Archive for the ‘Accountability in Private Policing’ Category

Police Body-Mounted Cameras: Cost and Benefit Analysis

One of this decade’s most discussed and anticipated developments, police body-mounted cameras, have been gaining more support as of late, and are subsequently becoming more widely implemented as a result of several cataclysmic events themed on police deviance and misconduct; excessive use of force, police shootings, etc. Such events as the Ferguson shooting has contributed to this up-rise and near obsession with being able to watch the watchers. Obama is in full support of this modifications to law enforcement attire and has even made a pricey contribution, yet, there are still some in power who are reluctant to follow his decision despite contemporary research evidence in support of it. These new body-mounted cameras have generated controversial discussion already with public-police relationships and further impact on both the perception and acts of police deviance.

The demand for police body-mounted cameras is a demand to install a light into a long-darkened room; to satisfy the needs of the public and criminal justice system for a definitive record when it comes to police deviance and misconduct; as objective and ominous evidence. The death of Michael Brown by Ferguson police fueled the fire for protests against police misconduct and inspired subsequent demand for video documentation of police activities. Michael Brown, who was 18 years old, was shot multiple times in the head and chest by Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson, despite what witnesses account for as Brown holding his hands up in surrender (Cavaliere, 2014). A campaign further supporting this was launched by Michael Brown’s parents a few months ago after another cataclysmic event, a viral video of the shooting of Cleveland 12-year old Tamir Rice, created to “ensure that every police officer working the streets in this country wears a body camera” (Brandom, par 2, 2014).

Announced in early December of last year, federal funding was increased when the White House pledged $263 million, $75 million of which was to be specifically used in the purchase of 50,000 new cameras (which is a lot for only covering only a fraction of employed officers in America). The additional funding will be divided up between police-community trust-oriented outreach programs, and police training that enforces instruction pertaining to the use of paramilitary equipment (Brandom, 2014). This is an addition to the six-month pilot program that the Washington D.C police began on October 1st of last year, a program that is still going on and cost $1 million initially for cameras.

There are those who are in support of this new policy, such as the American Civil Liberties Union, and then there are those who oppose them, saying that these cameras have the potential to be an invasion of privacy and may hinder the public from approaching police with information (Cavaliere, 2014). Whether in support of opposition, there have been several departments who have implemented this policy, Ferguson being one of them. When Ferguson Police Chief Tom Jackson discussed the addition of body-mounted cameras to his team, he mentioned that the receiving officers were without reluctance in that they “are really enjoying them,” and that “they are trying to get used to using them” (Cavaliere, par 8, 2014). Of course, not everyone is in support of this legislation. In fact, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh is adamantly opposed to the use of body cameras for his police officers. Walsh is quoted in an interview stating, “No. I don’t think it’s needed in Boston today. It’s a tool that people are talking about. There’s an experiment going on in Worcester right now…with body cameras. That’s something that we’ll see what shows with that experiment” (Enwemeka, par 7, 2014). Walsh further comments that he does not believe that the cameras will assist in mending the fundamental issues between the communities and the police (Enwemeka, 2014). Marty Walsh’s statements implied that he is reluctant for body cameras at this time, but that this future decision may rely on the success of the cameras in neighboring departments.  And that is essentially what these attire additions are right now; they’re experiments, trial runs. If the benefits outweigh the costs, body cameras have the potential to become mandatory.

