (‘Neighbourhood Watch and Home Watch’).
The greater organisation and ambition of some neighbourhood watch schemes is
reflected, for instance, by the activities of Shomrin, a network of Jewish civilian
volunteer patrols that has its origins in the USA. Since around 2007 it has been
a routine presence on the streets in highly localised areas of London. Providing
a vehicle-based, patrol service akin to a ‘mobile neighbourhood watch’, Shomrin
groups are involved in a wide array of policing tasks, including crime prevention and
investigation, searching for missing persons as well as order maintenance activities.
The schemes in London, for example, have an emergency contact number and
operate a 24 hour emergency response team. They appear to work closely at times
with local police, receiving training and attending tasking meetings. Importantly,
although Shomrin groups are exclusively representative of the Jewish community, as
place-based initiatives they nonetheless may serve to benefit the wider community.
Despite the scale of these contemporary initiatives it is probable that general forms
of ‘community self governance’ were more common during times of relatively stable
communities in the early and middle parts of the 20
Century – although perhaps
not focused explicitly on the task of delivering physical security. The growing
individualization of social life and the erosion of social solidarity in the last decades
of the 20
Century have been noted by several commentators (see for example
Garland, 2001). Increased demands on the police and criminal justice system over
recent decades probably reflect less ability and/or willingness for individuals and
organizations to deal with problems themselves. Research on social capital has
also suggested there has been a general decline in civic engagement across many
western societies (Putnam, 2000). Whilst this general picture has been contested,
there has been significant decline over a long period in mass industrial employ-
ment, membership of political parties and trade unions, church attendance, and
participation in a range of community and voluntary groups (Mount, 2005).
6. Governing plural policing in England and Wales
It is clear that policing is now both authorized and delivered by diverse networks of
commercial bodies, voluntary and community groups, individual citizens, national
and local governmental regulatory agencies, as well as the public police. Most writing
about governance and accountability, however, continues to focus myopically upon
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the public police institution (though for exceptions see Loader, 2000; Crawford et al.,
2005; Stenning, 2009). Yet, given the widespread role of plural forms of policing, it
is important to develop ways of bringing these increasingly complex policing ‘net-
works’ under the direction and control of democratic governance. As Loader (2000:
324) stated, ‘the questions … that have long vexed discussions of police policy and
(mal)practice in liberal democratic societies press themselves with renewed force
under the altered conditions of plural policing’. Further, under linked conditions
of pluralization and marketization, there is widespread concern that market-based
forms of allocation will inevitably skew policing resources to wealthy areas where
crime rates are relatively low. Loader therefore went on to propose the establish-
ment of significant new accountability institutions – Policing Commissions – to
take responsibility for coordinating and monitoring the range of bodies involved in
policing and security provision at the local, regional and national levels. The logic
being that within the pluralized and marketized landscape of policing there was a
pressing need for an ‘independent’ local regulator of policing services to safeguard
the public interest (see Loader, 2000). Part of the membership of such Commissions
would be directly elected, and part appointed to ensure adequate representation
from a range of social groups. For the first decade of the 2000s, however, the main
developments aimed at to enhancing the accountability of plural policing have been
focused not upon building ambitious new institutions of governance, but upon a
narrower approach predicated on forms of licensing.
6.1. Regulation of private security
Practical developments concerning the regulation of plural policing have, to date,
been focused mainly upon the establishment of statutory licensing for the private
security industry. Growing awareness of the expanded role of commercial policing
during the 1990s led to increased calls for statutory regulation of the sector in the
UK where, unlike most Western European countries, it was subject only to voluntary
forms of self-regulation. Moreover, a number of serious concerns were raised
regarding professional standards within the sector, poor training, high employee
turnover, and the employment of convicted offenders (Lister, 2001). Subsequently,
the passing of the Private Security Industry Act 2001 established the Security
Industry Authority (SIA) to license individuals operating in particular sectors of
the security industry. These include ‘contract staff’ working in cash-in-transit and
static guarding functions, door supervisors (contract and in-house), wheel-clampers
(contract and in-house), bodyguards, private investigators and security consultants
(Button, 2002). All employees in these areas now require licences to operate, part of
which involves criminal records vetting. Although many supporters of regulation
had argued strongly for the compulsory licensing of security firms, the Act limits
itself to a voluntary scheme in which firms submit themselves for regulation.
The system of regulation has been criticised for being too narrow – excluding
significant sectors of the security industry such as security systems installers and
in-house guards. Some critics have suggested that the voluntary licensing scheme
amounts to little more than a continuation of the largely ineffective existing system
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of voluntary self-regulation, in which ‘large numbers of firms are not inspected by
… inspectorates or by any other organization’ (Button, 2002: 128).
Although there is a paucity of evidence, statutory regulation appears to have had
some impacts on the size and shape of the security guarding sector. In particular,
it has shifted the balance within the market away from small firms and towards
larger, more corporate companies (White & Smith, 2009). It is also likely to have
increased the average cost of security guarding, therein improving professionalism
and public perceptions of service standards within the industry. Nonetheless, from
2014 onwards the regulatory landscape of private security is to change once again
following reforms introduced by the Coalition Government. Arising from the work
of the Public Bodies Review in 2010, the government proposed to abolish the SIA.
Following representations from a range of bodies, including the British Security
Industry Association (BSIA), however, the government changed its approach to
one of reform rather than abolition. Instead, a phased transition to a business
licensing regime was proposed, in which the focus of control shifts from licensing
individuals to the licensing of private security companies. Under the reformed
system, companies will take responsibility for ensuring that required checks on
individual employees are carried out (although individual criminality checks will
still be occasionally undertaken by the regulator). It remains to be seen, however,
what impact these changes will have on the private security industry.
Following the introduction of a statutory licensing scheme for the private security
sector, the Police Reform Act 2002 established provisions whereby local police forces
could ‘accredit’ plural forms of policing, inclusive of private security guards. The Act
allows Chief Constables, in certain circumstances, to confer limited, low level powers
on accredited persons. It therefore enables non-state policing providers to demonstrate
‘police approval’ by meeting a required standard of professionalism, for example, in
training and internal oversight arrangements. Although the police do not directly
employ accredited persons, accreditation itself offers a regulatory mechanism that
facilitates techniques of ‘arm’s length’ governance of plural forms of policing. Its logic
also enables the police to confer market advantage on those providers deemed to be
worthy. It nonetheless raises a conflict of interest for the police as they are handed the
power to regulate groups they are in market competition with (Crawford et al., 2005).
In reality, however, the schemes have largely failed to garner much support neither
from the police nor seemingly from the private sector. By the end of 2010, across 26
participating forces, there were 2,219 accredited persons (ACPO, 2011), most of who
were local authority employed wardens and anti-social behaviour enforcement offic-
ers. Consequently attempts to impose holistic regulatory oversight of plural policing
networks have been few and entirely limited to highly localised, short-lived efforts by
police and community safety partners (see e.g. Crawford et al.,2005).
6.2. Enhanced local elected accountability over policing
The Coalition government that took office in May 2010 set out explicitly to reverse
the long term centralization of police governance. In 2011 it established Police
and Crime Commissioners (PCCs), to be elected in each provincial force area for
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a four-year term, replacing Police Authorities as the local ‘democratic’ body within
the statutory framework of police governance.
Police authorities were widely
viewed to be an impotent mechanism of accountability, drawing strong criticism
in an influential review of policing by Sir Ronnie Flanagan (2008), the then Chief
Inspector of Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary, for lacking public profile,
democratic component and citizen involvement. The White Paper that proposed
PCCs claimed the reform would reconnect the public with the police by ensuring
that responsibility for local policing was ‘moved out of Whitehall’ and returned ‘to
Chief Constables, their staff and the communities they serve’ (Home Office, 2010:
2). The direct election of PCCs, it was argued, would ensure they gained a strong
and locally-derived democratic mandate to hold the police to account on behalf of
local communities (see Herbert, 2011).
The first elections of PCCs took place in November 2012, resulting in 29 of the
41 provincial police forces of England and Wales being directly overseen by PCCs
affiliated to one of the two mainstream political parties, with the remainder falling
under the control of so-called Independent PCCs of no declared party political
affiliation. The responsibilities of PCCs include securing the maintenance of the
local police force, ensuring that it is efficient and effective, as well as holding the
Chief Constable to account for the exercise of her or his duties. Each PCC is required
to publish a Police and Crime Plan setting out the strategic policing objectives for
the force area. They are also required to work cooperatively with community safety
partners and foster joined-up responses to local problems of crime and disorder.
Related, they have responsibility for commissioning community safety services
as well as services for victims of crime. Crucially, the PCC is to appoint the Chief
Constable and, under specific circumstances, may suspend him or her, as well as
calling upon them to resign or retire.
In turn, each PCC is answerable to a Police
and Crime Panel comprising local councillors. This panel has a duty to ‘scrutinize
and ‘support’ the activities of the PCC, although in practice the powers of these
panels are very limited (Lister, 2014).
The greater local accountability of policing embodied by PCCs could have impor-
tant implications for the future of policing pluralization. In particular, this appears
to be a genuine reversal of the pattern of progressive centralization that played
out over previous decades. A PCC could, for example, choose to use his/her local
policing budget to commission patrol (or other) services from non-police providers
– indeed, the logic of having ‘commissioners’ of services reifies market-based forms
of choice. More broadly, it could even be that the PCC becomes an institution of
overall democratic ‘policing’ accountability, regulating and monitoring a range of
plural policing operations in the local force area. Importantly, for instance, PCCs
5 In London, the Metropolitan Police Authority (which included elected local councillors) has been
replaced by Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime (MOPC).
6 There have to date been several occasions where a PCC has exercised the power to suspend a Chief
Constable. For example in June 2014 Mark Burns-Williamson, the PCC for West Yorkshire, on
receiving information from the Police Service of Northern Ireland about an investigation it was
conducting chose to suspend Mark Gilmore, who he had appointed as Chief Constable just over
a year earlier.
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have the authority to convene community safety partners from across the local
force area, which might be used to establish suitable oversight and accountability
mechanisms (Crawford, 2013; Lister & Rowe, 2014). To date, however, there is little
evidence of this happening.
The introduction of PCCs if anything has served to place a brake on further pluraliza-
tion of policing, particularly the out-sourcing of police functions, at least for the time
being. There was, for instance, little evidence during the elections of PCC candidates
publically expressing support for greater out-sourcing (or, indeed, any other forms
of policing pluralization) (Crawford, 2013). Indeed, it would be surprising if PCCs
chose not to reflect public concerns over police outsourcing. These concerns were
themselves spurred by a series of high-profile public relations disasters for the private
security industry. Particular examples include the discovery in 2013 of ‘over-charging
by private security companies Serco and G4S on sizeable government contracts for
the delivery of criminal justice services, as well as the failure of G4S to deliver on
its security contract for the 2012 London Olympic Games. As described above, the
latter was cited as a key factor in the halting of the ambitious out-sourcing plans of
Surrey and West Midlands forces, which were put on hold prior to the PCC elections
of November 2012. Subsequently, on his first day in office the West Midlands PCC,
the late Bob Jones, announced the scrapping of these plans.
We should, however, be cautious about making firm predictions. At the time of
writing, the PCC institution is only two years old and there are reasons to suggest
that it may eventually stimulate further pluralization of policing. The combined
pressures of budgetary constraints and public demands on local policing services
are unlikely to dissipate anytime soon. As the recent high profile scandals afflicting
the private security industry recede in the public memory, it may be that these
pressures eventually push some PCCs towards a more positive engagement with
the possibilities of private sector provision of policing. PCCs are operating in a wider
political context in which ideological support among government ministers for
greater marketization of criminal justice services has arguably never been stronger.
Thus, it is perfectly possible to envisage that the PCC reforms will eventually turn out
to facilitate rather than prevent further out-sourcing of police functions, including
patrol in the form of contracted-out PCSOs.
