The Use of Private Security Services for Policing

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The Use of Private Security Services for Policing PDF Version (142 KB)
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By Ruth Montgomery and Curt Taylor Griffiths


This paper examines the intersections between private security and public policing, with an emphasis on those functions that private security are now performing that have traditionally been performed by the public police, as well as cooperative efforts between public police and private security. The research included a literature review of the roles, responsibilities of private and public policing in the United Kingdom, the United States of America, Australia, New Zealand and Canada, a review of relevant Canadian legislation, and interviews with key individuals in Canadian government, private security, policing, and police governance organizations.

Author's Note

The views expressed are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of Public Safety Canada. Correspondence concerning this report should be addressed to:

Research Division
Public Safety Canada
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario
K1A 0P8



The project team would like to thank those individuals who were interviewed for the study. Their candid and insightful observations on the state of private security in Canada comprise a core component of this report.

The Transformation of Policing and Growth of Private Industry

Core Policing

Core policing in the early 21st century is most accurately characterized as quality of life policing, which promotes healthy communities. It is the type of policing that requires officers to have a multi-faceted skill set and to respond to a variety of order maintenance, service demands, and community expectations. Its other attributes include (Griffiths, 2016):

  1. developing and sustaining partnerships with the community;
  2. taking initiatives to improve the quality of life in communities and neighborhoods;
  3. providing reassurance to community residents and reducing the fear of crime;
  4. conducting outreach to newcomer groups, Aboriginal peoples,  and vulnerable groups;
  5. engaging in collaborative partnerships with agencies and organizations, including operating specialized patrol units; and
  6. increasing the use of statistical analysis to ensure that resources are deployed effectively and efficiently.

The broadening of the police role occurred with the adoption of the community-policing model in the 1980s and this role has continued to expand beyond a singular focus on law enforcement. This has also been driven by political and public expectations, legislation, and policy (Griffiths, 2016). The increased demands placed on police services are often the result of downloading that involves the police becoming involved in events and with persons that fall within the mandate of other municipal and provincial agencies. This includes the demands that are placed on the police in encounters with persons with a mental illness (PwMI) and police responsibility for marginalized persons. This shift in expectations is reflected in the comments of Mr. Justice Oppal (2012:6) in his final report on the Missing Women in British Columbia:  “… the police have a specific responsibility to take steps to understand and address the vulnerability of marginalized women to crime.”

While there are certain functions of the police that cannot be transferred to the private sector, there are activities that do not require the skills, training and authority of sworn police officers (Bedard and Guenette, 2015:1). Bedard and Guenette (2015:2) argue, “activities that could be subcontracted take up a significant portion of police officers' time.”  The extent to which any of these core functions can be outsourced through privatization remains largely unexplored. Any examination of the potential role for private security must consider what the community expects, and asks, the police to do.

Much of what the police are asked to do by governments and communities and, in some instances, are required by legislation and policy to do, cannot be measured by crime rates. Reducing social disorder and providing reassurance to the community are important roles of the police yet these activities are generally not measured. One challenge in determining the potential role for private security is that the core functions of the police in Canada have not been clearly defined. Provincial police acts provide only a very generic description of the police mandate.

Similarly, it is uncertain whether many of the responsibilities that have been downloaded onto the police, i.e. responding to the needs of PwMI, can be transferred to private security firms. A key attribute of the police role is the authority to use lethal force. Although it is common for private security officers in the U.S. to be armed, this is the exception rather than the rule in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand. Notable exceptions are armoured car guards. While police officers rarely use lethal force, observers have pointed out that it is the “latent threat” of force that defines the police role (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:17).

Among the questions that were referred to by researchers (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:1) were, “How should the public police position themselves in a plural environment?”, “What are the risks of pluralization of the public police?”, and “What is there to be gained?” Other concerns are whether the wealthy will purchase security from the private sector, leaving the vast domain of challenging policing issues, i.e. persons with mental illness, at risk and vulnerable populations, to the public sector (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:3). This would contribute to a lack of equality in the services provided to community residents.

A number of observers have raised the issue of the legitimacy of tiered, or plural policing, citing the co-badging and hybrid uniforms of G4S, a private security firm, and the Lincolnshire police in UK (discussed below) (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:3). Among the questions raised are “How are public perceptions of the police affected by co-badging? To what extent is the public aware of the limits of private security officers, particularly those in uniforms that are co-badged?”

The Growth of the Private Security Industry

The exponential growth of private security worldwide has been extensively documented (Shearing and Stenning, 1981; 1987; Sarre, 2012:3). It is estimated that, worldwide, more persons are employed as private security officers than as police officers (van Dijk, cited in Prenzler, 2012:151). This phenomenon has been described as “one of the most significant developments since World War II” (Prenzler, 2013:9). In most countries, private security personnel outnumber public police by more than two to one (Prenzler, 2013:9). This has occurred as part of the pluralization of policing (Griffiths, 2016).

The number of private security service providers in Canada has grown significantly in the last two decades. An analysis of statistics from 1991-2001 noted a 69% growth in Canadian investigation and security services over that time (Sanders 2005). A 2012 situational analysis found there were approximately 140,000 individuals and 3,000 businesses in Canada that were licensed in the private security industry. This represented a 40% increase since 2006 (Hovbrender 2013). Indications are that this trend in growth has continued. The number of private security licenses issued in Ontario has increased from 55,000 to 77,000 (28.6%) over the past five years and in Alberta, there has been a 16.7% increase in registrations for licenses during this time period.

Between 1999 and 2014 the number of police officers increased by 18.7%, topping out at 68,896 officers, less than half the number of security service providers. Growth in police has not kept pace with the growth in private security. For example, private security licenses issued in British Columbia increased from 7,743 to 21,878 between 2004 and 2015 (282.5%). During that time period the number of police officers in the province increased at a much slower rate from 7,072 to 8,754 (23.8%).