There have been legitimate experiments conducted measuring the effectiveness of body cameras and officers as well, such as a yearlong study completed by Chief Tony Farrar of Rialto California Police Department’s patrol officers. “We randomly assigned a year’s worth of shifts into experimental and control shifts within a large randomized controlled field experiment…we investigated the extent to which cameras effect human behavior and, specifically, reduce the use of police force” (The Police Foundation, p. 2, 2013). The results of this 12 month study showed the patrol shifts not using cameras came into twice as many use of force incidents than the shifts with officers wearing the cameras. As for public complaints against officers, in the 12 month period during the study there were only three complaints filed, as opposed to the 28 complaints filed in the 12 months proceeding the study (The Police Foundation, 2013). “The findings suggest more than a 50% reduction in the total number of incidents of use of force compared to control conditions, and nearly ten times more citizens’ complaints in the 12 months prior to the experiment (The Police Foundation, p. 9, 2013). This study illustrated a significant effect on both use of force and public complaints against officers. This may be a foreshadow of the kind of results to come from wider implementation. There is some skepticism raised around the issues of privacy, as Cheryl Distaso asserts regarding the potential body camera addition to the Fort Collins Police Department. Distaso, with the Fort Collins Community Acton Network, addresses public concern stating “police officers might be able to turn them off when their behavior is questionable…[and] police officers enter people’s homes. They enter their personal space. And there is no way to opt out (CBS, par 8-11, 2013). Distaso also added, among issues of invasion of privacy, that it’s a general concern that the policy pertaining to the cameras was designed without the public’s input. This raises red flags for some citizens. Goldsmith (2010) argues that there are negative impacts upon the department and law enforcement deploying these cameras as well, as it produces a new visibility into their conduct. “Their uncontrolled visibility diminishes their power, making the surveillance of others less possible at times and exposing them to disciplinary and legal liability. Visibility of less flattering or illegal practices challenges their operation sovereignty based in anonymity and observation (Goldsmith, p. 915, 2010). He goes on to say that their have been negative consequences for police organizations due to the new communicative technologies and their social networking, and that, although these new technologies may increase the public’s perception of police accountability, it proportionally decreases their account ability (Goldsmith, 2010).

Despite the issues around skepticism about officer body camera use, there are bigger and more serous issues around police use of force and community and police trust and accountability. More serious issues that, according to Chief Tony Farrar’s study, these sorts of recording devices seem to heavily impact. As more research is conducted on more departments experimenting with this tool, we’ll have more information that will assist in whichever direction we decide to go with body mounted cameras. If there are certain areas and communities that have a real problem with use of force and with community-law enforcement relationships, based on what evidence has been concluded so far, the benefits would outweigh the costs when pertaining to whether or not police should wear body mounted cameras.


Brandom, R. (2014). The Verge. Obama announces funding for police body cameras. Retrieved at announces- funding-for-police-body-cameras

Cavaliere, V. (2014). Reuters. After unrest over shooting, Ferguson police now wear body cameras. Retrieved at shooting- idUSKBN0GW13M20140901

CBS Denver. (2013). Fort Collins PD Starts Using Body-Mounted Cameras. Critics say they are an invasion of privacy. Retrieved at collins- pd-starts-using-body-mounted-cameras/

Enwemeka, Z. (2014). Mayor Marty Walsh: Boston doesn’t need police body cameras. Retrieved at body- cameras

Goldsmith, A. (2010). Advance Access. Policing’s new visibility. Vol. 50, 914-934.


The Police Foundation. (2013). Self-awareness to Being Watched and Socially-desireable Behavior: a field experiment on the effect of body-worn cameras on police use-of-force. Retrieved at The¨¨ %20Effect%20of%20Body-Worn%20Cameras%20on%20Police%20Use- of- Force.pdf