Whilst the pluralization of policing is likely to continue, it is difficult to see
PCCs becoming an effective institution of overall ‘policing’ accountability of the
kind envisaged by Loader (2000). First, serious doubts remain about the design
of the PCC model of governance, its practical implementation (Jones et al., 2012),
as well as its longevity in policy terms. Not least amongst the structural concerns
is that PCCs stand outside the established local system of administration, which
inevitably restricts their capacity to engage in the range of policy areas (e.g. housing,
education, youth services, health etc) that are vital for tackling crime and disorder.
The auspices of pluralized policing straddle these policy domains, accentuating
coordination deficits both within and between local purchasers of policing services.
As Crawford (2013) argues, the segmented regulation and control to which policing
networks are subject inevitably constructs organisational and bureaucratic barriers
to effective oversight. Second, the PCC institution cannot by itself address the more
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fundamental problem of ‘private government’ outlined above. As we noted, increas-
ingly ‘public spaces’ are to be found on privately-owned or managed property, and
legal rulings during the past decade or so have confirmed the power of corporate
property owners not only to organise and undertake security provision themselves,
but also to determine in large part the nature of the order to be protected, the rules
needed to do this, and the manner in which compliance is achieved (Shearing,
2006). In short, PCCs have no more legal authority over the operation of private
policing in mass private property than did local police authorities and chief con-
stables under the previous system of police governance. Third, the political will of
PCCs to establish or initiate a regulatory oversight mechanism for policing may
be undermined by their design template. Commentators have observed how PCCs
are ‘Police’ commissioners, not ‘Policing’ commissioners (Loader, 2013; Crawford,
2013), a myopic conceptual focus that is reinforced by the legislation defining the
‘totality’ of local policing for which PCCs are responsible solely in terms of those
resources controlled by the Chief Constable (Lister & Rowe, 2014).
7. Conclusion
This paper has outlined recent developments in the pluralized landscape of polic-
ing in England and Wales, focusing specifically on the policing of public space.
The ebbs and flows of these developments are tied to broader political, economic,
legal, cultural and technological changes that are unfolding at local, nation-state
and global levels. These changes do not function in linear ways, but instead at
times serve to accelerate and other times to decelerate the pace of pluralization.
We are less certain, however, of the extent to which changes in levels of crime and
disorder over the last twenty years in England and Wales have had meaningful and
widespread impact on processes of pluralization. Since 1995 when recorded crime
levels began to fall, we have witnessed shifting and often logically contrasting trends
in patterns of pluralization. Citizens’ demands for order, security and policing have
not diminished in accordance with reductions in recorded levels of crime. Indeed,
fear of crime has remained stubbornly high over the period thus undermining any
reductionist argument linking more (or less) pluralisation of policing to changing
levels of crime and disorder. The significance, however, of the state’s fiscal crisis
over the last decade for these processes should not be under-estimated. Sizeable
cuts to police budgets have led to substantial reductions in the numbers of police
officers and PCSOs. Simultaneously austerity has impacted on the capacity of the
local state to fund the purchase of commercial and municipal forms of visible
policing. Policing ‘by government’ has been in retreat, but so too has policing
‘through’ government. Yet, constituted by and a constituent of this development,
policing ‘below government’ appears to have been increasing both in scale and
diversity. In particular, we have seen an increasing role within and responsibility
for local policing placed on the voluntary, community and faith groups that form
the empirical mainstay of this conceptualisation.
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Moreover, the pressures and trends shaping pluralization may produce variable
effects in different places contingent on local conditions, customs and priorities. In
some police force the cuts to ‘frontline’ policing have fallen disproportionately on
PCSOs; in others, the political commitment to neighbourhood policing has been
maintained and the required savings have largely been found elsewhere.. As implied,
the arrival of PCCs in England and Wales has brought a significant element of local-
ism to the determination of policing budgets and priorities, with implications for
the level of generality that can be applied to the influence of national developments.
Political control of local policing is now highly fragmented, which may produce
wide ranging cleavages within patterns of pluralization. These cleavages may be
consolidated by the pressures for greater political devolution at the level of the
English regions and of Wales. We have seen, for instance, a very different direction
of travel for policing policy in Scotland from that of England and Wales, where the
establishment in 2013 of a centralised national police force was a key part of a wider
‘state-building’ project (Fyfe, 2014). In Wales, whilst policing and criminal justice
remain the responsibility of the Home Office and the Ministry of Justice in London,
there has been growing discussion of the idea of devolved control over policing.
In general, any shift towards regionalism in England and Wales, with associated
devolved powers for policing and community safety, is likely to increase pressures
for local police forces to amalgamate into regional police forces. This, in turn, will
generate pressure for a reconsideration of the scale at which institutions of police
governance function. Such a development might bring opportunity to attend politi-
cally to the plausibility of developing a more holistic approach to governing policing,
through for instance the emergence of Policing Commissions as envisaged over a
decade ago by Loader (2000). Indeed, it is precisely at the regional level that such a
Commission might have most impact (Crawford & Lister, 2004). Operating at this
scale, a Policing Commission could balance the competing pressures of local and
national interests so evident in the push and pull of policing policy. It would also
be able to provide oversight of a diverse range of policing and community safety
providers operating across local authority boundaries. Further, it would not only
align with any emergent democratic structures governing policing, but also map
more closely on to the regional bases of the corporate private security industry.
Nonetheless, as we have described, globalising pressures to reduce costs coupled
with increasing momentum for policing to be responsive to local anxieties and
insecurities are unlikely to reverse the neo-liberal-inspired reforms of recent British
governments. There appears to be a continuing and deep-rooted ideological com-
mitment at the national level to push forward with processes of commodification
and marketization across the public services. For policing, in particular, these
developments raise acute questions of regulation and governance, which have not
been adequately resolved since they first attracted academic attention over 20 years
ago. The regulatory environment of policing continues to be highly disjointed and
7 The eventual devolution of control over policing to the Welsh Government was one of the recom-
mendations of part 2 of the Silk Commission (Commission on Devolution in Wales 2014) though
it is not envisaged that this will happen any time soon.
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segmented (Crawford et al., 2005; Crawford, 2013). As we have described the recent
introduction of a novel institutional means, in the form of PCCs, for enhancing
the local and democratic accountability of policing offered renewed opportunity to
think through how the diverse efforts of plural policing providers might be better
harnessed, overseen and governed. To date, however, PCCs have retained a largely
state-centric perspective on policing and its governance. But just as the private
security industry successfully lobbied central government to have external regulation
imposed on it as a political strategy to enable economic expansion (White, 2010),
we may soon see the same forces pursuing a similar agenda with PCCs. In these
circumstances, and if PCCs survive as an institution over the longer term, then
they are likely to become key players in future developments of both plural policing
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Bernhard Frevel
Pluralisation of Local Policing
in Germany
Security Between the State’s
Monopoly of Force and the Market
The article starts with an overview of the role of the police within the German political system and
sketches recent developments and tendencies towards structures and processes of plural policing.
Plural policing in this context is understood in the sense of ‘the expanding role of non-police service
providers in policing, and the variety of different public, private and voluntary bodies now engaged
in the activity’ (Wakefield, 2009, 227), with a special focus on the local level.
In addition, the most prominent stakeholders in plural policing are introduced, followed by a
description of the current forms and patterns between these stakeholders and the police. After
analysing some relevant chances and obstacles of plural policing, the author focuses on local
safety and security governance before ending with considerations upon plural policing and the
changing role of the state.
Keywords: police service, local security, interagency collaboration, security governance
EuropEan Journal of policing StudiES,
2(3), 267-284
© 2015 Maklu | ISSN 2034-760X | March 2015
Bernhard Frevel is Professor of Social Sciences at the University of Applied Science for Public
Administration in North Rhine-Westphalia and Associate Professor at the University of Münster.
His research interests and publications cover questions of security structure, police, policing and
crime prevention.; (corresp.: bernhard. The author wants to thank dr. Verena Schulze and Tobias John for critical
comments and valuable support.
1. Introduction
In contrast with the framework of plural policing in the other countries presented
in this issue, a distinctive feature of Germany is its federal political system with
significant powers devolved to 16 member states (so-called Länder) and thus a strong
tradition of local self-government. The Länder have responsibility for the police,
and therefore there are 16 distinct police systems to be considered, in addition to
the Federal Police and Federal Criminal Police Office (Groß, Frevel & Dams, 2008).
While the police have the responsibility for different aspects of law enforcement,
threat aversion, traffic policing and crime prevention, the local authorities have their
own duties in the field of public safety and public order (Bogumil & Holtkamp,
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268 EJPS 2(3) / 2015
2013, 17). This short sketch already shows that the need for collaboration between
police and municipality is generated within the very structure of the German
political system.
Against the background of a changing security framework and new developments
in the security culture (Daase, 2012), upcoming private security companies, new
risks and threats and complex changes in local societies have detected and urged
plural policing to be a potentially fruitful approach for dealing with the changing
However, plural policing in Germany has evolved less fundamentally in recent
decades than in other countries, e.g. the UK, USA or Canada, even if serious trends
of neo-liberalism can be seen. Applying the words of Bayley and Shearing (1996,
585), Germany has not (yet?) ‘reached the watershed in the evolution of their system
of crime control and law enforcement’.
The paper puts the thesis that whilst there are some significant changes in local
policing and interagency collaboration, this ‘plurality’ of policing has enhanced
rather than reduced the role of the state in policing – at least for the time being. The
reasons for this conclusion will be explored in the following chapters. This article
focuses on the description and analysis of this specific character of German plural
policing; the assessment of the current situation and potential future developments
is due for further discussion.
Plural policing in this paper is understood in the sense of ‘the expanding role of
non-police service providers in policing, and the variety of different public, private
and voluntary bodies now engaged in the activity’ (Wakefield, 2009, 227). The focus
of its analysis is on the local level and we concentrate on policing in the sense of
operative action rather than strategies or comprehensive conceptualisation.
In the following section, the most prominent stakeholders in plural policing
are introduced in forms of various settings with different aims, legal bases and
forms, followed by a description of the current forms and patterns between these
stakeholders and the police. After analysing some relevant chances and obstacles
of plural policing, the article focuses on local safety and security governance before
ending with considerations upon plural policing and the changing role of the state
and a short comparison between plural policing in the Anglo-Saxon hemisphere.
2. Stakeholders’ involvement in plural policing
The growing number of involved players characterises the current state of plural
policing in Germany. Just as there is a broad range of ‘policing’ action, from pre-
vention to control and intervention, there is also a diverse field of actors. These
stakeholders not only differ in their legal and institutional backgrounds, they are
1 Besides this understanding of pluralisation there could, of course, be put several additional per-
spectives on this feature. However, this would overstretch this paper as well as the publisher’s
intentions with this publication.
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also involved in specific areas of plural policing. They are playing specific roles in
different fields of plural policing, like
• publicorderandsafety,
• crime-ghtingandlawenforcement,
• threataversionandemergencymanagementand
• crimeprevention.
As it would go beyond the scope of this article, not all of the aspects can be described
intensively, but some – especially recent – developments and forms shall be dis-
2.1. Plural policing and the police
Of course the police bear the main responsibility for visible policing, but they
constantly collaborate with other stakeholders and players in all aspects of plural
As mentioned above the police in Germany are the responsibility of the Länder and
only in a few fields are defined by the Federal Constitution (see art. 73 Grundgesetz).
The federal state with its Federal Police and Federal Criminal Police Office has its
own policing competences. The 16 Länder have quite different police systems and
slightly different responsibilities. However the main tasks in the context of law
enforcement, crime fighting, traffic policing etc. are based on federal law and are
thus mandatory for all police forces. Differences between the Länder police forces
can be seen more clearly in the functions of threat aversion and public order, in the
distinction of police duties from the tasks of the cities’ public order departments,
the fire brigade, trade supervision and some other public policies (Groß, Frevel &
Dams, 2008, 27-28).
