Paradox of Relationship between Police & Private Security – The Way Forward

Anil Puri
CMD, APS group

A first generation serial entrepreneur, thought leader and an action catalyzer rolled into one – Anil Puri is a rare combination of a visionary, an innovator and a strategic thinker. He has used this combination to innovate and implement on-ground many new business ideas. His rich experience in various businesses has enabled him to nurture & mentor innovative ideas and scale them up.


The interpretations, connotations and comprehensions about the ‘only public’ character of security is undergoing metamorphosis. A large part of this change is attributed to the phenomenal rise of private security. In the recent past, the private security has witnessed a rapid growth both in terms of quantity as well as quality. A host of factors are responsible for this including – cost, accessibility, flexibility, perception of security and the limitations of public security. Private security has provided many security seekers with a 24×7 kind of reliable and cost-effective option for safeguarding their life as well as property. The internal security in India has been marred by the feelings of all pervasive deep ‘insecurity’ amongst the citizens on account of innumerable challenges. The challenges include persistent terrorist activities, growing spatial spread and consolidation of Naxalism, simmering social fault-lines of caste, religion, gender, ethnicity, region and language, crisis of governance including the failure of Police to enforce the rule of law; rising crime rate; dilatory and ineffective criminal justice system and politicized and unprofessional approach of Police. It is pertinent to mention here that shortage of manpower is one of the key factors hampering the public security in overcoming these challenges. The heightened threat perceptions emanating from terrorism and other disruptive issues have also pushed individuals and companies to look for tailor-made and reliable security beyond public security. No wonder, the number of private security agencies and private security personnel have increased manifold. The growth is also visible in terms of foray of private security agencies into multiple sectors including banks, industries, education, hospitals, hotels, shopping malls and airports around the world. In case of certain agencies, a great deal of specialization has also been seen. Private investments in security continue to expand and public/ private partnerships of myriad types proliferate, even as budgets for public policing stall or decline.

Current Shape of the Relationship

The boundary between public and private security is messy and complex. Police executives deal with some aspect of it almost every day. The police and private security, both function in order to provide security. The orientation, though, is different on account of public law enforcement functions being society- or community-oriented, whereas private security functions are essentially client-oriented. In this context while the public police acted in the public interest, private police acted for private interests that were often, if not always, at odds with the public interest. Further, there are limitations on private security personnel in terms of the possession and exercise of police powers – that is, the power of arrest. These differences, however, do not wean us away from realizing that for the sake of security at large, their roles should be complementary in nature. A state-centred view saw order maintenance as a quintessential function of government. In recent decades, a laissez faire view has emerged that celebrates ‘private-public partnerships’ and sees private policing as an industry providing both a service and a public benefit. Public law enforcement and private security agencies should work closely together, because their respective roles are complementary in the effort to control crime. Indeed, the magnitude of the nation’s crime problem should preclude any form of competition between the two. In spite of the emphasis on the advantages of working together and complimentary roles of the police and private security, there are issues of concern between the two causing strains in their relationship. However, continued growth in the private sector has forced the two sides to coexist.

PSARA 2005, Central Model Rules 2020 and Rules framed by the State Govt.

The Private Security Agencies (Regulation) Act, 2005 through its provisions have also established the framework for relationship between the two agenciesthe police and private security. 4th clause of Section 7, Section 9, Section 10, Clause (1) sub clause (l) of Section 13, Clause (1), Clause (2) and Clause (3) of Section 18 and Section 21 of the Act need special mention. A look at the subsequent Rules framed by the Union as well as State Governments also reveal that there is a lot of interface between the police and private security on account of these aspects. This framework attempts to regulate the private security agencies as well as their personnel and controlling authority as well as police have been given powers in this regard. The private security agencies have raised concerns and fears of being over regulated, but when compared to the previous un-regulated era, one can easily comprehend that for the sake of standards, regulation is essential.

Barriers in the Relationship

As mentioned earlier, despite common goals of security and manifold benefits of cooperating, the police and private security have several issues of concern causing strains in their relationship. There is a feeling that these issues have resulted on account of misconceptions and lack of understanding about each other:

  1. Lack of mutual respect.
  2. Lack of communication.
  3. Lack of law enforcement knowledge of private security.
  4. Perceived competition between the two on the common turf of security.
  5. Lack of standards for private security personnel.
  6. Perceived corruption of police.
  7. Jurisdictional conflict.
  8. False alarm rates.

Looking ahead, there is a possibility of some challenges continuing and others emerging in the context of relationship between the two. These challenges include permitting private security to enter into the areas hither to meant only for Police; understanding of the roles of each other, evolving coordination mechanisms between the two and level of arming the private security along with the requisite training balancing the public interest vis-à-vis private interest in the domain of security. It may sound radical in our context at this juncture, but five forms of interdependence between public and private police may offer great deal of cohesiveness between the two:

  1. Joint investigations.
  2. Public security delegating authority to private security
  3. Private interests hiring public police. d) New organizations having blurred distinctions between public and private.
  4. Circulation of personnel between public and private security.