It is very clear that the private policing sector is growing rapidly even more so than the public policing sector. In general, to become a public police officer in Canada is rather challenging for most people. Individuals who want to be a public police officer go through myriads of checks, clearances, interviews, trainings, and above all they go through an emotional roller coaster. However, a lot of people choose private policing as a stepping stone in becoming a real police officer. The hiring process for the security guard position is a lot less stressful and a lot easier. The requirements are very minimal and it is not even comparable to real police training. I have noticed that security companies hire just about everyone for the position regardless of their age, gender, height, and weight. This could have good and bad sides. It is good in a sense that they are less discriminatory in their hiring process and seem to give people an equal amount of chance of getting the job. However, it could mean a bad thing as they might hire someone who is looking for that position for the wrong reasons. Van Buuren mentions about occupational values which could be equal to a corruption problem. For example, I have two friends who work in a certain security company (I prefer not to name the company). From what I have seen, they both like to work mainly special events such as concerts, and football games because they take cash from people who do not have tickets and lets them “slide in”. This is a pure corruption in my eyes. Also, Van Buuren talks about “Accountability” which doesn’t seem to affect the private policing sector on a same level as it affects the police departments. The private security guards go through a very minimal training and tend to overestimate their rights. I have been volunteering for the VPD for 5 years now and I have seen my fair share of misguided security guards who seem to think that they are the real police officers. Just like the Pivot society survey revealed, I have seen those security guards yelling and labelling homeless people (homeless looking people got yelled at too) and kicking them out of public spaces. It is a well- known problem, but nothing seems to be done in order to re- educate those rude security guards who seem to think that they are the “real deal”.

In conclusion, changing the legislation alone is not going to do anything unless the company trainings are developed further. These million different companies really should re- train their employees and make their selection process a bit harder.


PIVOT Legal Society (2009). Security Before Justice: A Study of the impacts of private security on homeless and under- housed Vancouver Residents. 

Van Buuren, J. (2010). “Private Security Ethics: Reintroducing Public Values”, in M. den Boer & E. Kolthoff (eds) Ethics and Security. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 165-187. 


While the private security sector is not a new phenomenon, there has been rapid and substantial growth of the industry in recent years. Private security encompasses a number of various aspects of public order, crime prevention, and investigation. The private sector has experienced (likely the most significant) growth in systems technology development, however, private security personnel are what is most often equated with the term private security.

There is a tendency to conceptualise public and private security as two separate and largely divorces entities; however this view is not reflective of the reality of policing. Private security personnel outnumber public police officers worldwide (in British Columbia the ratio is approximately 2:1) and are retained by both private individuals as well as government bodies. With the expansion of the private security industry, and the blurred lines of the private and public sectors, there are a number of societal and political consequences to consider. Jelle van Buuren (2010) brings awareness to a number of the ethical concerns which have arisen from the concept of security as a commodity.

A key theme Buuren identifies is that of inclusion-exclusion. With security being viewed as a commodity, an industrial market approach is being taken – with a focus on maximising profits. Capitalising on security appears to be a far cry from the perception of security as a public good, and opens the door for a stratified level of distribution. Allocating security on the basis of generating the greatest profit is worrisome as those on the lower end of the socio-economic spectrum, who are already marginalised, are likely to become even more so as they do not possess the means to ensure the same level of security as the more affluent.

This distribution by market rather than need was apparent during a study, conducted by Pivot Legal Society, regarding the impacts of private security on marginalised residents in Vancouver during 2007. The report as well as the recommendations can be accessed here. The Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association (DVBIA) is publicly funded through property-tax and is managed by a non-profit group of property owners who are active in promoting business, tourism, safety, and street beautification in their business district. The improvement of business districts includes dispersing the considerable homeless and under-housed residents of Vancouver. The interests of the elite, who are able to buy security, are recognised with the dispersal of the homeless population –  those thought to be unsightly and contributing factor to the success of establishments in the district. Those of low socio-economic status are effectively barred entry/access to certain areas, which limits their participation to some degree in society, on the basis of presumed undesirable behaviour.

A listing of Business Improvement Areas (BIA) within the city of Vancouver, as well as Council reports detailing BIA budgets, can be accessed here.

During the study conducted by Pivot Legal it was found that homeless and under-housed people not only had more frequent interactions with private security personnel, but that these interactions were often problematic. As the lines of public and private policing have become increasingly blurred it appears that private security personnel are uncertain as to their limitations of power, and are routinely overstepping their authority. This is problematic as those who are most often in contact with private personnel are those who are most marginalised and who lack the resources to complain about/challenge such abuses of power.