Given government commitments at all levels to rein in spending, examining who can work with police to ensure Canadians are able to continue to enjoy superior community safety and security services is paramount. 

Types of Private Security

The examination of private security is difficult, as we do not have a good definition as to what is meant by “private security.” The authors of a comprehensive review of private security in the U.S. (Strom, et al., 2010:1-2) recommended, “a succinct definition of private security should be developed.” Some definitions are quite narrow. A report by RAND (Kakalik and Wildhorn, 1971:3) defined private security as “all types of private organizations and individuals providing all types of security-related services, including investigation, guard, patrol, lie detection, alarm, and armored transportation.” Private security (also referred to as “private police”) has also been defined as “those persons who are employed or sponsored by a commercial enterprise on a contract or “in-house” basis, using public or private funds, to engage in tasks (other than vigilante action) where the principal component is a security or regulatory function” (Prenzler, Earle, and Sarre, 2009).

Other observers have argued that it is necessary to move beyond a definition centered on “private police” and that one that includes “physical, information, and employment-related security is a more accurate representation of the roles and responsibilities of private security.” (Strom, et al., 2010:2-2). The American Society for Industrial Security (ASIS), the largest organization of private security professionals in the U.S. defines private security as “the nongovernmental, private-sector practice of protecting people, property, and information, conducting investigations, and otherwise safeguarding an organization's assets” (ASIS, 2009). In short, the private security industry is not homogenous, but rather “a multitude of industries, large and small, all related to the provision of security services, investigations, crime prevention, order maintenance and security design” (van Steden and Sarre, 2007:226).

Canadian scholars have long argued that the public-private dichotomy did not accurately capture the evolution of policing in its various forms. In their early work, Private Policing, the Canadian criminologists Shearing and Stenning (1981) pointed out that policing involved a variety of public, quasi-public, and private entities. As well, Rigakos (2005:261) proposed a “typology of policing,” as opposed to a “typology of police” which, in his view, provides a more useful framework for examining the roles and impact of the various organizations and entities that are involved in policing. For Rigakos (2006) and others taking a critical perspective, the divide between the public police and private security was largely “symbolic” and often indistinguishable.

A wide range of companies are involved in providing security services and in contracting for back office and middle office functions traditionally performed by police services. This includes multi-national companies such as G4S, Accenture, and KPMG, which have multi-faceted operations beyond the private policing area. There has also been an exponential growth in the private intelligence sector. Many of these firms are staffed by ex-police officers and ex-military intelligence officials.

The majority of private security personnel are engaged in preventive activities, compared to police officers, whose tasks include prevention, investigation, making arrests, and providing information for prosecution (Prenzler, 2013). In some jurisdictions, this growth has been accompanied by the development of partnerships with police services, although research studies have found that in some instances these partnerships tend to benefit the police more than private security (Golsby and O'Brien, 1996). Interestingly, this growth continues despite declining crime rates in many jurisdictions. This has contributed to what Prenzler and Sarre have termed “securitization,” wherein there is recognition of the limits (including finite resources) of public policing and the need for “tailor-made security” (2012:150). The decline in crime rates in many Western countries has been ascribed to the increased use of technology for surveillance, the adoption of home security devices, and an increased attention to crime prevention through environmental design, which attempts through architecture to “design out” opportunities for criminal behaviour. This includes improving lighting, ensuring sight lines in areas around building, and other design elements.

Three general types of private security have been identified (ASIS, 2009):

  1. Physical security: these are the physical measures designed to safeguard people; to prevent unauthorized access to equipment, facilities, material, and documents; and to safeguard them against a security incident;
  2. Information security: this includes protecting information systems, databases, and guarding against cyber-crime; and
  3. Employment related: that focuses on the performance and the potential threat or risks of personnel in an organization.

Private policing organizations vary in terms of their goals, resources, legal powers, jurisdiction, and organizational location (Joh, 2005:597; Joh, 2004). It has been argued that the public-private dichotomy is too generic, given the myriad of arrangements and relationships between public police and private security (Dupont, 2014). This highlights a challenge in discussing the potential role of private security.

In the literature, a distinction is made between contract security and proprietary security. Contract security is “provided by companies who sell their security services to clients” while propriety, or “in-house” security, is “developed and operated exclusively for a company's own use” (Hovbrender, 2013:4; ASIS, 2009). The focus of the discussion in the present study is contract security although it is recommended that a subsequent study examine the field of proprietary security.

Historically, “private security” referred to security guards and private investigators (Li, 2006:5). Over the past two decades, however, private security companies in many jurisdictions have expanded the scope of their activities to include many tasks traditionally performed by the public police. This expansion has increasingly blurred the boundaries between public police and private security. Generally, private security services can be categorized as either: 1) proprietary or corporate security; or, 2) contract or private security firms (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005:2). The focus of the present study is on the second category, private security companies that contract to provide services to municipalities, communities, and the business sector.

The Police and Private Security Environment

Private Security and the Economics and Sustainability of Policing

Rogers and Gravelle (2012:273) stated, “Policing in any country does not exist in a social, political or economic vacuum.” Discussions of the role of private security and privatization of police functions are occurring within the larger context of the debate about the economics and sustainability of public police (Hutchins, 2015). An oft-repeated argument runs, ‘Crime rates are down, and policing costs are up. Therefore, 1) the current structure of policing is not sustainable; and 2) the number of police officers can be reduced.'

This perspective, however, does not capture the full range of the issues surrounding public policing. It could be argued, for example, that crime rates have decreased due to the effectiveness of the police and the increasing use of evidence-based practice, such as intelligence-led policing, directed patrol, the focus on chronic offenders, and effective partnerships with the community.

