Case study: privatizing police forces

Case Study: Privatizing Police Forces

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Facing pressure to crack down on crime amid a record budget deficit, Oakland is joining other U.S. cities that are turning over more law-enforcement duties to private armed guards. In 2009, the Oakland City Council voted to hire International Services Inc., a private security agency, to patrol crime-plagued districts. While a few Oakland retail districts have pooled cash to pay for unarmed security services, using public funds to pay for armed guards would mark a first for the city. Hiring private guards is less expensive than hiring new officers. Oakland police say they consider unarmed guards acceptable, but don’t support armed guards. However, some local leaders say that they have few other options to reduce the city’s violence.

Source: National Center for Policy Analysis (“Cash Strapped Cities Try Private Guards Over Police,” Bobby White, “Cash-Strapped Cities Try Private Guards Over Police,”

Wall Street Journal, April 21, 2009, or April 22, 2009; http://www.ncpa.org/sub/dpd/index.php?Article_ID=17885.)

Questions:

1. Do you think that privatization of public services is a good thing? Why or why not?

2. What are the ethical and political questions at stake in the privatization of police?

3. Is the privatization of police forces comparable to the privatization of other public services, say, mail delivery, or food services? Why or why not?

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