Until the early 1990s the police referred to their statutory responsibilities to legiti-
mate the services they provided. They could – more or less reliably – differentiate
their work from other authorities in that they were not experiencing competition
from private security firms and had overall sufficient resources to fulfil their tasks.
Changes in the crime and risk situation, however, an altered reception of crime and
risks, a decreasing sense of safety in communities, increasing economic problems
and new challenges to provide safety, security and order led to extensive reforms,
an altered role in the security structure and new interpretations of the police duties
with a controversial review about the core tasks of police (John, 2013, 20-21).
While the police forces were rather reluctant to change and tried to maintain a
traditional position, wider political developments encouraged the pluralisation of
policing. A further important factor to establish collaboration in policing can be seen
in a changing ‘security market’. Citizens, enterprises and other players identified the
constricted faculties of the police and assigned private security firms to grant their
safety and security (Hirschmann, 2013, 39). So the market and politics pushed the
idea of plural policing and the police learned (or had to learn) to collaborate with
other stakeholders and to develop the idea of synergy, but still fulfil their sovereign
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270 EJPS 2(3) / 2015
responsibilities. John (2013, p. 24) analysed that the police are not the losers in the
process, but are able to delegate missions, work more efficiently in some fields
and – most importantly – enrich and enlarge their position as core players and
coordinators of plural policing in an extended field of safety and security.
2.2. Plural policing and municipality
As a result of German federalism the role of the cities as authorities for matters of
public order can vary quite substantially. In 12 of the 16 Länder a so-called ‘separate
system’ is installed, which means that the police concentrate on public safety and
security, while other public authorities, mainly the city governments, are responsible
for public order and (non-criminal) threat aversion. Only Baden-Württemberg,
Bremen, Saarland and Saxon have an integrated system, which gives the responsibil-
ity for public order also to the police, who have a specialist administrative branch
for this task (Hirschmann & Groß, 2012, 16 ff.).
So the municipalities have – depending on the Länder law – more or less extensive
duties in aspects of public order and safety. The local authorities have specialised
public order departments, which deal with most of the public order issues, such as
control of pubs and restaurants, veterinary and food supervision, trade supervision
etc. But in addition other departments such as the welfare department, parks and
gardens department or building authority department, have some responsibilities
in matters of public order.
Most of these tasks are fulfilled in a bureaucratic way: receipt and assessment
of application, notification of licence etc. But of course licensing and compliance
with regulations have to be controlled, and field staff of the local authorities are
assigned for these tasks. Some of these are uniformed, when they work within the
public space. The public order departments have to deal with the problems in an
administrative way, they can give orders, they can fine, they can withdraw licenses
etc. – but they are not allowed to use force. If a situation needs the use of force the
city wardens call the police.
In some cases it is difficult to differentiate properly between public order, safety
and security and it is also difficult to assess the grade of risks, to separate administra-
tive offense and crime, to distinguish anti-social behaviour from minor criminal
offences; so the distinction of police tasks and local authority duties is often unclear.
In everyday practice staff deal with these problems pragmatically, and quite seldom
are there conflicts between the authorities. More often the collaboration, also in
institutionalised versions like ‘public order partnerships’, have developed as forms
of plural policing.
2.3. Plural policing and private security firms
While in other countries it is quite normal to see private security firms (hereafter
PSFs) operating in public spaces, for many years this has not been the case in
Germany. Until the late 1990s these firms were mainly engaged by enterprises
and responsible for plant security, gate keeping, cash transport and sometimes
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bodyguarding (Braun, 2012). They also took care of burglary alarm systems of busi-
nesses, organisations and citizens or carried out patrols within premises. Increased
feelings of insecurity of citizens in a new security culture, the development of
semi-public spaces (such as shopping malls etc.) and limited capacities of the police
forces have combined to provide PSFs with significant opportunities for expansion.
In 2013 PSFs employed about 185,000 persons (continuously risen from 140,000
in 2000) (BDSW, 2014a) and had a business volume in the sector ‘security service
of about 5.4 and – including security technique – of 12 billion euro (BDSW, 2014b).
These private security firms still have major activities in their traditional fields of
activities mentioned above, but they are also increasingly visible in the semi-public
and public space and are integrated in plural policing. In aspects of plural policing
PSFs participate in different levels of integration:
• Their own claim and tangent fields: Especially in semi-public spaces like shopping
malls, shops, railway stations, cinemas or in the context of events like concerts,
sport games or city festivals etc. the entrepreneurs or organisers have their own
interest in engaging PSFs or are committed to ensure security (Klauer, 2012;
tter, 2012). In these cases the guards and watchmen exercise the property
rights of their clients so they can deny access, exclude undesirable people or seize
offenders for a short period until the police can record a charge. But the compe-
tences of the watchmen are constricted to self-defence and help in need. Legally
they are not allowed to search someone, to collect personal data or to use force.
If such actions are necessary they have to call the police. In everyday practice the
responsibilities of PSFs, the police and the public order departments of the local
authorities merge and the boundaries of duties are often not clear to the acting
people but also to the citizens who are affected by their activities. While the legal
framework of the collaboration is widely clear, the operational arrangements are
often rather nebulous, especially when it comes to deciding about the claims or
about the differentiation of public- and semi-public space.
• Public-private partnerships and police-private partnerships: Generally on the basis of
contracts or codified agreements PSFs are integrated in plural policing in public-
private partnerships and/or police-private partnerships. If the co-contractors are
the local authorities the PSF activities concentrate on public order aspects e.g. in
the context of city festivals, parking enforcement, supervision and surveillance
of public property. In police-private partnerships the PSFs help the police with
observe – discover – report’ (Koch, 2002). So if PSF watchmen see anything
problematic in the context of public order, safety and security they report to
the police and/or to the municipality. The public-private contract in Berlin for
example was agreed between the police and the regional association of PSFs.
Via this association, 11 mainly medium-sized PSFs with about 7,000 employees
were integrated in the information and communication network with the police.
Together they communicate through the ‘Joint Information and Contact Centre
(Hirschmann & Groß, 2012, 112 f.)
• Conferment: Only in very few cases does the PSF receive ‘conferment’, which
means that they are allowed to fulfil sovereign tasks and with this can curtail
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272 EJPS 2(3) / 2015
personal rights or even the fundamental rights of persons. Such conferment
is handled very rarely in Germany but can be seen for example in speed limit
enforcement, airport security or passenger screenings. The PSF act on behalf
of public authorities, have to act in the specific legal framework and are under
control of the authorities.
Plural policing, therefore, including private security firms, covers a wide field of
activities and different
• gradesofintegrationintopolicingstrategies,
• typesofclients,
• provisionswithallowancesand
• interventionlaws.
2.4. Plural policing and other societal agencies
On the face of it, it would seem that societal agencies are not engaged in policing.
However, their role greatly influences policing, as this activity does not exist in a
vacuum, but is influenced by and influences all societal agencies. These agencies
have their main role in very many other fields like welfare, leisure, culture, sports,
integration etc. But seeing policing in a broader sense and especially integrating
prevention on the one hand and follow-up care (e.g. for victims of crime) on the
other hand into the concept of policing, it is clear that societal agencies influence
policing and therefore can be seen as actors in plural policing. Especially some
health and welfare organisations can play a crucial part in policing strategies when
it comes to dealing with juveniles in the public space (e.g. truants, runaways, gang
members) or with alcohol or drug addicts (Kaup, 2012, 132; Voelzke, 2012, 98 ff.).
Policing reduced to control, deterrence and law enforcement would not solve the
problems but would bear the chance of worsening them.
Given that the provision of safety and security as well as victim protection and the
support and re-integration of offenders are key functions of the probation service,
they too need to be seen as part of plural policing. Societal agencies work on these
tasks and it is a challenge for plural policing to understand the non-policing char-
acter of them as well as benefit from their doings and integrate in smooth policing
strategies. But collaboration in plural policing is not without difficulties and risks,
as the aims, perspectives on the problems and culture of these organisations are
different to the police and public order departments, which can lead to controversial
discussions about the correct way of resolving joint problems.
2.5. Plural policing and volunteers
The employment of volunteers in policing such as Special Constables in England
and Wales or the Vrijwillige Politie (voluntary police) in the Netherlands is not
common in Germany. Only in four of the 16 Länder are volunteers – more or
less – integrated in the police force.
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• Baden-Württembergimplementedthe‘VoluntaryPoliceService’in1963and
gave their members legal powers to the point of carrying and using firearms.
The volunteers often patrol together with police officers and are clothed similarly.
The 2011 elected Green Party/Social Democratic coalition agreed to dissolve the
service until 2016 (Hirschmann & Groß, 2012, 26 f.).
• TheVoluntaryPoliceServiceinHessen(installed2000)andtheSicherheitswacht
(safety watch) in Bavaria (since 1996) and Saxon (since 1998) are equipped with
less competence than in Baden-Württemberg. They do not carry firearms (only
pepper spray for self-defence) and are not allowed to use force. They mostly patrol
in low-risk neighbourhoods, pedestrian zones, at schools or nursery schools; they
assist with events or protection of objects (Hirschmann & Groß, 2012, 19 ff.).
The purpose of police volunteers is to provide high visibility presence and thus
reassure citizens, to offer low-threshold police service and to relieve police officers
of lower level tasks that do not require full police training.
The minor importance of voluntary police services in Germany is shown in the
numbers of volunteers. Hirschmann & Groß (2012, 19) point out that in 2010
there were about 2,200 people in the four organisations mentioned above, while
the police forces in these states employed about 70,000 police officers. In contrast
there were more than 15,000 Special Constables in England and Wales in forces
with about 143,000 police officers (Home Office, 2010).
Other Länder see the topic of volunteers in the police force with reservation.
Also the police unions often warn against a decrease of professionalism in police
service. This reservation has to be seen against the background that people in
Germany have to undertake at least a 30-month full-time professional education
or a three-year Bachelor study to become a police officer, while the courses for the
volunteers consist of 40 (Bavaria) to 60 lessons of 45 minutes each (Saxon). So the
required knowledge in law, the psychological skills and the operational abilities
etc. are then very slender.
Less important in Germany are models of neighbourhood watches or town
watches with volunteers. In some cities so-called ‘Nachtwanderer (night walkers)
are active and aim to be present and accessible in the night for young people.
With their activities they (want to) strengthen informal social control, increase the
inhibition threshold for violence or vandalism, reduce victimisation and improve
the sense of safety in the public space. The Nachtwanderer do not have any police
competence and act strictly ‘civilian’, but call professional assistance if needed.
Forms of vigilantism are viewed critically as they are often inspired by right-wing
extremists. These activities have to be distinguished from e.g. the burglary preven-
tion programme Achtung! Wachsamer Nachbar (‘Attention! Watchful neighbour’)
that prompts people to have a watchful eye on the street and the neighbour’s house
and to alert the police when they are suspicious of a crime.
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274 EJPS 2(3) / 2015
3. Forms and patterns
The previous section, regarding the role and involvement of different players in
plural policing, already shows different forms and patterns of plural policing in
Germany. On the one hand there is plural policing as collaboration, like public-
private partnerships or the work of social agencies and police in crime prevention.
On the other hand there is coexistence, especially most of PSFs’ work and services.
So there are two different basic and ideal categories of plural policing:
• collaborationand
• coexistence.
3.1. Collaboration
There are different occasions resulting in plural policing as collaboration. These are
mainly focused on situations or problems perceived as not sufficiently resolvable by
one actor alone. Often these collaborations regard occasions and problems before-
hand handled by sole actors, especially the police, like policing of drug scenes and
fighting crime. But changing approaches and situations lead to plural, respectively
collaborative forms of policing. The following examples represent different forms
of collaborative plural policing.