The fiscal deficits of governments and efforts to downsize and outsource public services have prompted proposals to expand the activities of private security to “outsource” tasks that are currently performed by public police but that may be more effectively and efficiency handled by private companies (Public Safety Canada, 2012). In this context, private security may also be viewed as a threat and as encroaching on the mandate of the public police (Prenzler, 2013:17). Privatization has historically occurred in the public sector because of gaps in the delivery of services. More recently, it has been driven by efforts to reduce the costs of public services.

These concerns on the part of public police have heightened within the context of discussions of the economics of policing and the transformation of policing in the UK, wherein functions traditionally performed by the public police have been outsourced and contracted out in an attempt to reduce the costs of policing (Prenzler, 2013:17). Observers have noted that there has been a shift away from an exclusive reliance on the police to “self-protection” or “responsive securitization” (van Dijk, 2008). This has contributed to the rapid growth of private security, even during a time of overall decreasing crime rates.

Proponents of private security contend that increasing and expanding the role of private security provides a way to control policing costs, while at the same time ensuring public safety and security. A report from the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime (2011:11) called for better government regulation of private security services and for these services to assume frontline roles, including being the primary respondents to certain incidents. It is argued that private security plays an important role in efforts to secure the safety and security of communities. Cook and MacDonald (2010:6-7) note that, “A systematic approach to public crime control requires [an] understanding of the potential interactions between private and public efforts.”

A key argument that is offered in support of the expansion of private security is economic; that subcontracting services to private security firms provides an opportunity to save money. For example, the total compensation of a Montreal service de police de la ville de Montréal (SPVM) police officer is approximately $120,000, compared to $40,000 for a private security agent (Bedard and Guenette, 2015:2). The following scenario has been provided to illustrate how a hybrid model of policing, involving both sworn officers and private security personnel, could result in cost savings: a roadblock set up for eight and a half hours to apprehend impaired drivers, staffed by either SPVM members, costs a total of $4,994; one staffed by two SPVM members and six private security agents would cost $2,332. The comparable costs in Toronto would be $6,140 versus $2,330 (Bedard and Guenette, 2015:2).

The potential for privatizing “back office” administrative functions is illustrated by another example from the SPVM. The service employs a total of 79 police officers and 188 civilians to work in human resources and development, communications, and information and to do related administrative tasks. The total cost of these personnel is $9.4 million annually. It is estimated that subcontracting would reduce these costs to $3.2 million (Bedard and Guenette, 2015:3).

In the U.S. and the UK where there is a division of labour between the public police and private security, it is also argued that these arrangements can reduce crime rates (Bedard and Guenette, 2015:3). In this framework “Subcontracting certain tasks to the private sector … amounts to complementing the work of police officers, not replacing those police officers” (Bedard and Guenette, 2015:4). Proponents of privatizing “back office” and other administrative and lower-level functions currently performed by the police argue that this will result in cost savings with no appreciable impact on the safety and security of the community. Similarly, a report on forensic service delivery in Canada (Maguire, 2012) recommended expanding the role of the private sector in order to provide timely service to police services and to supply tests not carried out by the RCMP-operated labs.

It has also been noted that, in contrast to the public police who are focused on the detection and apprehension of offenders, private security firms “tend to be concerned with loss prevention and risk reduction” (van Buurn and den Boer, 2009:39; see also Crawford, 2003). From this perspective, “Security threat is big business and any reduction in threats in fact threatens the security economy” (van Bruun and den Boer, 2009:40).

A fundamental premise in discussions of the economics and sustainability of policing is that “the police have priced themselves out of the market” (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:7). However, observers have noted that the cost is related in part to their role in the community. “Police are expensive; that is because they are excellent at the broad range of activities that they do. Private security, on the other hand, deals with a narrow range of security and allied issues (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:8).” It has also been suggested that the emphasis on cost may to some extent be misplaced.

Policing and the Costs of Crime

A key assumption made by proponents of the unsustainability of policing is that much of what the police do can be transferred to non-sworn personnel in a tiered policing arrangement. Private security and privatization are often considered in discussions of “tiered” policing: the notion is that increasing costs necessitate breaking the monopoly that the public police have had on policing and ensuring community safety (Griffiths, 2016). This involves the development of various schemes, including the use of private security, outsourcing tasks to private companies, and a variety of initiatives including community safety officers (McKenna, 2014).

An oft-repeated dictum in policing, for example, is that crime control and law enforcement comprise only about 20% of what police officers do, the remainder of their time being consumed by maintenance of order and service activities. The “20 percent factor” is a central tenet in calls for decreasing the size of police services, including patrol officers, and in transferring many functions currently performed by the police to private security companies and to various schemes within a tiered policing framework. This argument, however, has rarely been subjected to empirical enquiry and is most commonly assumed rather than demonstrated. In most jurisdictions, there are events involving anti-social behaviour and public safety and welfare, which, if left unaddressed may undermine residents' feelings of safety and security and/or lead to violations of the criminal law.

Using the assertion that only 20% of patrol officers' time involves criminal incidents, proponents of an expanded role for private security contend that increasing and expanding the role of private security provides a way to control policing costs, while at the same time ensuring public safety and security. This has provided the basis for the development of various Community Constable programs and the increasing involvement of the private sector in providing security services. The exact parameters of tiered policing, however, have remained largely undefined.

The findings of a large-scale study of policing in the UK suggest, in fact, that the 20% factor may not be accurate. Either an analysis of 4.7 million recorded incidents in six police services conducted by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary (HMIC) found that a high percentage of the calls to which officers in the services responded included a crime having been committed or there was a risk of a crime being committed (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2012a). The study found that if responding to incidents where there was a risk of crime was included, it was at least 80% (2012a:4).

