G4S: Greater privatisation of police should be a major cause for concern

Recently, the head of the UK branch of G4S, the largest private security firm in the world, predicted that within the next few years an increasing amount police work will be allocated and outsourced to private security companies – like G4S.

The comments were made by the director of the UK led private security firm, off the back of G4S having secured lucrative contracts to carry out policing duties on behalf of West Midlands and Surrey police – and ultimately the taxpayer.

One of the immediate criticisms raised at this prospect was of the need for all individuals contracted to carry out police duties to be held equally accountable to the IPCC (Independent police complaints commission) – at present this will not the case.

G4S are also set to have a massive presence at this year’s Olympic Games, with around 13,000 staff allocated for the games which are set to begin in a couple of weeks time. Mainstream news reports have described the makeup of east London as looking increasingly more like an occupied military zone rather than the sight for one of the greatest spectacles on Earth. Coincidentally, we are talking about the same G4S that carries out duties for the Israeli government and the Israeli Defense Force (IDF).

Despite concerns raised over the last couple of days regarding the ability of G4S to deliver, the Home Secretary Theresa May today maintained that the Olympic games were safe to go ahead and that london is prepared.

Indeed, the security giant looks likely to secure lucrative contracts to undergo outsourced work on behalf of the NHS, and the police, and post Olympics, and does not look likely to be struggling for work, to put it politely.

Police forces across the country, as well as suffering from acute levels of public skepticism, and diminishing resources, will be headed by a company, driven by profit margins at the behest of our government.

Although according to government this is of course done in the name of efficiency and cost effectiveness, one might say that there is a direct conflict of interest. If we were to make any predictions as to how this were to translate into reality, looking at how the police, immigration officials, and prisons which have been privatised are operating in the US, and the resulting criticisms that have been leveled at them, we ought to surely be concerned.

Incidentally, here in the UK, we have already emulated the private prison system, with several currently outsourced to private companies.

In addition to the news that the police along with our other institutions, will now be further privatised and sold off, we have also had to digest the added revelation that we are likely to see an even greater drop in police numbers in the years leading up to 2015.

If alarm bells were not already ringing as a result of the fragility of the relationship between the police and the public, then they should be now.

There is no reason to believe that this will have a beneficial effect on the level of service provided. Or put another way, there is no evidence to suggest that in the long run this will benefit society. On the contrary many are voicing concerns saying the opposite; A climate under which it becomes more profitable to imprison people than to educate them, is not something we want. We only have to look across the pond to realise that.

Equally, the likes of G4S, securing the Olympics and carrying out increasingly more and more police duties holds just as many legitimate concerns.

As was revealed in a recent report, the extent to which some of the private companies awarded contracts to kickstart the coalition governments ‘work programme’ sought to actually cut the number of claimants claiming benefits- including G4S – was shockingly high. Many are concerned that they are more focused on cutting the number of benefit claimants, rather than actually getting people back to work.

Many groups and activists concerned about G4S have been trying to raise awareness and scrutinize G4S for many years, but in recent months and especially in the aftermath of the death of Jimmy Mubenga, which for many after a long list of incidents which brought into sharp focus the prospect of criminal charges being sought for possible criminal behaviour by G4S, that scrutiny has increased – and with good reason. Whether the staff that held Mubenga in their custody will now face criminal charges remains to be seen. It also remains to be seen whether the company itself will face criminal charges of manslaughter.

Just like the last New Labour government, which designated the contract for our census data to be gathered to Lockheed Martin, the arms manufacturer, with many other impressive titles to its name to boot, this coalition hasn’t flinched from its predictable ideological course, in shipping the important work of our already stretched institutions, over to private companies, and the reality is that we are poised to see more of the same. The fact that one of the big beneficiaries of this, has massive question marks hanging over it says much about our government’s willingness to ship out anything to the highest bidder, irrespective of the spin, which justifies such decision making in the name of cost effectiveness and efficiency. The question really, is what’s coming next.

Meanwhile the Olympics are awaited with bated breath from many and for many reasons. For sports lovers it’s the chance to enjoy the games the chance to inspire young people. For many police officers, the circumstances surrounding the Olympics, are just inviting the kind of scenes and trouble that we saw last year, possibly further rioting. Private companies, just like the big multinationals that go in to rebuild a destroyed infrastructure after a war, are poised to get rich either way.

Find this story at 13 July 2012

By Richard Sudan
Notebook – A selection of Independent views -, Opinion
Friday, 13 July 2012 at 12:00 am