• Events often require complex plural policing. Local authorities permit the events
and give instructions to the organiser e.g. regarding the required level of secu-
rities and guards, the marking of escape-ways, the entrance- and exit-control
etc. The police are responsible for the public space including threat aversion,
traffic control and law enforcement. The organisers have to ensure the presence
of security guards at least on the requested level. After the disaster during the
‘Loveparade’ in Duisburg in July 2010, where 21 visitors died and more than
500 were injured in a stampede (Still, 2011), the rules about the collaboration of
police, local authorities and event organisers were sharpened and the licensing
regime restricted.
• Thepluralpolicingofdrug scenes is based on the collaboration of the local authori-
ties (public order department, parks and gardens department, health department,
social department) and the police with its drug squad and patrol service. They
often work together with social workers of welfare organisations. The aims of
this plural policing are heterogeneous, as they include help for addicts, control
of the drug market, hindrance of dealing, law enforcement, prevention, reducing
dangers for those uninvolved e.g. through used syringes and reducing disturbance
and harassments by addicts influencing the sense of fear at these scenes. The
collaboration is often organised in so-called ‘Ordnungspartnerschaften’ (public
order partnerships), which coordinate the activities of the different authorities
(Kaup, 2012).
• Crime prevention councils have steered a type of plural policing since the early 1990s.
Depending on the local problems and the willingness to cooperate of different
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players like the police, local authorities, health system, education system, judicial
system, welfare organisations et al., safety and security matters are discussed,
measures agreed on and the co-operation installed (Schreiber, 2007; Frevel, 2012;
2007). The development of these councils can be seen as an expression of the
shift in the crime policy in which the proactive measures gain more importance.
3.2. Coexistence
In contrast to collaboration, coexisting plural policing often deals with problems
formerly not regarded as ‘real’ security or policing issues. This form of plural
policing is frequently based on changed public or private security perception and
concerns, resulting in higher demands for security.
Often this form of plural
policing is evolving into an economy, serving a market with unlimited demand.
In some cases coexistence can be linked to competition between different actors
in plural policing.
• City patrol with private security firm: As described above the public order depart-
ment of the local authorities is in duty for maintaining the public order. Beside
the work done in the offices also city patrols in the public space belong to this
task, which is mainly delivered by civil servants. But some cities assign private
security firms for this task (Arning, 2012) because this service seems to be che-
aper than the delivery by civil servants. The firms have to patrol selected city
areas (pedestrian zones, playgrounds, fairgrounds etc.), be the contact persons
for citizens and have to keep contact with the municipality as well as with the
police in matters of public order, safety and security.
• Mostofthebiggershopping malls engage private security firms to conduct the
safety matters. They exercise the property rights and collaborate with the police
in cases of crime (shop lifting, assaults etc.). They also arrange agreements with
the local authorities regarding the intersection of public and semi-public spaces
in matters of order.
• Public transport: In public transport a complex plural policing can be witnessed.
The responsibility for policing on the railway and stations of Deutsche Bahn
belongs to the Federal Police; outside these trains and stations the Länder-Police
are in charge. The bigger transportation companies, which deliver bus services,
metros or trams, keep their own safety and security services, whilst the smaller
ones engage private security firms – or rather have no personnel for this task.
Often policing activities tasks are embedded alongside other services and duties
such as ticket inspection, bus and train conducting (Döring, 2010).
• Night-time economy: Especially in the bigger cities with an extensive night-time
economy with pubs, bars, discotheques, brothels etc. the plural policing of the
nightlife districts is normal often with more than three partners. On the one hand
the police and the public order departments are in legal charge, they control the
2 Daase et al. (2012) discuss the changing understanding, perception and interpretation of security.
3 This unlimited demand is a consequence of security as an ‘unsatisfiable basic need’ (Frevel, 2013).
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public space, intervene in cases of crime (mainly fights), assert the closing time
etc. On the other hand landlords engage doormen and security and they often pay
for additional patrols by private security firms. In most cases the collaboration
of statutory agencies and enterprises works well without problems. But in some
quarters gangs like Hells Angels or Bandidos have captured this market – and
they do not bother to collaborate with the police (quite the opposite) and rather
implement a competitive system of ‘order’.
4. Chances and obstacles of plural policing
The idea of plural policing seems very positive at first sight. The authorities in
charge of public order, safety, security – i.e. primarily the police and the local public
service – fulfil their duties and collaborate with other authorities, organisations and
citizens in a collaborative effort at the practical level. This relieves the authorities,
leads to synergy effects, activates people, broadens the sense for safety matters and
seems to create a win-win situation. Sounds nice!
Plural policing seems to provide the answer to the current questions about security
in times of changing security structure. Daase, Offermann and Rauer (2012) and
Lange, Wendekamm and Endreß (2014) show in their work how this security struc
ture has changed. The consideration of different risks (humanitarian, ecological,
economic, military), different reference objects (state, society, individual), different
levels (national, regional, international, global) and different jeopardies (threats,
risks, vulnerability) lead to a widened understanding of security (Daase, 2012).
Dealing with this complex setting requires the collaboration of heterogeneous actors,
as these are in particular responsible for only particular but often interdependent
risks. Further, besides the upcoming security framework there are changes in the
security culture to be considered. Daase (2012, 8) defines this as the ‘transformation
of beliefs, values and practices of individuals and organisations, which decide about
what is to be considered as jeopardy and how and with which methods it should
be encountered’. Most of the European societies (not only German) undergo this
transformation and the process of securitisation can be retraced on all dimensions
mentioned above. The growing demand of security puts pressure on the state as
a warrant for security and opens a market for further security firms and safety
actors. The states’ and firms’ promise to produce security on the one hand and the
empirical fact of insecurity (crime, terrorism) on the other increases the demand.
But security may not be a satisfiable and achievable promise. In this setting plural
policing wins the support of citizens and politicians as a viable way and also finds
acceptance by security stakeholders.
But plural policing is confronted with several difficulties and uncertainties, which
make the task difficult:
• Interaction of different professions: The stakeholders of plural policing have very
different tasks, attitudes and traditions in the broad field of policing. The unequal
authority, competences and skills, the sometimes controversial accountability to
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the citizens as a whole or to specific purchasers, the diverse value orientation e.g.
to civil rights and integration vs. property rights and segregation of undesirables
such as beggars or addicts from semi-public spaces are not easy to integrate. For
example while police, public order departments or private security firms often
see young people as a group that causes problems, social workers of welfare
organisations see them as people with problems. This different view on target
groups causes difficulties in collaboration, as the aims of intervention and the
sorts of activities are different.
• Education and training of employees and participants: The people involved in plural
policing have a broad spectrum of qualifications, ranging from higher educated
police officers, public servants or social workers to semiskilled workers in pri-
vate security firms or interested laypeople without proper training. This variety
can cause problems in interpreting situations, weighing the necessity of action,
estimating the adequate intervention and evaluating the consequences.
• Iconography of the services: Hirschmann and Groß (2012, 132 ff.) point out that the
iconography of players in the field of plural policing converges – up to the point
of indistinguishability for ‘normal’ people. A ‘uniformity of uniforms’ appears in
which the Federal Police, the police of the Länder, voluntary police, private security
firms, the workforce of the local public order department and plant security of
the public transport firms look similar in their blue uniforms. How can a citizen
find the proper contact person when he/she is in need? How can someone, who
is being policed, estimate whether he has to present an identity card or let the
person have a look in the bag or briefcase, or whether the person is authorised
to demand this?
• Accountability: Plural policing as a sort of collaboration, a variation of shared duties
and a targeted synergy can be unclear in the aspects of responsibility, judicial
foundation of action and legitimation of intervention. In these cases also the ac-
countability has to be questioned. Can the police be made accountable for actions
taken by partners; and who is in charge to supervise plural policing? What about
the responsibilities in the public or the semi-public space and how can public
order, securing property rights and law enforcement be differentiated – both by
the players and the citizens?
• Financing the local safety and security: Security matters in public spaces are to be
dealt with by statutory agencies, especially the police, and also the protection of
citizens against crime, which is primarily their duty. The increase of plural po-
licing, which is often inspired by personal and financial shortages of the police
and local authorities, releases the state budget and shifts tasks to private players
– either citizens or the market. But as ‘he who pays the piper calls the tune’ this
movement of financing partners in policing also strengthens their chance to
define safety and security problems according to their perception, which does
not always equate with the ideas of equality and civil rights.
This short and incomplete sketch of possible problems shows that the idea of plural
policing is convincing but has to be implemented carefully to preserve order, safety
and security in a complex setting.
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5. Local safety and security governance
The discussion of plural policing, their form, patterns, chances and obstacles are
closely related to the theoretical concept of ‘governance’. Discussions in political
science within the last 10 to 15 years in terms of collaboration of statutory and
non-statutory agencies are connected by this term.
Although ‘governance’ has gained quite a degree of esteem within the interna-
tional scientific community, it is still not clearly defined. Especially the German
discussion about the term shows some vagueness and indifferences. Jann (2005,
21) describes ‘governance’ as a ‘central catchphrase of the modernisers of state and
public administration’ and von Blumenthal considers it as an approved ambigu-
ous term (2005, 1150). After a differentiated discussion of several lines of sight,
e.g. regarding the narrowness vs. wideness of governance, the role of state or the
normative vs. descriptive analytical understanding, Schulze (2013, 214) defines
governance in the policy of safety and security as follows:
A descriptive-analytical approach with a wide understanding of governance safety
and security governance means the guarantee of Internal Security on the basis
of a widened perception of Sicherheit,
in which security refers to a narrow un-
derstanding and safety on a broader understanding of Sicherheit. In this diverse
statutory and non-statutory agencies interact, which are standing to each other
in a non-hierarchical relation, use different means, instruments and methods, in
order to achieve a common aim on the basis of shared norms, attitudes and/or
interests. This happens against the background of different topics and problems
in a regime of governance, which is coined by negotiations in networks and act in
the framework of a ‘hierarchy in the background’. With this the sovereignty of the
policy and the character of the topic Internal Security build the specific parameter
of this governance-approach and coin the specialness of the use of governance in
this policy.
The reference to the ‘hierarchy in the background’, brought into the discussion
by the German political scientist Renate Mayntz (2004, 72), in this definition is
one important connecting component between the debate of safety and security
governance and plural policing. If any collaboration happens to steer different
activities in the field of public order, safety, threat aversion or crime prevention,
non-hierarchical forms of interaction very often work well between the stakeholders
involved. But the borderline to fields of action in clear cognisance of the state is
sometimes fluent and halting. Certain aspects of policing are reserved to the state’s
agencies when they interfere with the fundamental rights of people: use of force,
arrest, formal interrogation etc. ‘Soft’ policing can be executed by different (state
and non-state) actors while ‘hard’ policing is privileged to the police and particular
departments of local authority. The police have the prerogative of interpreting
4 In German the term ‘Sicherheit’ has different meanings; in English it can be translated as safety,
security or also certainty.
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crucial situations and base themselves on hierarchy if needed. Consequently, they
may interfere within a particular situation and take action alone, they may restrict
the other players or they may use a veto if the majority in the network wants to act
against the state’s agencies’ ideas, which are provided with special competences.
In sum plural policing can be seen as a way of dealing with different problems in
the fields of order, safety and security. The plurality covers several stakeholders from
the state (police, local authorities, other public authorities), the economy, private
parties and NGOs, up to civil society and citizens as volunteers. But in particular
situations the plurality can be minimised and the police officer fulfil their duties
on their own – but in accountability to the public. This opens the chances to deal
with the inherent or potential problems of lacking legitimacy of security and safety
governance and of plural policing.
6. Plural policing and the changing role of the state
While the previous sections of this paper focused on the practical side of plural
policing, forms and patterns, political steering, the chances and obstacles, the
points of contact between plural policing and ‘governance’, the final section looks
at theoretical aspects and discusses the contemporary impact on the monopoly of
force and the role of the state.