Additional findings of the study (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2012a) included:

  1. an overwhelming portion of the police officers' time was spent on crime or stopping things that the public felt were dangerous or wrong or should cease immediately;
  2. in 28% of the 4.7 million recorded incidents a crime had actually taken place and in 17% of the 4.7m incidents some form of ASB (anti-social behavior) had occurred;
  3. in the bulk of the remaining incidents (a further 55%) there was the potential for crime that the police could not discount without a closer examination of the circumstances; and,
  4. in almost 90% of incidents recorded in the six police services, there was a crime or the potential for a crime to happen. Across the 36 shifts observed, officers spent about 80% of their time on activity that related directly or indirectly to crime.

Overall, the significance of this study was that preventive and enforcement role of police officers may consume most of police officers' time. These findings have a number of important implications for discussions of public policing and private security. They suggest, for example, that there may be limitations in the extent to which para-police and private security can assume responsibility for areas currently addressed by sworn police officers. As well, the findings raise questions about the impact of reducing, or failing to sustain, the authorized strength of sworn police officers in police services. It should be noted that fire and rescue personnel, Emergency Medical Services personnel, and other service providers including mental health and social service workers and corrections personnel, will often not attend a situation where a crime has been committed or there is the potential for violence, without being accompanied by sworn police officers.

Initiatives to develop tiered policing may result in outsourcing of police tasks and a reduction in the number of sworn officers must be mindful of research studies that have established a clear relationship between the numbers of police officers in a jurisdiction and the impact on crime and on the costs of the criminal justice system. Studies in the U.S. have found that, all else being equal, a 10-percent reduction in the size of a typical police service has been found to lead to a 6-percent increase in robberies, a 3-percent increase in serious assaults, and a 4-percent increase in vehicle theft (Heaton and Jackson, 2012). Investing in street-level policing can reduce prison populations and curb the increasing costs of corrections (Tierney, 2013).

U.S. researchers calculated that, in the U.S., money diverted from prison to policing would buy at least four times as much reduction in crime. Shrinking the prison population by one-quarter would result in sufficient savings to hire an additional 100,000 police officers. The reduction in crime in urban centres such as New York is a combination of the numbers of officers on the street and their effective deployment in crime hot spots (Tierney, 2013).

Similarly, using a “cost of crime” calculator developed by Paul Heaton at RAND, Ruddell and Jones (2014) studied therates of reported crime and traffic collisions for Saskatchewan in 2012 and found that a 10% increase in officer strength would result in a cost savings of $50,023,355 (2014:58). These and other studies have demonstrated the value of deploying police personnel. Similar analyses have not been conducted on the impact of private security.

Outsourcing vs. Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

There is a distinction to be made between a) the process of outsourcing tasks traditionally performed by the police (i.e. the privatization of certain administrative functions) and b) the development of meaningful partnerships between the police and the private sector. In most jurisdictions, the focus has been on outsourcing (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:9).

Outsourcing is a key feature of privatization (Barak-Erez, 2009:71). Opposition to outsourcing and privatization has resulted in a focus on how to develop effective partnerships between the public police and private security. These have included maintaining order at sporting events, joint airport security initiatives, and addressing disorder in problem areas in urban centres (Prenzler, 2013:24).

Differences between Public Police and Private Security

There are a number of important distinctions to be made between public police and private security (Li, 2008). Several of these are set out in Tables 1-3.

Table 1: The Role, Mandate, and Activities of Public Police and Private Security
Dimension Public Police Private Security


Government(taxpayer funded)

Private companies (for profit) and not for profit (e.g. Commissionaires)


Public safety/security/crime prevention/offender apprehension; public space; crime prevention education

Loss prevention/protection of assets; risk mitigation; offender apprehension; private space; situational crime prevention


Public; multi-layered oversight, i.e. Police Acts, police boards; heavily regulated

Variable accountability/regulation self-regulation; oversight by contractor;

Legislated Mandate


None/contract-determined. Regulated by security services legislation

Scope of Activities

Broad; driven by legislated mandate, calls for service, public expectations; often intelligence-led and best practice driven; increasingly centered on collaborative relationships with multiple agencies and organizations, i.e. “hubs;” offender-oriented; community-oriented

Historically, limited; have become broad and specialized; contract-driven; absence of “hubs;” oriented to protection prevention, investigation, risk and vulnerability management; networks and collaborative relationships developed as required


Specific legislated powers; statutory immunity from civil suits if behaviour is “reasonable;” authority to use lethal force; may act to prevent commission of an offence; extensive body of law on police powers

Generally only civilian powers; liable to civil suits for their behaviour; with few exceptions, no authority to use lethal force; may not act to prevent commission of an offence; limited law in the area of private security and powers

Despite the differences, some observers have argued that private security and the public police are complementary to one another (Strom, et al., 2010:5-1). It has been noted, for example, that cooperation between private security and the police can reduce emergency response times, enhance the protection of critical infrastructure, and facilitate intelligence gathering (Strom, el al., 2010:5-1).

A report from the U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance (2000) took the perspective that public police and private security have strengths in different areas, which provides the basis for a collaborative effort. While the public police have special legal powers and extensive training, private security has many more officers and many firms have specialized expertise and access to technology beyond that of public police. In addition, involving private security can serve to maximize resources in a time of fiscal restraint.