Traditional mechanisms of oversight and accountability are not seen within the private security sector, which makes the complaints process even more challenging in instances of misconduct. No over-arching body exists overseeing all private security corporations nationally, let alone on a provincial level. As disciplinary action occurs in-house, one must make a complaint with the specific company the security agent is employed by.

Pivot Legal found during the course of their study that a number of those living in the Downtown Eastside were unaware of their rights surrounding private security – what exactly was within the scope of private policing powers. Many were unaware that their rights were being infringed upon, and those who did recognise the overstepping of authority were unsure as to how to go about making a complaint.

Van Buuren, J. (2010). “Private Security Ethics: Reintroducing Public Values”, in M. den Boer & E. Kolthoff (eds) Ethics and Security. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 165-187.

Private security officers are people who are hired to protect property, assets, or people. Their job is to don a uniform to show high visibility presence to deter crime or any illegal behavior in general from taking place in the first place. Private Security has greatly emerged over the past few years, and today we sit at approximately 140,000 licensed private security guards in Canada, where as there are only 70,000 police officers. The fact that there are twice as many private security officers than police officers can be very alarming as many people’s rights could be in jeopardy any given day. Private security nowadays covers a multitude of industries, large and small, all related to the provision of security services, investigations, crime prevention, order maintenance, intelligence collection and military services (Van Steden and Sarre, 2007, p. 226).

In December of 2007, the City of Vancouver authorized $872,000 to help fund the expansion of the Downtown Ambassadors Program which is a private security patrol project run by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. Pivot Legal Society, in 2007, asked 154 people from the Downtown Eastside to take part in a survey in regards to their interactions with private security guards. This research showed a lot of potential issues with private security officers such as:

  • Only 12% of respondents to the survey said they had face to face contact with private security guards once a month.
  • A third of the respondents claimed to have had face to face contact with private security guards 4 times or more a month.
  • Many respondents also used the space provided to express they had face to face contact with private security guards “every day” or “all the time”
  • The survey also identified a strong correlation between housing status and the frequency of interactions with private security guards as homeless people tend to be more frequent targets by private security guards.

The survey brought on a whole new spotlight on the private security industry as issues such as accountability and just the way private security companies run their organizations are brought into question. The survey as a whole outlines the many issues against having private security guards in charge of keeping the downtown eastside clean and making the businesses more attractive to customers. This ties into the “Inclusion-Exclusion” concept Van Buuren talk about as he says states that security pretty much is a commodity now and that it can only be “purchased” or used by the wealthy and the poor are left without any security. The rich are able to use private security forces to do their dirty work for them because they have the luxury of being able to afford it. This leads to the wealthy and poor being completely separated. This makes it look like as if we live in segregated communities – both controlled by the wealthy. This is also related to the concept of “Private Justice” as it reiterates how the wealthy and powerful people are segregated from society. However the concept also reveals how private security organizations, since “owned” by the rich and powerful people, have “private orders” given to them. This leads to unethical and illegal practices and complaints and such being handled internally, meaning the public won’t hear of it and nothing will be reported to the police – and if lucky the person the complaint is against might face some sort of consequences. The most interesting of concepts Van Buuren talks about is “Occupational Values” which describes how the private security industry hired personnel whom work solely for the client and does whatever the client says. Reason being that the people private security hire are not prepared for the type of work nor do they receive efficient enough training. Also the fact that the whole hiring process is very laid back, it often leads to people being hired who may have criminal records or even people deciding to join security for all the wrong reasons in the first place. The use of illegal force by the private security guards and the harassment and removal of the homeless people from public spaces from the PIVOT survey results are a perfect example for this concept.

