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Get a piece of the privatization pie.

STATE AND LOCAL LAW enforcement authorities, confronted with rising costs and declining revenues, are being forced to find less costly ways to provide the necessary public safety services. The silver lining to this dark cloud is a growing market niche for private sector security providers.

In many police organizations, functions once handled solely by sworn police officers are now assigned to civilian personnel or are contracted out to private security firms. Some services targeted for privatization include employment background investigations, prisoner transportation, security at special events, parking enforcement, extra patrol in residential and commercial areas, parking lot security, burglar alarm response, home patrol and security, traffic accident investigation, completion of petty crime reports, and animal control.

A 1991 study sponsored by the California State Commission on Peace Officers' Standards and Training (POST) examined the future of privatizing nonessential police services. As a component of the study, a survey questionnaire was developed to identify those services that California law enforcement officials thought would be privatized in the future.

The survey was sent to 131 of the 411 city police and sheriff's departments in California, and 117 of the agencies returned completed questionnaires. More than 50 percent of those responding identified themselves as police chiefs or sheriffs.

Of the 117 respondents, 31 indicated that they had contracted services to the private sector. Of those, 22 said that they had contracted out the transportation of prisoners to destinations outside their jurisdiction; 13 reported contracting out other services, including security protection for special events, vehicle burglary protection, and traffic control at accident and disaster scenes; and three indicated they had contracted with a security firm to have officers stand by prisoners needing medical treatment at hospitals.

The respondents indicated that contracting out services is initially cost-effective and is especially appealing when a police department is faced with rising costs and limited resources.

The New York City police department, the San Diego police department, and the Fresno sheriff's department are three large law enforcement agencies that have experimented with contracting out services and have reported favorable results.

New York City. Shoplifting costs store owners and consumers billions of dollars every year. But shrinking revenues and increasing demands have forced the police to concentrate on more serious crimes. Sending officers to investigate, cite, or physically arrest shoplifters is an expensive and time-consuming task for the police.

At one major department store chain in New York City, store security became concerned that local law enforcement did not have adequate resources to protect employees and store merchandise from vandalism, theft, and credit card fraud. Through an arrangement with the New York City police department, security personnel now provide surveillance, make arrests, transport offenders, complete record checks, and enter criminal history information into computer terminals.(1)

This program benefits both the police department and the department store chain. Store security has the flexibility to address problems immediately rather than having to wait for the police to respond. The police also benefit, as police officers now have more time to address violent crime, gang violence, drug-related crime, and other community concerns.

San Diego. During the holiday season in San Diego, shoplifting arrests by store security officers take their toll on the San Diego police department's patrol division. A patrol officer could spend up to two hours on a single shoplifting arrest.

To remedy the problem, members of the security community and San Diego police department devised a plan to use security personnel to lessen the time police spend on shoplifting arrests. Security personnel now complete all necessary arrest and incident reports while awaiting the police officer's arrival. After the officer arrives, he or she reviews the reports for content and either issues a citation or takes physical custody of the offender.

Since implementing the plan, officers seldom require more than 30 minutes to handle shoplifting cases where the suspect has been arrested by store security.

The San Diego police department has also developed a plan to reduce the number of false burglar alarm calls requiring police response by using private security personnel. When an alarm is tripped, either remotely or manually, a security officer is dispatched to the scene to investigate.

In each case, the police department is notified that a security officer has been dispatched and is responding. After the officer arrives, the status of the call is again relayed to the police. If the alarm is false, the responding police officer is promptly notified and the call is cancelled.(2)

Fresno. Many law enforcement agencies have privatized prisoner transportation services. For example the Fresno (CA) sheriff's department contracts with a private firm to transport prisoners to and from the Fresno area. For a fee, the firm transports prisoners wanted in Fresno who have been arrested by law enforcement agencies outside the county or state. They also transport those prisoners who have been arrested in Fresno but who are wanted elsewhere.

The firm employs 50 officers and owns and operates 25 vans designed for prisoner transportation. Its employees receive 240 hours of basic training as required by the California POST. Currently, 142 California police and sheriff's departments are contracting with the firm to transport prisoners.(3)

Those agencies that have chosen to contract out prisoner transportation report substantial savings. It costs the Fresno sheriff's department, for example, $284 to transport a prisoner from San Diego to Fresno using a private firm. The round-trip distance between Fresno and San Diego is 758 miles, which would take about 17 hours travel time. If the sheriff's department were to assign deputies to transport a prisoner this distance, the total transportation cost for this duty would nearly triple.

SECURITY MANAGERS WHO ARE INTERested in becoming police service providers should consider the following tips:

* Identify the need. Security managers should identify the types of services law enforcement agencies in the area are most likely to target for privatization, usually services the police consider nonessential.

These services are difficult to eliminate because the public has come to expect them. The logical alternative for most police departments is to find a contract provider. Of the services a local police agency would feel compelled to deliver, security businesses should target those the company could provide more cost-effectively.

* Target the agencies. Security managers should determine which police departments will need the types of services the company is capable of providing. Not all law enforcement agencies are created equal.

The ability of a police department to deliver services depends largely on local government revenues. A police department serving a wealthy community, naturally, is less likely to seek a security firm to help it deliver police services. Police departments suffering ongoing budget problems are more inclined to need the services of a private security agency.