Table 2: Recruitment and Training of Public Police Officers and Private Security Officers
Dimension Public Police Private Security

Recruitment and Training

Highly selective and competitive; on average, 1 in 100 candidates are successful; extensive recruit and in-service training; intensive training

Less selective; often minimal training, i.e. 40 hours in Ontario; often limited in-service training opportunities; limited training

Women/Visible/Cultural Minority and Aboriginal Officers

Targeted recruiting designed to increase diversity in police services; increasing representation of women, Aboriginals, visible/cultural minorities

No mandate to increase diversity; may be more diverse due to fewer barriers in hiring, i.e. fewer mandatory qualifications

Multi-cultural and diversity training

Increasing emphasis on training to address the needs of persons with mental illness; marginalized and at-risk populations; strengthened via collaborative partnerships between the police and community groups and organizations

Limited. A number of provinces mandate training to national occupational standards for security guards. Standard requires them to be knowledgeable about and sensitive to groups and persons with distinct or special needs

Education levels of officers

75% have college certification at minimum; a preferred qualification

Historically low; higher for specialized and in-house corporate security units

Use of force training

In depth and ongoing

Minimal. Mandated in several jurisdictions for persons carrying firearms etc.

Occupational culture

Policing as a career and as a profession

Traditional security officer positions often transient in nature; many desire a career in policing; specialized functions present variable career opportunities

Table 3: The Organizational Capacities of Public Police and Private Security
Dimension Public Police Private Security

Crime analysis/criminal intelligence analysis/predictive policing capacities

Significant and growing

For guard services, limited; security and risk management companies doing complex work advertise intelligence gathering as a primary function; little or no integration with public police information management systems; sophisticated systems in in-house corporate security units, casinos and other facilities with high security requirements

Effectiveness/performance metrics/outcomes

Increasing use of evidence-based practice and non-traditional performance metrics

Primary focus on costs and contract; client satisfaction; in-house corporate security units may have sophisticated performance metrics; loss prevention quantifies value of goods recovered

Public Perceptions

Generally positive, with certain “hot spots”

Generally unknown in Canada; mixed in other jurisdictions

Specialized expertise

Extensive, including civilian members

Variable, depending upon the company and its activities

Case Investigative capacity


Variable, depending upon the company and its activities; may have sophisticated internet investigative capacities

A senior Australian police official offered the following perspective on a major difference between public police and private security: “Private security sees risk as an opportunity; public police tend to hunker down.” There is an argument to be made that an entrepreneurial approach to risk and security may foster innovations more effectively than traditional police practice. Private security firms may be more flexible and adaptable than public police, be unencumbered by collective agreements that restrict how resources can be deployed, and have the potential to produce value for money. The extent to which these potential benefits of private security outweigh the more challenging issues surrounding the expansion of private security activities, i.e. the absence of governance and oversight, remains to be determined.

The Role and Powers of Private Security Officers

There are key differences in the powers exercised by public police and private security. Unlike the public police, for example, private security officers exercise considerable control over the persons who access the property they are tasked with protecting. On the other hand, private police officers are less protected from personal liability should they make an improper arrest (Strom, et al., 2010: 5-9). A major challenge is that private security officers are not subject to legislation setting out standards, neither of practice, nor to independent oversight.

Private security officers generally have less protection from personal liability in making improper arrests than public police. Generally, private security officers do not have any special powers, with the exception of those related to the protection of property. There are private security personnel with special powers, including peace officer status and the ability to remove persons from private property. There is also the ability of private security officers to secure compliance from the public due to the image of authority projected by being in uniform (Button, 2007a:13). Little attention has been given to the legal powers of private security officers or research into the level of knowledge that private security personnel have of their powers (Button, 2007a:9; 14-15).

Obstacles to the Development of Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

A dominant theme in the literature is the conflict that exists between the two entities, centering on a lack of trust and confidence and the absence of facilitative procedures to establish, and sustain, collaboration. Historically, private security has been viewed with considerable disdain, and distrust, by public police (Goldsby, 1998). This is reflected in the comments of a Canadian police officer who stated in the mid-1980s, “I wouldn't trust some security men to get a kitten out of a tree. They are incompetent. A lot of them need supervision, organization and training” (Shearing, et al, 1985:132; Shearing, Stenning and Addario, 1985). The private security literature is replete with concerns about the critical differences between public police and private security and the challenges associated with developing close relationships between the two entities.

Among the key factors that have contributed to this is the uncertainty that surrounds the roles and responsibilities of private security, particularly vis-à-vis the public police, as well as misperceptions as to the competencies of private security (Strom, et al., 2010:5-5). There are also barriers to information sharing and a lack of trust, often due to misinformation and misunderstandings. Historically, private security firms were viewed as a threat by police services, their leadership and unions, and still are in many jurisdictions. A fundamental difference is that the public police have a legislatively mandated duty to serve all segments of the community, while private security is contractually responsible to their employer (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:151).

The potentially inherently contradictory principles upon which the public police and private security firms operate; differences in levels of training; a lack of mutual respect between the parties; and the different powers that vested in the public police and private security have also impeded the development of partnerships (Moribita and Greenberg, 2005:5; Prenzler and Sarre, 2011). Additional obstacles include fear and anxiety amongst the public that the police are giving over their responsibilities to the private sector, resistance among senior police leaders and their management teams, and inexperience in working with contractors and the private sector (White, 2014a).

In any jurisdiction, the relationship between public and private security can be characterized by co-operation, competition, or co-existence (Noaks, 2008:157). A study that solicited the perspectives of police leaders (N=31) on working with the private security industry identified three “ideal” types of views: a) skeptics; b) pragmatists; and, c) embracers (Gill, 2015). The “skeptics” viewed private security as having only a minor role to play in the policing realm, while the officers categorized as “pragmatists” viewed the role of private security as a necessity rather than as desirable. “Embracers,” on the other hand, viewed private security as value-added and supported collaborative partnerships wherein private security personnel worked with public police officers.