The core question of plural policing is about the impact on the legitimacy of force
and the role of the state. Especially the German discussion refers in this context
to the fundamental thoughts of the German sociologist Max Weber. In his essay
‘Politics as a Vocation’ (1994, 10; 1919) he sees the monopoly of the legitimate use
of physical force as a prerequisite of the state. Weber assigns the duty to uphold
the claim on this monopoly to the administrative staff – and here especially the
police. Weber’s position strengthens the police and also other state authorities in
matters of threat aversion and law enforcement. In combination with the quite
strict constraints of other agencies, e.g. private security firms, the idea of plural
policing does not really fit this state concept. Safety and security, public order, law
enforcement are the matters of the state. And the authorities follow the jurisdictions
and competencies, which are mainly clear and distinguished from other players.
Weber’s concept of the monopoly of force is part of his idea of bureaucracy
and legal authority. So if non-statutory agencies gain competences, which affect
the monopoly of force, the competence of the state is questioned and eventually
undermined. In significant contrast e.g. to the USA the German tradition postulates
the state’s authority in most aspects of order and security in the public space. The
police force watches every adjustment and shifting in the security matters as a core
of sovereignty carefully and with mistrust.
6.1. A changing concept of state
But this basic idea of the state, which was created at the beginning of the 20
century, is the subject of discussion. In the context of the neoliberal movement
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around the turn of the century and its ideas and approaches regarding the increas-
ing national deficit, the idea of the ‘activating state’ evolved (Behrens et al., 2005).
This concept questions the old concept and proclaims a shift from a ‘performance
state’ (Leistungsstaat) to a ‘warranty state’ (Gewährleistungsstaat). The basic idea is
that the direct delivery of certain goods and services is not necessarily the duty of
the state. The stately duty is reduced to ensuring its delivery – even by non-statutory
So in a warranty state it is not important who delivers goods and services
but that they are available for the people. This debate also includes the matters of
safety and security, as Pitschas points out (2004, 99).
While this debate led to changes in many policy arenas, the domain of internal
security was only partially and slowly affected for many years. In the activating state
the pluralisation and the privatisation of services becomes normality and this is also
– even in a reduced scale – a fact in internal security. The collaboration of the state’s
main actor, the police, with other agencies e.g. private security firms, volunteers and
non-statutory players is implemented as plural policing. The contemporary state of
plural policing can be seen as a result of the political debate regarding the activating
state. The question is: What are the implications for Weber’s monopoly of force?
In contrast to the Weberian perspective, advocates of the neoliberal ‘warranty’ state
mean that there aren’t any consequences regarding plural policing and the monopoly
of force. Pitschas (2004, 99) says that the state must not carry out this monopoly, but
must be able to possess it. In his view legitimate force is not necessarily reserved
for public services, i.e. police. The state has to keep the Kompetenz-Kompetenz
control and regulate the use of force. With this the legitimate use of physical force
persists as a core of authority and is still a feature and defining characteristic of
the state (Stienen, 2011, 29). This neoliberal concept of internal security and the
monopoly of force implies a kind of ‘withdrawal of state’.
At first glance plural policing in Germany seems to match these neoliberal ideas
and a resulting ‘withdrawal of state’. But taking the changing security structure,
the broader changing security culture and the governance structures into account,
Tobias John (2013, 24) emphasises that at this moment the police and therefore
the state are not losing power and competences. They rather have to deal with job
enrichment and a resulting double-role. On the one hand, the police act as the state’s
force implementing the monopoly of force when it comes to law enforcement and
dealing with serious hazards. On the other hand, the police act as coordinators,
supervisors and partners of non-statutory and private players in the fields of crime
5 This idea of an activating state has a different perspective on the role of state, the role of economy
and also the role of citizens. While the state (on all levels) shall reduce its own services the other
stakeholders should be more active to achieve their own and the common goals. The state can shift
the steering of society away from sovereign duties and the offer of delivery of goods and services
and strengthen the indirect steering e.g. by providing financing, procedural steering or information
(Braun & Giraud, 2009, 162).
6 Kompetenz-Kompetenz is as well a political as a judicial term. Judicially it means an arbitral tribunal
is allowed to make a decision on whether it has jurisdiction over an issue that needs to be settled
and whether an arbitration agreement is valid (see:
is-doctrine-of-competence-competence). In political science it means the authority of the state to
decide about its own and the competences of other public and/or private institutions.
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prevention and public order or safeguarding private interests. The second aspect
refers to the major portion of plural policing in Germany, steered by a safety and
security governance with a ‘primus inter pares’ role of the state.
The steering of plural policing seems to belong to the state and its police. But
they have to acknowledge the interests of the other partners and to recognise their
abilities and competences. This affects the police strategies, which will have to
consider the preconditions of the partners, the occasional contrasting aims and
the heterogeneity of instruments.
But this current strong role of the state and the police is not without question.
On the one hand there is the uncertain future of further developments in plural
policing. On the other hand there is the question of the influence non-statutory and
private players can already utilise to affect particularly the agenda-setting process
in safety and security governance resulting in questionable input-legitimacy and
further consequences regarding the legitimacy of force.
6.2. The German position vs. the Anglo-Saxon liberal idea
Following Loader’s differentiation (2000, 326 ff.), Germany still conforms primarily
to a model of ‘policing by government’, recently increasing reliance on forms of
‘policing through government’, but to date has seen little development of policing
‘beyond’ or ‘below’ government. Governing security in the public space is still the
responsibility of the state and the public police, although collaboration and coexist-
ence with other bodies is possible, especially in the borderland of public, semi-public
and private space. Co-operation between police, local authorities, welfare, health,
educational and judicial systems in crime prevention has been commonplace since
the early 1990s. So whilst patterns of plural policing have evolved, they at least seem
to remain primarily organised and controlled by public authorities.
The police are a relatively well-regarded institution in Germany, and for several
years have gained the highest ratings in citizen polls on institutional trust (e.g. GfK
2013; 2014). At the same time, there are some serious reservations about private
security firms, who often receive low ratings in such polls. Citizens’ expectations
about professional performance of public services are based on understandings
about the quality and amount of training and education of police officers and civil
servants. This same point increases reservations about the idea of security services
that are delivered by volunteers, or the private sector. These positions support the
conservative, state-oriented approach of policing, which ‘allows’ plural policing but
wants the state in control. Even if the government sees the restrictions of financing
the public safety it sticks to the idea of the priority of delivering services by the
police. The importance of legitimacy (and accountability) is – in the tradition of
Weber’s concept – fundamental for this state model.
Despite the debate concerning the role of the state, the German approach regarding
private security differs from the distinct (neo-) liberal concept of the Anglo-Saxons as it
has developed since the late 1970s (White, 2010). On the basis of Gosta Esping-Anderson
(1990) it could be said that Germany still favours a higher grade of decommodification
and a lower grade of privatisation not only as a welfare state and in social policy, but
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also in the field of safety and security. The liberal welfare state – with its prototypes
USA, UK and Canada – in Esping-Andersen’s (somewhat aged) concept of the Three
Worlds of Welfare Capitalism is in contrast marked by a higher grade of privatisation
and weaker decommodification. This analogy as well fits the differences of etatism
and corporatism: Germany tries to keep the state in a stronger role and would rather
incorporate non-statutory agencies in state activities than keep the systems apart. This
fundamental difference leads to a specific way of steering policing with a ‘primus inter
pares’ role of the state in safety and security governance.
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François Bonnet
Jacques de Maillard
Sebastian Roché
Plural Policing of Public
Places in France
Between Private and Local Policing
This paper analyzes the changing public/private as well as central/local relationships for the provi-
sion of public security in public places in France. It describes the emergence and development of a
now frequent public-private mix in policing, based on the hot issue of regulating social behaviours
in public places. The significance of the French model in terms of the nature of privatization and
pluralization is then discussed and compared to international trends. The rise of a local level
public-private mix, while not unique in Europe, appears as a major shift in a French environment
traditionally characterized by the structural centralization of its public forces.
Keywords: France, public security, privatization, plural policing, public space, governance of security
EuropEan Journal of policing StudiES,
2(3), 285-303
© 2015 Maklu | ISSN 2034-760X | March 2015
a Francois Bonnet (PhD, Sociology, Sciences Po Paris, 2006) is a CNRS assistant research professor
at Pacte (Grenoble). His work has been published in International Journal of Urban and Regional
Research, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, and a number of French journals. He works
on the production of social order (corresp.:
b Jacques de Maillard is Professor of Political Science at the University of Versailles-Saint-Quentin,
deputy-director of the Cesdip (a research centre affiliated to the CNRS, the University of Versailles
and the ministry of Justice) and member of the Institut Universitaire de France. His interests lie in
the questions of governance of security, plural policing, police reforms and the comparative study
of policing in European countries. He has published in these areas (Revue française de science
politique, Revue française de sociologie, Policing and Society, European Journal of Criminology, etc.).
c Sebastian Roché is a research professor at the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) in
PACTE - Sciences-Po (Institute of Political Science), University of Grenoble, France). He is spe-
cialized in the field of criminology (juvenile crime and juvenile justice, comparative policing) and
has published more than ten books as well as dozens of articles (in Crime and Justice, European
Journal of Criminology, Canadian Journal of Criminology, Revue Française de Science Politique).
In 2010, the regional branch of the Court of Auditors (Cour des comptes, the highest
public body in charge of overseeing public spending) issued a report on the security
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François Bonnet, Jacques de Maillard & Sebastian Roché
policy of the city of Lyons
. The Court declared it illegal for the mayor’s office to
outsource patrols on the shores of the Rhône River to private companies. In October
2013, in Meru (a small town in the region of Picardie), a social housing organization
contracted with a private security company to patrol its halls and cellars. This project
triggered a chain of public reactions on the status of such spaces and the role of the
private security sector: should private guards be allowed to patrol the urban public
space (la voie publique), hitherto a monopoly of police authorities?
These events must be viewed in the wider context of the changing public/private
as well as central/local relationships in the area of policing and security provision in
France. We endeavour to analyze the meaning of such trends. In this paper, we first
provide a brief research update on the private security sector in France – since the
situation varies from one country to another. Second, we describe the emergence
and development of a now frequent public-private mix in policing, based on the
hot issue of regulating social behaviours in public places (the very nature of the
activities of staff tasked with surveilling such spaces is heatedly debated these
days). Third, we discuss the significance of the French model in light of the current
questioning of global privatization and pluralization trends by the international
academic community. The development of a local level public-private mix, while not
unique in Europe, appears as a major shift in a French environment traditionally
characterized by the structural centralization of its public forces.
1. Private Security Research and Controversies in France: a Brief Overview
In this section, we first provide context about the private sector of policing, before
reviewing the French literature. 9,625 private security organizations were operat-
ing in France in 2012. Almost 6,000 were in fact self-employed individuals, while
11 employed more than 2,000 staff – 31.5% of the total workforce (I+C, 2013).
Between 2005 and 2012, there has been a 29.5% increase of the number of private
security companies. The total revenue of the private security sector in 2012 was €
5.45 billion, 68% of which was captured by the 217 companies (2.5%) employing
more than 100 staff (I+C, 2013). Between 1998 and 2010, the sector’s revenue has
grown at the annual rate of 5.5% (Robin & Mordier, 2013). Since the early 2000s,
public buyers (hospitals, administrations, etc.) have accounted for less than 25%
of the total market for private security (23% in 2012) (I+C, 2013). In 2012, the total
number of private security workers was 148,350, stagnating since 2001 (I+C, 2013).
In 2010, the National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE) counted
131,000 FTE workers (Robin & Mordier, 2013). Most of these jobs are concentrated
in urban areas, with the Paris metropolitan area being the biggest employment
zone (I+C, 2013). The high turnover materializes in a hiring rate of 60.5% and a
1 See ‘Rapport d’observations définitives de la chambre régionale des comptes concernant la gestion de la
commune de Lyon  Enquête sécurité publique au cours des exercices 2003 et suivants’, released in 2010
by the Cour Régionale des Comptes.