There tends to be a notion that private security guards have little accountability when they go beyond their authority and engage in unethical behavior. Which in my opinion can be true due to many factors such as some believing they are being underpaid for the type of work they are doing so they go to extents to either prove themselves or simply don’t care about the consequences. Some don’t realize that they have just as much authority as a regular citizen but instead they feel like they can control people and take away some of their rights. The most common being that the second one throws on a uniform they feel as they have more power than regular citizens and that they can do whatever they want to fulfill their duties. Having worked in the security industry myself, I can honestly say that there have been times I have crossed the line due to the so called “more power” I felt I had over a regular citizen at the venues. However what people fail to realize is that sometimes citizens try to belittle private security guards by taunting them for being “wannabe cops” which eventually leads to someone acting out of frustration. However, in conclusion I do agree with Van Buuren’s take on the problems of the private security industry as I read through the concepts put forward I couldn’t help but recall everything I have either done or witnessed in my time as a security guard.


PIVOT Legal Society (2009). Security Before Justice: A study of the impacts of private security on homeless and under-housed Vancouver residents. 

Steden, R. van and R. Sarre (2007), “The Growth of Private Security: Trends in the European Union”, Security Journal, Vol. 20, No. 4, pp. 222–235.

Van Buuren, J. (2010). “Private Security Ethics: Reintroducing Public Values”, in M. den Boer & E. Kolthoff (eds) Ethics and Security. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 165-187.

My blog post will review normative consequences of private policing, particularly its ethical concern and outcomes. I will attempt to explain these practices in terms of ethics behind private policing and I will also use my own experience as a Downtown Ambassador to give a perspective on the behaviors of a public policeman.

One term that caught my eye in the readings Ethics and Security was ‘uniform justice for all’. This term was used in the context of how a lack of consideration for such topics was rife in public policing bodies. Private policing has a mandate to ‘limit participation’ and exclude on the basis of ‘assumed good or bad’ creating an idea held by themselves and those they police, that security is about exclusion and gates. Private policing is said to lack of any overall ethical goal in their practice. This is because someone has paid for them to patrol their property and not for ‘public good’. Do the young security guards, who unknowingly take up the task of perceived public good, know of the impact they are having on their own ethical standing? The answer is no.

My experience as a public policeman, working for the downtown ambassadors was a good one. I was called to business to apply soft pressure in order to remove unwanted characters from the premises. At no point did I ask myself whether or not what I was doing had any impact on the persons I was policing. The orientation in becoming a security guard involved what not to do such as use any force, try and police in public space and searching people. This way of training did not lend to any ethical matters or concerns that might be involved in being a public policeman. I believe if such instruction would give it would cause a different outlook in the security guards. They might begin to see themselves as the one who polices and is responsible for the security of others instead of the guy called to shovel out the drunks.

Is the answer to having public security held accountable to crack down on legislation and impose large fines for any violation? Should security guards be held accountable at the individual level? I thing before we make any huge sweeping changes in legislation, we need to inform the people doing the job of policing. Instead of focus what is ‘wrong’ during the orientation into becoming a private policeman and effort should be made to teach the young security guards what their job really entails. By instilling in them certain ideas around security and what the term really means, private policing agencies can be sure that human rights violations and the like will be much less likely, as the potential perpetrators will know why what they are doing is really wrong.

Analysis Of Private Security Ethics To The Case Study Of Private Policing

Private policing overtime has been growing much faster than public law. The growth of private policing is expanding extremely fast and has less requirements than public law. Today you can spot private security members anywhere you go. For example, a security guard at a construction site has a job to make sure that no one trespasses on the construction site at night. Private security also provide protection, patrolling/scanning areas and can be hired personally to protect oneself from danger. Private security is all around us and is expanding very rapidly.

Pivot Legal Society conducted a survey, which developed a lot of new information about private policing and their affects on the homeless residing in the Downtown area of Vancouver.  It was found that the private security was abusing their power against the homeless. The homeless were mistreated by private security in many ways for example: having the homeless moved off of public property such as sidewalks, as well as conducting illegal searches, and engaging in profiling where they specifically looked for homeless citizens that looked like they were on drugs of any sort. The private police in Vancouver were out of line mainly due to the fact that many rights of the homeless citizens were broken.