There are already examples from around the world, which show that some private security agencies are managing correctional institutions, which have become transnational in nature and are even heavily armed. In the light of this, it can be deduced that the more areas they are allowed to enter into and grow in power, the more challenges are likely to emerge in their relationship with Police. The level of arming the private security agencies would be another challenge, which would require careful deliberation on the part of policy makers. The dilution of the right to use force, which generally is interpreted in terms of monopoly of State, by allowing private security to be armed, is likely to throw several fundamental questions including those relating to their training for the same and accountability in a democratic framework.

Potential benefits and Risks of Public/ Private Police Partnerships

  1. Benefits. The benefits of the partnership will be visible in the form of increased effectiveness through public/ private partnerships, alignment with the ideals of community policing, greater equality in protection, access to specialized skills and technical resources and efficiencies through contracting out.
  2. Risks. The risks which remain to be of concern will be in form of the lack of accountability, threats to civil liberties loss of ‘Stateness.’ Threats to public safety, greater inequality in protection, reputational concerns, police tasks to the private sector and competition from the private sector.

The Way Forward

The relationship between the police and private security does have its share of areas of grave concern. Yet, at the same time, the complementarities between the two offer prospects of better and effective security to the society. The relationship in future can indeed be fruitful provided the sustained efforts are made in this direction. Following suggestions may augur well for consideration:

  1. Understanding and appreciating respective roles.
  2. Attitude re-orientation.
  3. Role/ jurisdictional clarity.

The Relationship between Public and Private Policing in the Criminal Justice System

  1. The criminal justice system holds private police and public police to different standards. Public police upholding the law are held to the burden of probable cause or voluntary consent when initiating a contact. Private police are merely held to the direction of their scope of employment, which by nature circumvents the boundaries established for public police. This makes the private police industry a ‘broader enterprise than public policing, with a wider range of functions.”
  2. In Texas, the private security bureau regulates all private security officers and has the responsibility to issue and monitor licensing practices. The funding for this bureau is much less than the commission for law enforcement although personnel licensed in security is far greater a number than that of police. With budget restraints, licensing is considered a revenue stream where regulation is a cost.

Leadership Differences between Public and Private Police

  1. Leadership in the public sector of policing has been studied and evaluated in every imaginable way. Recent studies show that police leadership is evolving and where wisdom, experience, bravery and integrity were hallmarks of a superior police leader, the model is changing. The new face of police leadership would show a dynamic and educated leader who studies teamwork and dispersed leadership practices. This approach to leadership translates into a managerial style that shares the responsibility of leadership practices with subordinates. This not only gives the opportunity to train the leaders of tomorrow, it divides the leadership in a division-by-division way working toward a common goal. These styles of leadership are not commonly practiced at this time but a steady shift to this model is evolving
  2. The more common style of police leadership is focused on the traditional hierarchical styles where leadership is one dimensional from the top down. The style is popular as it has been effective for so long despite the adoption of community-oriented policing that use different models for effectiveness. Community-based policing creates a requirement that officers become involved with the authority to solve common community issues at their discretion
  3. Two common styles of leadership found in the private security profession are transformational and transactional. Transformational leadership styles tend to set and communicate goals, encourage, and motivate followers and facilitate change. Transactional leadership is more of a form style leadership model that coordinates subordinates as set forth by policies, procedures, and standards.
  4. Transformational leadership in the private police sectors would be found in a corporate environment where public relations are a substantial portion of the position. The need to effect change and motivate followers is ever-present when working in these environments. The more traditional and popular style of leadership in security would be transactional as the amount of agencies employing general-purpose security guards. Positions specializing in surveillance and facility security have limited public contact and the role is not as customer-oriented.


Skillful management of the relationships between public and private policing constitutes a core competency for police executives. Realizing this and accepting it, however, has taken the policing profession a good long while, and the route followed to arrive at this point varies by country.

Private security and private policing have become inescapable. It is no longer useful for public police to hang on to their own regrets about these trends, bemoan their loss of market share, or pretend that public/ private partnerships cannot be useful. There are too many reasons to embrace the idea that private contributions can and should contribute to public purposes. But that does not mean that the risks associated with private security can be ignored. Grounds for concern remain. Our conclusion must surely be that each one of these grounds for concern, and in each situation in which they arise, represents work to be done by public police. The police profession should treat these concerns as policy and operational challenges to be managed rather than as grounds for disengagement. As public police engage in partnerships and networked relationships involving private and not-for-profit organizations, they become less the deliverers of security and more the orchestrators of security provision. Public police need to understand clearly the motivations and capabilities of each contributor, develop an understanding of the whole system and what it provides, and do their utmost to make sure that overall provision of security squares with their public purpose. If we want to only do policing through people who report to you, who you can discipline, and you can hire and fire, we’re dead, we’re never going to get the job done.


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