2 Libération, ‘Faute de moyens, la police cède à la tentation du privé’, November 15th 2013.
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departure rate of 59% (I+C, 2013). 41.2% of private guards under the age of 30 have
no educational degree at all (Bauvet, 2007). Wages are among the lowest of all sectors
(Robin & Mordier, 2013). Women account for 15% of the workforce (I+C, 2013).
Private security in France has been studied along a number of lines. Economists
and business scholars study the economic growth of the market for private policing,
emphasizing the job-creation potential of the sector (Konadje, 2011). The sector is
a polarized one: while a handful of big companies – many of them foreign, such
as Securitas (Hassid, 2010) – employing thousands of agents are profitable, many
very small entities struggle for survival in a competitive context that drives prices
down (Brajeux, Delbecque & Mathieu, 2013), engaging in borderline illegal business
and labour practices (Tournyol du Clos, 2006). Under French law, any individual
with a clean criminal record may start a private security business (Konadje, 2011).
However, existing mechanisms have been described as lenient with regard to
‘unclean’ criminal records (Ocqueteau, 2013).
Legal scholars focus on legislation and regulation (Latour, 2009). While the legal
context had been stable since the 1983 Act regulating private security activities,
changes were introduced in the 2000s: private agents are now allowed to perform
more policing activities, especially in airports (Ocqueteau & Warfman, 2011), and
a new national regulatory body (the CNAPS) has been created (Ocqueteau, 2013).
The CNAPS brings together public authorities (from the police and the judiciary)
and representatives of private security employers, and delivers accreditations for
private security companies. The inter-ministerial delegate for private security, Prefect
Blanchou (2012), argues in favour of replacing the 1983 Act with a new general law
regulating private policing. Gohin (2012) analyzes constitutional obstacles standing
in the way of a complete privatization of policing.
Political scientists and legal scholars have a shared interest in private-public
partnerships (Chevallier, 2011) and the demonopolization of security (Roché, 2004),
showing that tax and budgetary constraints force public authorities to hand down
security policies to the private sector (Latour, 2012). Loubet Del Bayle (2012) has
concerns about the very ability of private policing to contribute to the common
good. More specifically, there are concerns about the training, skills, and profes-
sionalization of agents (Brajeux, Delbecque & Mathieu, 2013).
Sociologists who study work conditions and labour relations note that private
policing in France yields low-skilled, low-pay, high-turnover jobs, often held for
just a few months or years by young men – few women, except in positions where
interpersonal skills are considered important (Bauvet, 2010) – from ethnic minori-
ties and/or immigrants in wait of better employment opportunities (Péroumal,
2008; Scheepers, 2012). The involvement of visible minorities in private policing has
triggered discussions about racial politics (Arpagian, 2010; Hug, 2000; Scheepers,
2012). All this makes unionization unlikely (Péroumal, 2007).
Private guards are particularly conspicuous in mass private properties such as
shopping malls and railway stations (Bonnet, 2006; 2008; 2012; Mongin, 2008),
where they perform ‘public’ policing missions in spaces which are legally private,
but practically public. This blurring of the private and the public is a key theme of
the literature.
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2. Empirical Examination of the French Experience of Plural Policing
In this section, we document aspects of the empirical reality of plural policing
in France based on a number of scholarly works excerpted from a rather limited
literature. By design, we provide a broad and simplified account of these works,
which pertain to several large French cities. Precisely because our goal is to give a
broad sense of the French case of plural policing, we focus on identifying general
patterns rather than detailed, city-specific findings. Readers in search of more
substantial empirical material are invited to consult these works.
2.1. Private Security Guards and the Policing of Public Spaces
The growth of the private security sector is largely fuelled by the demand for
security guards in public spaces or mass private properties. This raises a number
of concerns. Department stores, shopping malls, and railway stations have been
around for decades in France, so why the sudden rise in private security employment
in the 1990s and the 2000s?
Since the police officer population has steadily kept up with demographics, the
rising numbers of private guards can only be explained by the emergence of some
new security issue in these particular spaces. Commercial entities buy security
because they feel they need to: for the business sector, security is an extra cost, and
plays a less symbolic role than it does for government authorities. This security
issue may originate in the decline of informal social controls and/or in the rise of
new behaviours requiring a security response. A plausible explanation in France is
the rise of antisocial behaviours since the 1980s. Conventional wisdom associates
these antisocial behaviours to minority youths from deprived neighbourhoods. In
Bonnet’s (2006) shopping mall, typical antisocial behaviours consisted in petty theft
and minor disturbances such as youths running, being loud in groups, harassing
girls and so on. Such antisocial behaviours do not require heavy-handed (i.e. armed)
policing tactics to be managed.
Bonnet’s (2006; 2008; 2009) study of the relationships between public and private
security in two mass private properties in Lyon (France) shows that public and
private actors rely on different policing styles. Daily activities of public police officers
hinge on bureaucratic, public administration priorities. One of their duties is to
maintain availability to the public at all times at the station. Because of labour laws,
manning the desk during business hours is a human resource intensive require-
ment. Police officers also have to perform the judiciarization of public and private
security work: even mundane incidents require some type of paperwork, which
eventually builds up to consume more human resources. Police officers are tasked
to focus on certain types of criminals, such as undocumented aliens, as part of the
national governmental crime-fighting rhetoric. Because mass private properties
attract a lot of people (up to 100,000 daily visitors at some railway stations), police
officers are instructed to look for wanted persons. Drug dealers are also a target of
the French national police.
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Most of these priorities do not suit the specific interests of the commercial entities
that manage railway stations and shopping malls – these are in the business of
retail or transportation, not crime-fighting. The railway company
and the mall’s
management aim at making a profit and see security as part of their commercial
strategy. These companies want guards patrolling the premises, sending the mes-
sage that ‘security is present’. While drug dealers are not necessarily a concern, they
do care about drug addicts, whose appearance disturbs commonly-held notions of
doux commerce. Undocumented aliens or wanted persons are not perceived as a
problem, as long as they behave as normal customers. Hence, the security needs
of these businesses are not perfectly met by the security offer of the public police.
The retail industry needs a security that walks the fine line between accommodating
the customers’ perceived needs (for instance, to get rid of Roma panhandlers) and
respecting the customers’ perceived sense of fairness and justice (for instance,
to avoid the use of violence in getting rid of Roma panhandlers). Above all, retail
businesses need a security that avoids antagonizing customers or their children.
For instance, while the police tend to perceive minority youths as a criminal threat,
businesses perceive them as future customers and children of current customers.
They want to avoid the escalation of conflicts at all costs, and hire private guards
with minority backgrounds with the belief that better cross-cultural communication
will thus be enabled. In the shopping mall studied by Bonnet (2006), commercial
activity had been disrupted, in 1998, by a riot that broke out on the last day of the
month of Ramadan and involved hundreds of minority youths. Memories of this
riot have shaped how security is provided. The heavy-handed approach came to
be perceived by the management as a threat to business, since customers would
increasingly associate the mall with urban disorder. To avoid further conflicts with
minority youths, the management hired minority guards and a mediator. The
security strategy is to avoid another riot, even if that involves letting a few petty
thefts go unpunished.
The evolution of the security division at the French railway company (SNCF)
also illustrates these dynamics (Bonnet, 2006). For decades, SNCF internal security
had been focusing on employee theft, internal fraud, anti-union activities, and
warehouse protection. It was nicknamed ‘the Fifth Column’ inside the organization,
in reference to General Franco’s army during the Spanish Civil War. With the rise of
antisocial behaviours and fear of crime in the 1990s, the SNCF entirely remodelled
its security division. Instead of working in plain clothes, looking out for employee
crime, SNCF security guards now patrol railway stations and trains in uniform, in
an ostensible attempt at reassuring both customers and their fellow co-workers.
The evolution of the SNCF security division shows how security priorities are
contingent to company interests. For decades at the SNCF, security had meant
employee surveillance’. When the context changed, SNCF adapted its definition
3 The French railway company (SNCF) is a public entity placed under the authority of the Ministry
of Transportation. For most intent and purposes, it acts as a private company with commercial
objectives. Under French law, railway stations are private spaces, owned by the SNCF (except for
the platform and railway, which are owned by Réseau Ferré de France – RFF).
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of security, and security now means ‘reassuring customers’. For the SNCF, security
is a component of a commercial strategy.
This creates conflicts with the public police. Socially speaking, the fact that security
guards are not strictly regulated by public authorities and that most of them belong
to minorities sets them apart from police officers. Police officers are mostly white
French individuals, with some education (civil servant exams are very competitive,
even for low-skilled jobs like police officer), and being a civil servant is an important
part of their professional identity. They tend to consider private security guards
as mercenaries, possibly as a professional threat (because of the cost difference
between public and private security), but certainly not as security professionals.
Indeed, some police officers have been known to make veiled accusations that
private guards might side with offenders.
2.2. New Jobs in Urban Tranquillity
Concurrently with the above-mentioned privatization trend, housing estates, local
authorities, and transportation companies have been providing an increasingly
visible presence in public spaces (or in spaces with a private status but a collective
usage, such as buses and hallways) by hiring agents of a new kind – not quite police
officers. As is the case in other European countries – see the English ‘wardens
(Crawford, 2006) or the Dutch ‘Stadswacht’ (Hauber et al., 1996) – this might be
referred to as the emergence of a new nebula of activities dealing with the treatment
of petty disorders and the daily mediation of conflictual situations in urban areas.
These new jobs have risen in a context marked by recurring criticism towards
traditional professions – the public police, especially, are perceived as cut off from
the field – and the disappearance of secondary social control occupations.
Depending on the local context, these new actors are given a profusion of denomi-
nations (mediators, night correspondents, stewards, etc.). Their social/professional
status may differ as well: while some of them are local public employees, most have
private, temporary job contracts. They may work for various kinds of employers
(social housing estates, transport companies, municipalities). Some of them even
work for voluntary organizations subsidized by public authorities. Despite these
differences, they share similarities that are particularly interesting for our purpose,
insofar as their activity always consists in regulating public spaces by assuming a
role that verges on policing. Their missions, relations with other actors, achieve-
ments, as well as their weaknesses will be illustrated below through the example
of Parisian ‘night-time mediators
(Maillard, 2013).
4 Indeed, the city set up a nightwatcher scheme (‘correspondants de nuit’) in 2004. This directly-
run scheme was gradually extended and now employs 135 civil service agents in neighbourhoods
within 9 districts. They will hereinafter be called ‘night-time watchers’ and ‘night-time mediators
(the French name is ‘correspondants de nuit’). The following developments are based on interviews
conducted with nightwatchers, their partners and some members of the public, as well as direct
observations (see Maillard, 2013).
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2.2.1. New Jobs on the Fringe of Policing
In all these cases, public officials have considered that public spaces may be regu-
lated by these actors without coercion, and that security may be promoted without
– at least primarily – resorting to formal police powers.
The emergence of these new actors stems from the idea that public spaces should
not be regulated through repression alone. While not playing on the register of
prevention in the usual sense – any more than repression – these actors do seem to
fit in an ongoing trend toward the professionalization of the monitoring and disap-
proval of uncivil conducts. These new jobs contribute to blurring the boundaries
between formal and informal social control. If, by ‘policing’, we mean ‘attempts to
regulate the distribution of security by actual or potential use of force’ (Bayley &
Shearing, 2001, 2), these agents are at the outer edge of such an activity. Although
unable to arrest or even fine offenders, they do regulate behaviours in public spaces.
The question, then, is whether this represents another way of policing cities and
enforcing peace and order, not performed explicitly by criminal justice professionals
or directly by the community, but instead by new practitioners attuned to their
neighbourhoods (Maillard & Faget, 2002; Roché, 2002).