Jelle Van Buuren focused on private security ethics as wells as the values of the public. By using his study we can analyze the issues that were brought up in the report created by Pivot Legal Society. Van Buuren talks about the concept of “Rolling Out The State,” this is the change of policing system in which the public police forces once provided almost all policing services, to one in which policing services are provided by a range of public and private agencies (Van, J. 2010). This is important, because we once had Vancouver Police controlling much of Vancouver and providing policing. But now in Vancouver there is more private security than normal officers.For example, my friend he works for a private security organisation and without much training he is able to provide safety for the public. Not only do these officers have less training than the VPD, but they don’t have the same power as them. So when private police go out on the field they shouldn’t be asking the homeless to move off public property or even be searched that isn’t their job. Another concept Van Buuren focuses on “Occupational Values,” this is what we call corruption in private security. For example, instead of looking out for the safety of the public and doing their job as needed. They rather focus on themselves and do things that will benefit them. For the VPD one needs to go through many clearances, which may not be the case for private security. Also, being trained properly and finding the best officers for the job separates the VPD from the private security. Lastly Van Burren speaks about, “Accountability,” private security is a single organization depending on the name of the organization such as, Paladin security. They are bound by the judicial system, but there is little reliable proof that it is effective (Van. J, 2010). Even though the private security organizations have been breaking many laws there hasn’t been much going on to fix the problem, because the judicial system hasn’t been providing just actions.

In conclusion, even though private security is much larger in numbers than public police there are many flaws in the system. With the help of Van Buuren a better analysis of the Pivot Legal Report could be drawn. It helps raise the issue that private police still have some issues in their system and need to be fixed before they can move forward. Private security have been focusing on the homeless in Vancouver Downtown much more than any other members of society, this profiling is causing a problem for many homeless citizens that are being treated unlawfully.


PIVOT Legal Society (2009). Security Before Justice: A study of the impacts of private security on homeless and under-housed Vancouver residents. 

Van Buuren, J. (2010). “Private Security Ethics: Reintroducing Public Values”, in M. den Boer & E. Kolthoff (eds) Ethics and Security. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 165-187. 

Private police can be considered as law enforcement bodies that are owned and controlled by non-governmental organisations or entities. Beginning in the late 1990’s growth in public law enforcement began to decline and there was a boom in the private security industry. In the contemporary era private police greatly outnumber public law enforcement officers by twice as much in developed countries such as United States, Canada, South Africa and various other countries, as governments around the world outsource their security functions to private policing organisations.Today, private security firms are increasingly involved in providing personal bodyguards, patrolling industrial facilities, various commercial establishments, office buildings, transportation facilities, recreational complexes, entire shopping districts and residential neighbourhoods. In modern crime-ridden societies wealthy citizens and business owners prefer using private police as they utilise a proactive, prevention-orientated approach to deal with crime rather than the traditional method of engaging in reactive policing.

In Canada, the City of Vancouver allocated $872,000 on December 13 2007 to fund the development of the Downtown Ambassadors Program, a private security patrol project administered by the Downtown Vancouver Business Improvement Association. In the same year the Pivot Legal Society conducted a survey as well as two focus groups on 154 residents in order to shed light on the experiences of those living on the margins of society and it raised certain issues on democratic policing, accountable governance and respect for human rights as well as practice standards, oversight and accountability within the private security industry. Some of the key issues highlighted through this research were that there were frequent interactions between the private security guards and residents of the Downtown Eastside especially homeless and under-housed residents, private security guards were increasingly overstepping their legal boundaries by compelling residents to move from public property, the illegal use force against marginalized groups, the lack of accountability regarding private security guards and controlling access to public and private property by employing certain tactics such as informal bans and “profiling”.

