The Push to Expand Private Police
Private policing is not new to Michigan. There are currently 13 private security police agencies in our state, which mostly includes hospitals and educational institutions. However, Senate Bill 924 is getting another push. The bill would expand on these 15 agencies and expand private police. It would expand on the 1968 law that allows entities to create their own private police entities.
What is the Difference Between Traditional Police and Private Police?
The core difference is that traditional police represent and serve the public, while private police service the company that hires them. The bill would allow associations, corporations, partnerships, trusts, foundations, not-for-profits, and others to hire their own private police.
Both types of police officers are required to go through training before they can actively serve and both can make arrests, but how things play out after that can get a bit tricky. Questions arise as to whose jurisdiction it is once a case requires further investigation or goes to trial. Private police are not tied to a particular community, county or other area.
The Growth of Private Police
Education is our biggest institute that could benefit from expanding private police. As school shootings are on the rise, the idea of having police officers placed in the schools has become a hot topic. But is it feasible to have traditional police officers placed in schools on a full time basis to protest students and teachers from armed intruders?
The alternative would be to allow the schools to hire their own private officers to protect their schools. This police force would be privately employed, work full-time at the school and receive full benefits.
At first glance, the idea is intriguing, but it is also complicated. Expanding private police into our schools could provide the needed support for student and teachers, but the legalities of these officers and their actions need to be better defined at this point. The bill states that they are able to make peaceful arrests, under some circumstances, but an active shooter clearly doesn’t fall into that category.
Support for Expanding Private Police
The revised Senate Bill 924 was recently introduced by Senator Mike Kowell and was approved by a Michigan Senate Panel, but that doesn’t mean it will be pushed though. A vote is required and not everyone is in full support of the proposed bill for expanding private police. Kowell points out that it could be a cost saving measure for the Michigan Department of State Police. Although it is supported by the Michigan Contract Security Association, it is not receiving the same support from the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police, Deputy Sheriff’s Association, Prosecuting Attorney’s Association of Michigan, Michigan State Trooper Association or the Michigan State Police Command Officers Association.
Critics of the proposed bill state that expanding private police make the traditional police department seem less professional, would reduce transparency with the community, and could turn safety into a money issue. Third party contractors may also lack accountability. They don’t have a vested interest in protecting and serving the public. It is the transparency and accountability that we need more of to continue to build trust between the police and the community, as a whole.
The bill could garner more support if it were updated and included provisions for the kind of training the private officers would receive.