Don’t ‘Abolish the Police.’ Privatize Them.
Instead of “abolish the police” or “defund the police,” how about “privatize the police”?
In a June NPR interview, Rep. Joaquin Castro (D–N.Y.) said that “policing is not a marketplace. You can’t choose another police force to take care of you to watch over your neighborhood.”
In fact, private policing and protection is more common than most people realize, and it’s a proven way of making law enforcement more accountable to the communities they’re paid to protect.
Economist Edward Stringham, who is president of the American Institute of Economic Research and the author of Private Governance: Creating Order in Economic and Social Life, says that “in history and even in modern times, there are plenty of private examples of people working to create order and safety in society.” He points to fully deputized private police departments like those of Harvard, MIT, and Massachusetts General Hospital. Stringham also cites the history of San Francisco during the gold rush, which relied heavily on private policing. The San Francisco Patrol Special Police, for example, were founded in 1847 and are still in operation today.
Another example is the for-profit protection service Detroit Threat Management Centers, which has been operating in the Motor City since 1995. Dale Brown, the company’s founder, says that while government police focus on prosecution, his focus is solely on protection.
“We don’t police people. We protect them. Police are law enforcement officers,” Brown told Reason, “so essentially their task is based on negative metrics, meaning rape, robbery, killing. And of course, most importantly, arresting people for drugs or violence that has already occurred, which is not protection.”
Detroit Threat Management Centers provides bodyguards, works with homeowners’ associations, and secures precious cargo delivery. But it also runs an educational academy in which graduates volunteer to provide free security to domestic violence victims and other vulnerable individuals who the Detroit city police don’t protect.
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