Jelle Van Buuren describes the ethics involved with private security and its various implications in “Private Security Ethics: Reintroducing Public Values”. His studies can be used to analyse the issues raised in the case study report prepared by the Pivot Legal Society. Van Buuren highlights the fact that the rise of the private security industry has certain normative implications as it can influence the culture, norms and values embedded in security practices which can have a profound effect on society. The process of “Inclusion- Exclusion” can occur as a result of this impact. Private security serves the interests of the wealthy and ruling elites and they tend to remove the marginalised parts of the community from public spaces which are occupied by the wealthy. As private policing is primarily concerned with proactive policing involving the prevention of crime and disorder they regulate entry, limits participation and excludes people on the basis of profiling. These exclusionary private policing tactics are deployed to clean public spaces by concentrating the disorderly conduct outside the city centre. Private security guards employed by business owners in the Downtown Eastside resorted to these same exclusionary tactics of “profiling” to clean public and private spaces in order to make business establishments more attractive to customers. The concept of “Private justice” devised by Van Buuren in context of the normative ramifications of the private security industry, explains that the rich and the powerful are insulated from society by private security practices giving rise to “private orders”. A private justice based system is formed running in parallel to the public judicial system and the private sector resort to discrete and illegal methods to settle internal problems. This notion explains the harassment and removal of “panhandlers” and other marginalized groups from public corners in the Downtown Eastside by private security guards such as Paladin guards which were in clear violation of the law. The concept of “Insecurity as a Profit Maker” proposed by Van Buuren explains that the security industry transforms risk, government failure and public fear into opportunity in order to preserve the profitability of the security market. The constant encounters and confrontations that occur in the downtown eastside between private security and marginalized groups such as the homeless, panhandlers etc can be perceived as a lack of security or a threat to private business interests  in the area and instil fear in business owners, thereby promoting the business interests of the private security firms. Van Buuren points out that though private security organisations can be held accountable through state regulation, industry self-regulation, civil liability, labour laws, contractual liability and accountability through the market, there is no reliable evidence that demonstrates the effectiveness of these factors. The PIVOT legal society report on private policing clearly demonstrates that none of the private security officers were held accountable for their crimes and none of the above factors were helpful in holding the responsible private security organisations accountable. Van Buuren’s notion of “Occupational Values” describes the private security industry as being lacking in norms and values, incompetent, corrupt and always focused on the wishes of the client rather than on public values. The lack of training, hiring of personal with criminal histories etc by certain organisations can degrade these values further. The illegal and unethical behaviours that are characterized in PIVOT’S report of the Downtown Eastside such as the illegal use of force by Paladin security, the removal of marginalized groups from public space, the various security firms gaining confidential information on certain individuals from the police etc can be attributed to the lack of Occupational values put forward by Van Buuren.

The concept of “Rolling out the State” coined by Van Buuren deals with the multiplicity of governance authorities and explains that security governance is maintained by a wide range of private and public authorities and the relations between public and private policing range from coordination, indifference and co-production to hostility. This notion can be used to analyse the events that transpired in the PIVOT report regarding the Vancouver Police Union’s plan to launch court action against the city’s decision to expand the private Downtown Ambassadors program run by Genesis Security. Though there were tensions and hostility between the two organisations, an informal level of cooperation was reported between The Vancouver Police Department and Paladin Security, with confidential personal information of individuals being shared between the two of them. This reinforces Van Buuren’s view by portraying both a mutually beneficial and a hostile relationship that exists between public policing organisations such as the Vancouver Police Department and private organisations such as Paladin and Genesis Security, in the Downtown Eastside.

In conclusion, Van Buuren’s theories gives us insightful information on some of the reasons for the alleged and reported incidents of illegal and unethical behaviour committed by private security which was depicted in the PIVOT Legal Society Report on private security in Vancouver. It raises certain issues regarding the moral standards, oversight and accountability within the private security industry.


PIVOT Legal Society (2009). Security Before Justice: A study of the impacts of private security on homeless and under-housed Vancouver residents

Van Buuren, J. (2010). “Private Security Ethics: Reintroducing Public Values”, in M. den Boer & E. Kolthoff (eds) Ethics and Security. The Hague: Eleven International Publishing, pp. 165-187.