These practitioners, also called ‘mediators’, are thought of by their sponsors as
intermediary actors between public institutions and civil society and may reinforce
community cohesion within the public (Baillergeau, 2008). They are associated with
the idea of strengthening ties both within neighbourhoods and between people
living in these neighbourhoods and public institutions. They are supposed to help
bridging the gap between institutions and underprivileged populations, as well as
fostering ties within neighbourhoods. In various countries – especially in England,
where policies have been influenced by neo-communitarian thinking – this debate
has been linked to the need for cohesive communities, able to defend themselves
from crime (Crawford, 2006). Since these actors usually are mere intermediaries,
they are not endowed with specific competences and depend on other institutions
and professions to deliver actual services. A closely related issue is their ability to
integrate local security partnerships (see below).
2.2.2. Regulating Public Places and Tackling Low-Level Disorders
To fulfil their missions, these mediators must build relationships with the local
population and make themselves both accessible and visible on the street. The first
basic rule is to avoid displaying ‘bad’ relationships in the public space – i.e. direct
ties with the police. Not only should public displays of complicity be avoided, but
nightwatchers should strive to stand out from the police in their appearance and
attitudes, always emphasizing their affiliation to the municipality and their ‘serving
the community’ spirit.
They have to engage with a huge variety of cultural and social backgrounds. The
skills and mind-sets required for establishing contact with a homeless man who
does not speak French, explaining what their job involves to a passer-by, or trying
to make contact with indifferent or even hostile youths from ethnic minorities are
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extremely varied. It is by using various resources, drawn mainly from personal
experience (charm and charisma, linguistic and cultural proximity, authority con-
ferred by age, performing minor favours, shared tastes, humour, etc.) that these
mediators manage – with greater or lesser ease – to make contact with the public.
Clearly, these mediators’ individual attributes (ranging from their ethnic origin to
the neighbourhood they were born in) are an integral part of this process, as these
attributes are often shared with the public (Divay, 2004). What all these skills have
in common is an overarching ability to adapt to conditions on the field, detect
potential sticking points, and find the right register, which will vary according to
both the circumstances and the available repertoire of resources. This involves
constant juggling between proximity and distance: knowing how to foster a certain
friendliness with young people on the one hand, while avoiding any overfamiliarity
on the other. The fact that these skills are difficult to ‘institutionalize’ and ‘profes-
sionalize’ raises the question of how mediators are trained: while they do benefit
from a three-month course that includes modules on conflict management, the
gap between the content of the training course and the skills actually required on
the field is a source of concern.
On this basis, these actors provide a service which consists in regulating and
monitoring public spaces. Three major aspects of their activity can be distinguished.
Firstly, their continuous patrolling and the high visibility offered by their uniforms
mean they offer a calming presence in public spaces at times of day that can be
a source of unease for the wider population. Some areas known for being drug-
trafficking spots or high-risk zones are identified in which they must provide this
visible and reassuring public presence.
Second, they monitor public spaces, especially looking for signs of physical decay,
thus enabling public bodies to remain responsive with regard to degradations. A
significant part of their patrols is spent identifying litter ‘hotspots’ and broken
facilities, and sending this information, on a daily basis, to competent municipal
services. This activity also means that mediators pass on some general information
about the state of the neighbourhood, exchanging with partners about potential
public order disturbances, circulating specific information about local nuisances,
reporting such environmental blemishes as unauthorized dumps, and so forth.
Finally, the emphasis on compliance with rules, which Sebastian Roché (2002)
describes as respect for ‘usage rules’ (rules taken for granted regarding usage of
public spaces) or for ‘order maintenance’ is at the heart of their repertoire of actions.
Their tasks include intervening at skate-parks to keep the noise level down; accom-
panying young female students or elderly people who don’t feel safe; maintaining
a dissuasive presence in sensitive areas at problematic hours; reminding people
of the rules that apply in public spaces; mediating conflicts taking place in public
places. Such are the night-time watchers’ main activities, as far as regulating the
public space is concerned.
Given the particularly tense scene in some of these neighbourhoods, with the
police circulating mostly in motor vehicles, night-time correspondents constitute
a response located between non-response (authorities making no move despite
repeated requests from residents) and over-reaction (police using violence over
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minor incidents). Their interventions aim at making sure that the rules for using
public spaces are respected, so that these – often very heterogeneous – spaces can
be attended by all kinds of people. At the very least, they facilitate the coexistence
of different ways of using public space, and at best they help weaving a social fabric
by making contact with somewhat marginalised groups such as the homeless, not
to mention the isolated, such as some elderly people. No doubt their action can
only be successful provided they achieve the difficult reconciliation of these two
terms – making sure the rules are respected without being perceived as pure law
enforcement officers. Whatever the case may be, such success will always remain
2.2.3. An Uncertain Position
These new practitioners are struggling to establish a clear role for themselves in
the urban environment, for reasons related to both the nature of the situations
they have to deal with (e.g. major confrontations between residents and young
people; conflicts over the use of some facilities) and their scope for action. Four
uncertainties may be noted.
First of all, their position is an ambiguous one. The line between ‘doing nothing
and ‘doing too much’ is a fine one to tread, especially in Paris, where the security
field appears rather crowded – from National police officers to Paris municipal
security officers through the agents in charge of the surveillance of social housing
estates, not to mention social educators. For instance, several facilities managers
have mentioned that they do not call the correspondants de nuit when there is a
problem, either because it doesn’t occur to them, or because they feel that this role
should be performed by other bodies, within a logic that may be stated as follows:
‘If it isn’t serious, I take care of it, and if it’s serious, I call in the police or the City
security officers’.
Secondly, we know that these areas are beleaguered by significant generational,
social or even ethnic divisions, and that, therefore, expectations towards public
authorities differ greatly. This means that, even in areas where mediators are
successful in establishing solid, peaceful day-to-day contact with disaffected young
people on the streets, their work is not viewed favourably by some of the local
residents who observe their actions and consider that mediators do not put enough
distance between themselves and young people, leading to overfamiliarity. Their
social proximity with parts of the public may in fact contribute to their structural
professional uncertainty. In other words, remembering the distinctions made in
the introduction, we might say they have difficulties in developing ‘bridging social
capital’: rarely able to favour connections between generations or between cultural
and ethnic groups, they don’t foster mutual understanding between groups of
people with contradictory expectations. In fact, mediators stand on a tightrope,
surrounded by territorial antagonisms that must be dealt with.
The third of these uncertainties pertains to the difficult task of mediation itself,
which involves enforcing rules without resorting to coercion. It could be said that
mediators exercise a rather fragile authority, being typically faced with only one
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alternative: reprimanding, albeit unsuccessfully (e.g. when someone rides a scooter
in a pedestrian area), or not reprimanding (e.g. by not asking someone to turn down
loud music that is annoying residents) so as not to jeopardize good relationships
that may have taken a great deal of effort to establish. This difficulty is even more
pronounced in places affected by relatively long-standing antisocial behaviour
problems (e.g. sports facilities, public gardens, social-housing areas plagued with a
mistrust of public authorities). In extremely tense situations, intervening to enforce
a rule is not an easy matter if one does not have the official authority to sanction
antisocial or criminal behaviour. Mediators are faced with a cruel dilemma. On
the one hand, being entrusted with more enforcement powers (for instance to give
tickets) would consolidate their authority, potentially at the cost of being seen as
agents of repression. On the other hand, the lack of any coercive powers leads to
their being perceived as useless, powerless, and not respected by the public, which
some of them often complain about.
The fourth issue is related to partnerships. As mentioned earlier, these actors are
mainly intermediaries, producing information for other actors, establishing contacts
between the public and social services, etc. A central issue is therefore their ability
to integrate local partnerships (Terpstra, 2008). While some arrangements do exist
and conflictual situations are few and far between, cooperation remains low and at
least partly asymmetric, and relationships are largely based on avoidance. Typical
information exchanges occur at a level of generality that cannot foster any collective
strategy. The police never direct noise complaints toward night correspondents,
who in turn very rarely inform the police of failed attempts at mediation. Such is
the predicament facing these new players: having to cooperate with professions
whose mandate is clearer and accreditation long established, mediators actually
tend to work in their shadow (Demazière, 2004).
3. New Trends Towards the Demonopolization of Legitimate Violence. Is
Pluralization Further Eroding the Public Police Monopoly?
3.1. Definitions and Issue Framing
Private security boundaries have been blurred to the point that the field now poten-
tially includes all policing activities, ranging from for-profit to private non-profit
to purely volunteer policing. It also includes public/private hybrids, which might
be labelled a ‘policing mix’. In their assessment of the private policing concept,
Kempa, Carrier, Wood and Shearing (1999) reassess the discovery of the private
sector in North America based on the studies of Farnell and Shearing (1977) and
Spitzer and Scull (1977). These works are described as a shock for liberal thinkers,
whose basic assumption is that government should take responsibility for public
safety and security. In the liberal view, security should be equally distributed under
government auspices and through public mechanisms. In the U.S., the initial
research focused on formal private policing organizations, with men in uniform on
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the payroll of private companies. This triggered a debate about which organizations
should be categorized as providing policing.
Another approach of private security emerged a few years later. Reacting to
the narrow definition of the early U.S. studies, Bayley and Shearing (1996) later
expanded the concept of private policing so as to include all non-paid forms of
crime prevention in the community, including vigilantism and public-private
partnerships. In today’s terminology, the expanded definition of private policing
would be labelled ‘plural policing’. De Waard (1999) unveiled and measured the
importance of for-profit policing. Despite stark differences across E.U. countries,
he observed a growth of the private security sector in Europe. While Europe is
nowhere near the U.S. or South Africa in terms of its level of privatization, the fact
that it is not immune to privatization is interesting since the E.U. is composed of
firmly established, ancient nation-states, with large public forces centrally or locally
organized (very often at sub-state level).
The expansion of for-profit security is noticeable in several domains in France,
ranging from cash/valuables in transit services (armoured-car transport of cash for
banks, art pieces for museums …) to the securing of privately-used buildings or
publicly-used facilities (airports, train stations, shopping malls, see above). While
private guards are typically tasked with securing the entrance of premises, other
forms of private or public-private mix initiatives take place at the local level, often
called ‘mediation’ (see above) and under the auspices of City Hall or of public
housing and mass transit agencies.
How does France in general – and the problem of order maintenance in the French
public space in particular – figure in the discussion of ‘government vs. private enti-
ties in the design and distribution of security in society’? Is any ‘demonopolization
of legitimate violence (Roché, 2002) taking place in France through privatization and
pluralization? Privatization may be depicted as a collapse of our political organiza-
tion under neoliberal attacks – and as such, denounced by academics (Nogala &
Sack, 1999) –, but also as a pluralization of security providers (Crawford et al., 2005).
In France, the regulation of small disorders and petty crime is usually distributed
under the auspices of local government or public service agencies by agents that do
not belong to a well-established professions, such as the night watchers described
above. In our examples, they contributed to pacifying public places, as opposed to
imposing heavy-handed policing by the uniformed police. Although the scope of
such mediation practices is not exactly known, case studies show that they can be
found in many major French cities. The French case is therefore not one of pure
privatization in the sense of non-government organizations assuming for-profit
responsibility of public safety. Neither is it about professionals of security under-
stood as police officers carrying out investigations or managing crowds. Rather, it is
about the emergence of mediators or peacekeepers who might become full-blown
policing professionals in the longer run, should that trend go uninterrupted. It is
also about restructuring in-house security services so that agents reassure clients.
Finally, vigilantism remains small-scale and episodic (even non-existent in the
field research we conducted in Paris). The notion that communities, and therefore
community members, should be strong and defend themselves is not common
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in France, where public authorities even have trouble mobilizing neighbours in
neighbourhood watch schemes
. Limited research suggests that the scope of vigi-
lantism is limited in France and possibly in Southern Europe. While instances of
vigilantism were punctually observed after large rioting events, they did not spread
to other neighbourhoods or cities and did not last beyond a couple of months.