Security managers should target law enforcement agencies serving cities and counties that are experiencing sizable population increases. Growth usually outstrips the ability of local police to provide adequate services. Considering that most police departments require nearly 12 months to hire and train new officers, they simply cannot employ people quickly enough to absorb the increasing demands for service.

Finally, managers should target police agencies serving cities that have an extremely low police officer-to-population ratio. Police departments with a ratio of less than one officer per thousand citizens are not as likely as those with a greater ratio to be capable of providing these services.

* Analyze company capabilities. Identify the types of services the company is capable of performing. A company's ability to become a police service provider depends on its size, the skills of its employees, and the needs of the police agency. The costs involved and the level of training required by employees also need to be considered.

For instance, a company intending to operate a prisoner transportation service in California would first need to meet the licensing requirements of the Public Utilities Commission. Next, it would have to ensure that its employees possess valid drivers' licenses if they operate company equipment.

The company would also have to ensure that all its employees transporting prisoners meet the requirements set forth in section 832 of the California Penal Code, which requires that they undergo 240 hours of basic training at a certified POST academy.

The company would have to obtain adequate insurance so that it is protected in the event of an accident or other misfortune. In California, it would also be required to provide workers' compensation insurance, employers' liability insurance, and automobile liability insurance.

* Highlight cost savings. Security managers should demonstrate that the company can provide services more cost-effectively. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the 1991 POST study was that nearly all of the agencies involved in contracting out services felt that the cost-effectiveness of doing so was the driving force in their decisions to privatize.

In designing a program, managers should focus on the company's ability to deliver services at a savings to local government. This is not as difficult as it might appear. Most local police departments pay employees an attractive salary, excellent health benefits, a pension, paid vacations, and sick leave.

In the Fresno police department, for example, community service officers (CSOs) are responsible for delivering many of the types of services that could be performed by an equally qualified private sector employee. A top CSO in Fresno is paid $11.85 per hour, including benefits.

The cost incurred by the department in providing these services is $18.63 per hour. In the Fresno area, most local security firms could provide the same services at a rate of less than $17 per hour, make a profit, and still provide quality services at the same level provided by CSOs.

By law, most local government jurisdictions are required to publish information about salaries paid to city and county employees. A company can use the data to determine the cost of a police benefit package for use in preparing cost comparisons.

* Market the services. A number of marketing techniques can assist companies in securing a contractual agreement to provide police services. The techniques most suitable depend on the size of the company, the services it wants to provide, and whether it hopes to promote its services on a local or regional level.

An experienced salesperson with a background in law enforcement management will probably be the most successful. Companies that sell products to law enforcement agencies frequently retain former police officers to promote sales.

Another technique is to seek membership in police associations, especially those that cater to top-level police administrators. This provides an opportunity to meet police executives and to develop contacts to promote the company's services. A number of local, state, national, and international police associations serve top-level executives.

Most of these organizations have established committees to foster police-private security relations. Perhaps the largest and best-known police executive association is the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP). Most chiefs, sheriffs, and upper-level police executives belong to this organization. IACP hold its annual conference in October.

The California Peace Officers' Association (CPOA) is another police management organization interested in forging a working relationship with private security. CPOA schedules two conferences each year--an all-training conference in May and an all-committee conference in November.

Seeking membership and involvement in these organizations will increase the chances of obtaining support for providing police services on a contractual basis.

Security managers should design an attractive sales brochure and mail it, along with a letter of introduction, to the law enforcement agencies they target for their company's services in order to introduce them to their services.

Managers should prepare a written contract proposal between the company and the agency targeted and include it as part of the mailing. In the contract, managers should identify and discuss issues for the proposal, such as the duration of the contract, the performance required of the company and its employees during this arrangement, the level of skills and training the company's employees possess or are required to possess, insurance requirements, and payment criteria.

A rate schedule for the types of services the company has to offer should be included. For example, if the company intends to contract with a police agency to conduct employment background investigations, a schedule of the hourly rate showing travel costs and any other out-of-pocket expenses should be included.

If available, security managers should provide potential clients with the names of other police agencies that have used or are currently using the company's services. Law enforcement executives are more apt to contract with a company that is established and whose reputation they can verify with other law enforcement executives.

It will become increasingly difficult for cities and counties in the United States to provide adequate public safety services. In most communities, crime and the fear of crime will continue to burden law enforcement at a time when the resources needed to address these concerns are in short supply.

Faced with an onslaught of demands, law enforcement agencies will find it difficult to provide low priority services while maintaining efficiency unless they turn to privatization. Security managers can take advantage of opportunities for becoming police service providers.

1 James K. Stewart, "Public Safety and Private Police," Public Administration Review, November 1985, p. 758.

2 William B. Kolender, "Private Security: Complementing--Not Competing--with Law Enforcement," The Police Chief, March 1986, p. 102.

3 Interview with Sharman Termer, president of Tri-County Extradition Inc., August 17, 1992.

Marty L. West is a lieutenant, assigned as the central area commander, with the Fresno, CA, police department.
COPYRIGHT 1993 American Society for Industrial Security
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1993 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:private security agencies
Author:West, Marty L.
Publication:Security Management
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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