This same group of senior police leaders interviewed by Gill (2015:281-84) expressed a number of concerns with private security. These included:

  1. the profit-driven nature of private security which might lead to two-tier policing: one tier for those who could pay for additional security and another tier for those unable to pay;
  2. ethical issues and the concern that private security companies may promise more than they can deliver, i.e. the G4S Olympic debacle;
  3. concern that private security companies might compromise quality in favour of the business bottom line;
  4. question as to whether private security companies, working under a fixed contract, would be flexible enough to respond to the unpredictable nature of demands for service;
  5. concern that too broad of powers might be transferred to private security companies, placing both private security personnel and citizens at risk;
  6. opposition to using private security personnel in core policing tasks; and
  7. concern that they, as police leaders, did not have the expertise, or time, to manage private security personnel as part of a collaborative partnership.

The concern with profits and incentives has been expressed in discussions about privatization and outsourcing. Although the private sector may use financial incentives to reward performance, these cannot be used for the public police (Financial Times, 2012:8). Some observers have noted the increased competition between public police and private security firms that are becoming increasingly aggressive in bidding to move into spaces currently occupied by public police, including human resource management, securing crime scenes, and involvement in case investigation (Rigakos, 2002).

Opportunities for Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

Notwithstanding the above-noted concerns, observers see considerable potential and opportunities for developing collaborative partnerships between the public police and private security and have argued that the relationship between the two may often be more complementary than adversarial (van Bruun and den Boer, 2009:20).

There are differences in how the various jurisdictions have approached the above-noted challenges. Research in the U.S. has found there is often a mutual interest of public police and private security to improve their working relationships (van Buuren and den Boer, 2009:52). In Australia, in contrast, private security has traditionally been viewed as unreliable and incompetent and, perhaps, criminal and as not providing the required services (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:11). These differences were ascribed to a variety of factors, including the involvement of the U.S. federal government in providing grant programs to increase the skill level and capacities of private security.

A report prepared by the U.S. federal government (2005:3) identified a number of benefits from the collaboration of public police and private security, including: 1) creative problem solving; 2) information, data, and intelligence sharing; and, 3) “force multiplier” opportunities.

In its report Policing Canada in the 21st Century: New Policing for New Challenges, the Expert Panel on the Future of Canadian Policing Models (Goudge, 2014:36) noted that the border safety and security web includes the security industry and private security companies. The security industry is identified as having a significant role to play in risk reduction and private security companies in deterrence and prevention (Goudge, 2014:37). The area of cybercrime, in particular, has been identified as one that requires partnerships between the public police and private security, given the pervasiveness of technology and its use in both the private and public sectors (Dupont, 2013).

In many respects, the relationship between the public police and private security has advanced considerably over the past three decades. A number of developments have facilitated the move toward cooperation and collaboration. These include: 1) the creation of new management information systems that link private security firms and private security firms and the public police; 2) in some jurisdictions, private sector funding of specialized public policing units and databases; and, 3) the increasing mobility of public police into the private sector (Dorn and Levi, 2007:228).

The United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime has made efforts to promote public police-private security partnerships, stating that “Private security needs to be considered in national and local government plans and partnership consultation for a number of reasons, but especially to ensure the inclusiveness of prevention strategies and the equality of security provision” (2010:103).

Public police and private security collaborate in a number of areas, including responding to crimes in progress, investigating crime, and sharing intelligence and knowledge (Wakefield, 2003:200). Private security can augment public police in a “value added,” “extra eyes and ears” role, or, in other circumstances, may assume a primary role, including being hired to patrol neighbourhoods (Mulone, 2011-2012). This has accelerated with the increasing concerns over terrorist threats (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:152). The sheer number of private security personnel that can be deployed can be useful both in reassuring the community and in providing an additional set of “eyes and ears” for public police (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005:2). The potential benefits of outsourcing to private security included 1) freeing the public police to focus on core functions; 2) benefits provided to the police by the expertise of private security personnel; and, 3) cost savings tasks, i.e. guarding crime scenes.

This cooperation is often facilitated by what has been referred to as the “revolving door of high policing” (O'Reilly and Ellison, 2006). This involves the increased movement of security operatives from the public to the private sector. The ‘old boys' club networks created by such public-private interaction inevitably provide significant scope for the pursuit of mutually advantageous associations” (van Bruun and den Boer, 2009:26).

In many jurisdictions, efforts have been made to address these obstacles and to explore the potential for greater synergies between the public police and private security. In Philadelphia, for example, the City Center District involves the police and private security working together at a substation (Strom, et al., 2010:5-7). In Minneapolis, private security officers are hired by the department to assist in patrolling the downtown areas of the city and this has resulted in an improvement in the area.

There are also public-private partnerships in the cyber-security area. In the UK, the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Partnership (CISP) is a collaborative initiative involving law enforcement and government security agencies and the private security industry (Ashford, 2013). Similarly, in Canada, the Canadian Cyber Incident Response Centre (CCIRC) involves a collaboration of government, public and private sector organizations, and agencies in other jurisdictions (Public Safety Canada, 2015).

Several observers have argued that the expansion of private security into areas traditionally within the purview of the public police may serve as a catalyst for the development of new collaborative partnerships and models of policing (Sarre, 2012:10).

The requirements for effective public police-private security partnerships include: 1) common goals; 2) knowledge of the capabilities and missions of the participants; 3) a tangible purpose; 4) agreement as to how the partnership will function; and, 5) a mutual commitment to provide the resources required to sustain the partnership (Moribito and Greenberg, 2005:5).

The Australian scholars Rick Sarre and Tim Prenzler have identified a number of conditions that are required for successful crime prevention partnerships. These include a shared interest in reducing specific types of crime; effective leadership among the partners; and information sharing (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:163). Barriers to partnerships include a lack of trust and various obstacles to information-sharing (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005:4).