Notions of privatization and pluralization are difficult to define, in part because the
meaning of these words tends to change over time. Nonetheless, our conceptualiza-
tion for France seems to break apart from the U.S. literature published over the last
decade. France does not experience tensions between central or local government
and vigilant citizens or private firms, but rather:
a) a new division of labour between central and local government; local govern-
ment increasing its influence and tending to redefine both how public order needs
to be addressed (increased physical presence on the streets, conflict resolution,
informing the public about risks), and the personnel who carry these new missions
(mediators rather than police officers);
b) private companies tending to deliver ‘public services’ in mass private properties,
with policies aimed at reassuring their clients.
The U.S. and Europe differ greatly in how plural policing is organized, and various
countries in Europe also vary significantly, while western continental European
countries seem to share a lot. However, at a higher level of generality and when
it comes to political symbols and imagery, common ground does seem to exist
between the U.S. and Europe (including France) as far as issue framing is concerned.
The U.S. debate about the meaning of privatization can be best illustrated by the
discussion between Brian Forst and Peter Manning (1999). This debate occurred at
two different levels: the symbolic and the service dimension. Forst, an economist,
came in defence of efficacy/efficiency and accountability through competition and
market forces. Peter Manning, a political scientist, advocated the uniqueness of the
policing sector and the relationship between coercion and government. According
to Forst, the key factor to decide which policing mix is best should be ‘value for
money’ (what service for what cost?), whereas for Manning, the symbolism of (good)
public police should prevail: only a public body can aim at justice and cohesiveness.
In France, the public debate also hinges on the ‘nature’ of ‘internal security
and ‘policing’, albeit in a slightly different way. Such a symbolic approach does
exist, and advocates of the public view claim that security should be enforced by
the government in charge – as part of the so-called ‘regalian’ duties
. Others, in
the name of cost efficiency, push toward the development of private activities and
proper regulation mechanisms at the national as well as the E.U. level – openly so
5 The ‘voisin vigilant’ (alert neighbour) scheme was launched in 2006 in rural areas, and was sup-
ported by a directive in June 2011. No comprehensive evaluation of this scheme has been carried
out. The head of its national association boasts membership of 2000 municipalities (probably small
ones in rural France, out of a total of 36,000 in France) in the media (see
6 ‘Régalien’ is a difficult to translate word that is associated with the rise of the central authority and
powers of the King of France over local or regional warlords. The concept includes the right to
exercise the sole legitimate violence through the means of the army, the judiciary and the police.
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since the release of a White paper by the then French Minister of Interior Michèle
Alliot-Marie, with a foreword by the President of the Republic, Nicolas Sarkozy
(INHESJ, 2008), a trend that was to be pursued later by socialist Minister of Interior
Manuel Valls, see for example his speech of November 2013
3.2. The Theoretical and Practical Importance of the Distribution of Order Maintenance in
the Public Space
After acknowledging apparent similarities (in the framing of the issue of privatiza-
tion) and dissimilarities (in relation with the actual role of central government and
the involvement of citizens) between countries, we need to focus on why a new
model of policing is emerging in France.
Why are public police authorities not stepping up in reaction to the rise of private
and semi-private forms of policing? The explanation is twofold. First, and obviously,
the fiscal crisis has restricted government investments in public security, and the
subsequent lack of manpower has forced the private sector to buy its own security to
compensate for the shortcomings of the official police. This explanation is certainly
valid, but only partially.
The other explanation is that both private guards in private spaces and mediators
in public spaces offer new styles of public space regulation that strongly differ from
police practices—a different policing style. Most private guards are unarmed, and
mediators are never armed. They patrol mainly on foot. Their activity relies on contact
and dialogue with the public. Use of force during their activity is almost absent.
Mediators, as suggested by their job title, seek to establish a relationship with the
public, by mobilising relational skills. The ethnic identity of agents may be one of
the aspects of their recruitment and action, even though this is denied officially
(Bonnet, 2014): they often belong to the same minority ethnic groups as the public
they should regulate. All these aspects depart significantly from the characteristics
of the French public police. In a nutshell, private guards or mediators are not
merely a cheaper version of police officers: they are qualitatively and symbolically
different, and they enforce a different type of security, more attuned to the needs
and priorities of customers (Bonnet, 2006; 2008; Wakefield, 2003).
The emergence of these new jobs affects police forces as a profession. Media-
tors take on activities of street patrolling, daily contact with the public, and order
maintenance, all of which could be performed by the police. As a result, police
officers, who also have to fulfil bureaucratic and procedural duties, often end up
filling out paperwork relative to operations carried out by others. Therefore, French
pluralization contributes to opening up police forces as an organization: although
coordination with mediators might be weak, these new jobs do contribute to making
the production of security more diverse and imply that the police have to negotiate
and exchange information with other actors. Another aspect is that it reinforces a
du-Ministre/Discours-aux-forces-de-securite, accessed 5 January 2015.
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tendency towards the bureaucratization of the police and tends to widen the gap
with the citizenry.
How do these various actors coordinate their action on the field? Do they exchange
information, define the limits of their respective roles in a more or less explicit
manner? While conflicts do happen – police may criticise private guards for not
disclosing information, mediators may criticize the police for not offering them
support –, they seldom happen. While competition between these actors is limited,
cooperation and shared strategies remain sporadic. While some networking proce-
dures do exist (how and when to call the police, for instance) and some information
does get exchanged (Parisian nightwatchers send daily reports to their partners,
including the police), relationships remain weakly integrated. Police officers may
sometimes be wary of private guards, whom they regard as not entirely trustworthy,
especially when they are from a minority and perceived as too close to the population
they have to police.
The regulation of public behaviours in mass private property and enforcement
of order maintenance in public spaces by non-public police personnel should
attract theoretical attention, and has done so to a certain extent. Two overlapping
questions can be raised here: What are the theoretical implications of such a shift
on the legitimation of state power? And how to explain such a rise in continental
E.U. countries such as France, that do not lack a strong state backbone, as opposed
to post-communist Russia or post-apartheid South Africa, where the private security
boom finds an easy explanation?
What can be observed in France is not only a pluralization of policing in the sense
that private companies perform a ‘public duty’ (a duty that used to be the monopoly
of government agents, i.e. civil servants), but also a ‘de-police-ation’ process: work
that used to be done by the police is being taken over by agents which are neither
central nor local police and sometimes not police at all, such as the French media-
tors. They are non-police actors, working outside of police organizations (municipal
or national), possibly under the joint management of mayors and public utility
companies (public transportation, housing).
The theoretical reading of the expansion of non-public policing is therefore
twofold: central government is pulling back, and police forces are not the only means
for ensuring tranquillity at the local level. In the context of southern continental
Europe, this is not a benign remark. In fact, in these particular national contexts,
the largest policing forces are not local, but national by status, i.e. they are affiliated
to the central government and the agents are statutory national civil servants who
operate under national laws. While security is almost universally conceived of as
a kind of social right to be distributed under government auspices and by public
agents, crucially, in France its distribution is centrally designed and orchestrated, as
opposed to locally organised in other nations, such as the U.S. or the U.K., where
public policing forces are mainly local (municipal in the U.S., regional in the U.K.).
This aspect should fundamentally inform any interpretation of such frequently
referred-to phenomena as ‘pluralization’ or the ‘multiplication of agencies’. Obvi-
ously, ‘a complex of interlaced systems of agencies’ can be observed everywhere
(Kemp et al., 1999, 199). But expressing such principles in highly general terms and
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contexts makes them unclear and uncertain in their application. What matters as
much as the status of the organizations (public or private) are the auspices under
which they work (public or private, local or national).
Taking into account the governance, missions, and staffing of local security
mechanisms might shed light on these issues. First of all, if pluralization is defined
by an increase in either the number of organizations that are assigned to producing
security in a given place, or by the types of agencies in charge of delivering such
a service, then France is definitely embarked on a pluralization process. However,
the pluralization that is occurring in France when it comes to public spaces has a
dual meaning that we mentioned above: it is both a pluralization in terms of the
balance between central and local leadership under public auspices on the one hand,
and a hybridization of penal and non-penal approaches (and therefore police and
non-police personnel) on the other.
The rise of local leadership at the level of municipalities has been one of the strik-
ing trends since the early 1980s. It is backed up by the decentralization of a whole
series of former central government prerogatives, such as public transportation,
social benefits allowance, roads, primary and secondary education – even if polic-
ing is not among them. Mayors have highlighted the political importance of daily
security (the deputy mayor is often in charge of this dossier), have become players in
local prevention of crime along with the police and the courts (Douillet & Maillard,
2008), have strengthened their organizational capacities – revamping organizational
charts; creating security directorates, prevention directorates, prevention and secu-
rity directorates; increasing municipal police headcount and hiring other personnel
in charge of public peace; mobilizing technology, often including CCTV (Roché,
2004) … In addition, and importantly, mayors have shifted the border between
policing and non-policing tasks for the purpose of order maintenance (see above
the observed renewal of ‘policing styles’, if we may say so for non-police agents).
This does not seem to be a ‘French’ approach, in the sense of an idiosyncratic way
of dealing with urban disorders. Instead, it may be interpreted as the plural way
in which European cities have dealt with petty urban disorders, mobilizing a vast
array of both repressive and non-repressive resources.
4. Conclusion. Securing Public Places: Demonopolization with Limited
Rather than explaining the rise of private security in terms of personnel or turnover
we have focused on how the security of public places or quasi-public spaces is gov-
erned in France. We have done so because of the centrality of spaces open to public
8 This ‘can be categorized into six viable explanatory factors: (1) rising crime and related problems,
(2) growth of mass private property, (3) economic rationalities, (4) government policy toward pri-
vate sector participation, (5) an overburdened police force and (6) professionalization of private
security’, according to Van Steden, 2007, 35.
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in political debates. Do our observations and analysis feed the interpretation that
France is undergoing such related processes as demonopolization and pluralization?
While we do conclude on the existence of overall demonopolization and pluraliza-
tion processes in France, we still believe a closer look is required. That pluralization
is happening can be seen in the rapid growth of private companies that are assuming
a new role by servicing new needs or taking over some police duties, although not in
public places (streets, parks and the like) so far. These are times of fiscal restraint,
which is likely to put more pressure on all form of governments in the short run,
as has been the case in the recent past. However, demonopolization mainly impacts
the central government, which ends up having to share with local authorities what
was believed to be its prerogatives and responsibilities. Central demonopolization
is accompanied by a reinforcement of local public authorities, in particular for
managing the public spaces of large metropolitan areas. Therefore, the overall
picture is more complex than a mere privatization shift from public to private, and
includes a move from the central to the local level. In addition, local authorities tend
to reinterpret local security in ‘non police-personnel only’ terms, making use of
non-police personnel to undertake typical peacekeeping missions in public places.
Pluralization happens at the organizational level (central and local governments) as
well as in terms of means to an end (tranquillity). From this perspective, the French
situation would be close to what Terpstra & al. (2013) call the ‘local government as
the coordinator’: municipalities have reinforced their resources to regulate public
spaces in a social and political context dominated by a growing concern for low-level
physical and social disorders. To what extent an actor clearly playing a coordinator
role will be established remains to be seen. In French localities, coexistence is often
observed with a combination of central police personnel (a peculiarity of centralized
policing systems), local police personnel, and local non-police personnel – the latter
two reporting to the mayor. In the eyes of the national police, municipal officials
do not enjoy sufficient legitimacy to act as ‘the’ coordinators.
On the whole, this gives a rather complicated image of the current pluralization
of policing in France
. This conclusion tends to contend against the view, at least in
France, of a neoliberal tide washing off the shores of the public design and provision
of daily security, without acknowledging slow and major transformations in the
provision of public security. The dynamics of Europeanization on the one hand and
decentralization on the other are currently contributing to major reorganizations
of the policing landscape in Europe. It is therefore no surprise that European
conceptualizations come off as more complex than U.S. ones.