To create and sustain police-private security partnerships requires the identification of common goals, collaborative planning, and knowledge of each party's capabilities and mandate (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005:5).

Today, public police-private security partnerships vary on a number of important attributes, including:

  1. the degree of formality;
  2. the specificity of the mission, i.e. some are formed to address specific problems, while others are more general in nature;
  3. leadership, with some led by the police, others by private security, and still others have a joint leadership arrangement;
  4. the type and level of funding; and
  5. inclusiveness, wherein some partnerships include a number of police services and businesses, while others are more limited in the scope of the partnership (U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2000:5).

Private Security, Democratic Values, and the Public Good

The expansion of private security services via collaborative partnerships with the public police and through privatization and outsourcing has generally occurred in the absence of a legislative framework.

An ongoing challenge for police services in a democratic society is to protect both public order and individual rights. There are natural tensions between the power and authority of the police and their legal mandate to maintain order, on the one hand, and the values and processes that exist in a democratic society on the other (Griffiths, 2014:31). This issue becomes more complex when considering the role of private security.

A key theme in the discussion of private security and of privatization is the extent to which the outsourcing of traditional police tasks involved “a shift from the logic of the public good to the logic of the market in the delivery of the market” (White, 2014:1002). This position is given credence by the expansion of private security in the spaces previously occupied by the public police. Examples are uniformed patrols in neighbourhoods and Business Improvement Districts and Associations, which make extensive use of private security to maintain order to reassure customers that the area is safe and secure (Vindevogel, 2005). A concern is that the expansion of private security will diminish the public dialogue that surrounds the role and activities of the public police (Krahmann, 2008). In presentations, private policing firms often highlight that utilizing the private sector ensures that companies are accountable for results and are motivated to be customer-service oriented. An absence of empirical research on this issue precludes an assessment of these claims.

There are concerns about the exclusionary role of private security officers: that they protect only those who can afford them (van Steden and Sarre, 2007:230). Observers have cautioned that it is important to avoid a situation where “the rich get effective policing and the poor do not (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:3).” In this scenario, the privileged will be able to purchase security, while the less affluent and marginalized communities will not. Observers have noted, “Paid private security tends to sweep marginalized segments of the community out of privileged spaces occupied by the wealthy” (Kempa, Stenning and Wood, 2004:564). This situation could result in public police being assigned to lower socio-economic areas (van Bruun and den Boer, 2009:32). Interdyk and Ruddell (Ruddell and Jones, 2014:61-62) found in a study of private security in Canada that there were more private security officers employed in cities that had the highest rates of violent crime and that more affluent communities tended to have more private security officers.

An observer in the UK has noted that, although crime rates in that country have been falling, there is a “reassurance gap” among the public; that is, “between fears about personal security and the realities of being victimized” (Rowland and Coupe, 2014:265). A key question is whether private policing can assist in closing this gap or whether there are limits to the role that the private sector can play in delivering what was previously a public service. Uniformed police officers project “control signals” that contribute to feelings of reassurance of safety and security amongst the general public, although these same images may spark fear and distrust among certain segments of the community (Rowland and Coupe, 2014:268). A UK study that compared police officers, police community safety officers (PCSOs), accredited community safety officers (ACSOs) and private security guards (SGs) study in the UK found that police officers evoked the highest levels of public reassurance in shopping malls than the other groups of uniformed personnel (Rowland and Coupe, 2014:280).

Privatization, Private Security and the Community

The public is more likely to have more contact with private security officers than with public police officers. Private security officers present in retail stores, conduct airport screening, are present in sporting venues, and at other community events. The similarities in uniforms may make it difficult for the public to distinguish between a public police officer and a private security officer. There are, however, no published studies of where the Canadian public would draw the line between the activities of public and private security.

To date, public input into discussions of private security in Canada has been minimal. While the Law Reform Commission (2006) explored various facets of private policing in the early 21st century, its consultations were with experts in the policing field and did not include a public consultation component. There has also been little provision made by governments for community input and feedback about the activities of private security officers.

In discussing this deficiency, one scholar (Barak-Erez, 2009:81) has noted, “in order to guarantee meaningful participation, privatization initiatives should be publicized well in advance, before their execution, in order to enable the submission of comments and objections.” This dialogue is only now beginning to occur in Canada.

A UK study found that while community residents were satisfied with private security officers, there was reluctance to expand private security powers. The preference was for private security to play a secondary, supportive role to public police (Noaks, 2008:162). There are also poll results from the UK indicating strong support for banning private contractors such as G4S and Serco from bidding for and holding public contracts if the firms are found guilty of fraud (, 2013). European research has found that persons having previous contact with private security officers were more likely to hold negative perceptions of private security (van Steden and Nalla, 2010:231). This is generally the case for public police as well (Griffiths, 2016) and suggests that interpersonal and communication skills should be a major focus of training for private security personnel. Similarly, from a review of the limited research that has been conducted on public attitudes toward private security, Button (2007a:179) found that private security has high value in the nodes or “ponds” in which they operate as a part of the larger network of safety and security.

Among the concerns that have been raised about private security and the community is how these officers are deployed. It is the contractor, rather than the police service itself, that decides how private security will be deployed. Driven by the private sector, private security may contribute to the “over-policing” of certain groups in the community. Research conducted in the U.S. found that private security officers were more likely to be deployed to high-trouble areas, which may result in over-policing (Ruddell, Thomas and Patten, 2011). A survey of a sample (N=154) of residents in the Downtown Eastside of Vancouver found a high level of interaction between residents and private security officers. One-third of residents having four or more contacts per month; the homeless and under-housed residents are more likely to have negative encounters with private security officers; the officers were perceived to routinely use force illegally and abuse their authority by forcing residents to move from public property; and, residents were generally unaware of their rights when interacting with private security officers (Bennett, et al., 2008:iv-v). In contrast to their more wealthy fellow citizens, residents in these areas do not have the economic means to buy security (Kempa, et al., 1999; van Buuren and den Boer, 2009). An over-arching issue is the extent to which non-police agencies should be involved in social control (Prenzler and Sarre, 1998). There are no published studies of public opinion of private security officers, private security-citizen interactions, of perceptions of private security held by the youth, elderly, and visible/cultural/religious minorities, Aboriginal persons, and marginalized persons. Research in other jurisdictions has produced mixed results: a number of studies have found positive public views of private security, while other studies have recorded negative perceptions (Nalla and Heraux, 2003; van Senden and Nalla, 2010).

There is also a question as to whether the expansion of private security services will undermine the legitimacy of the public police. Community residents are generally unaware of the role, mandate, and powers of private security officers who, upon first glance, may appear to be police officers. Similarly, citizens may not know their rights when interacting with private security officers. If private security officers commit illegal acts or engage in unethical behaviour, this may reflect poorly on the public police. Key questions include “Do private security firms have to be equally concerned with notions of policing by consent?” and, ‘Do they need the public's willingness to be policed?” (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:17). There are instances in which private security officers have been removed from certain functions due to community expectations, one example being the removal of transport safety officers in the UK due to community demands (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:3).

Initiatives to contract out policing services have not always had positive outcomes. Due to fiscal pressures, and as part of a re-organization, Camden, New Jersey disbanded its police service and hired private security to conduct street patrols. Complaints about illegal searches led to the cancellation of the contract with the private security company. Currently, the private security firm Allied Barton is under contract to provide services for a number of functions – e.g. traffic officers; officers in public schools. These officers are not armed.

Oversight and Accountability of Private Security

A key set of concerns surrounding the role of private security and privatization are how to ensure accountability, transparency and the principles of democratic policing (Harris, 2012). Concerns have been expressed that the increased “marketization of crime control” requires a discussion of the governance of private security (van Buuren and den Boer, 2009:33). Furthermore, the Law Reform Commission of Canada (2006:10) noted that the law and regulatory frameworks have not kept pace with the expansion of private security. Others contend that private security firms can already be held liable both criminally and civilly as well as to their clients. Observers have argued that private security should be subjected to the same form of democratic governance and accountability as the public police (Burbridge, 2005). A recent report on police modernization by the Association of Municipalities Ontario (2015:20) noted that there is currently minimal public oversight of the private security industry. In all of the jurisdictions reviewed for this project, there are concerns with the oversight and accountability of the private security industry (Public Safety Canada, 2012:16). There are questions about the rights of citizens whose rights are violated by private security officers, among others. In Canada, the provinces/territories are responsible for legislation concerning the private security industry. Unlike other jurisdictions such as the UK and countries in mainland Europe, there is no national legislation governing private policing. Across the EU, there is considerable variation in the regulation of the private security industry; with mainland countries have much more rigorous systems of oversight than exist in the UK. In Belgium, for example, there are stringent character requirements for owners, managers and staff; standards for mandatory training, uniforms and vehicles; and requirements for annual reports (Button, 2007b:117).

Despite the increase in privatization and outsourcing in the UK, there has not been the creation of a national oversight body to hold private security firms independently accountable (Townsend, 2012). The Independent Police Complaints Commission has called for legislators to give it the powers required to provide oversight to private security personnel who perform police functions. Notably, the private security firm G4S has included IPCC compliance in the strategic partnership that it has with the Lincolnshire police (see below). In 2014, the Chair of the Public Accounts Committee in the House of Commons (UK) criticized the decision of government officials to award contracts to the private companies G4S and Serco while they were under criminal investigation for fraud (Hodge, 2014). The Chair of the committee noted that the two companies had not been good stewards of the taxpayers money and further that, “The legitimate pursuit of profit does not justify the illegitimate failure to conduct business in an ethical manner” (Hodge, 2014:2). The committee had found that the two companies had overcharged the Ministry of Justice for contract services, while Serco was discovered to have altered performance data. The Chair of the committee issued a directive that there should be more oversight of private sector firms and that “Government must guard against quasi-monopoly suppliers becoming too important to fail…” (Hodge, 2014:2). In its report, the Law Reform Commission of Canada (2006:95-96) called for the development of regulations of private security to ensure “equality of access, impartiality, and protection of civil rights and civil liberties.”

There are also concerns surrounding illegal and unethical conduct by private security firms. The Australian scholars Tim Prenzler and Rick Sarre (2012:343) have identified the main forms that this may take, including: 1) fraud; 2) incompetence; 3) under-award payments and exploitation of security staff; 4) corruption practices, e.g. bribery in tendering 5) violence (e.g. assaults perpetrated by security officers); 6) false arrest and detention; and, 7) discrimination and harassment; among others. However, it should not be assumed that private security personnel are less ethical and have a different value orientation than public police. The issue of criminality in the private security industry has remained largely unexplored. A report (Transparency International, 2011:8) from the UK highlighted the risks of the influence of organized crime over private security firms and cautioned that private security businesses could be utilized as conduits for money laundering. In Canada, there are no specific provisions for oversight designed to deter the infiltration of organized crime into the private security industry and this is generally the case in other jurisdictions as well. Historically, the licensing of private security firms in Ontario was the responsibility of the Anti-Rackets Branch of the OPP. This suggests that there were concerns with organized crime potentially infiltrating the private security industry. The licensing authority does criminal record checks, but does not have an arrangement with the police to do background checks for organized crime affiliations.

The Effectiveness of Private Security

A key feature of policing in the early 21st century is the use of evidence-based best practices. Police strategies and operations are increasingly informed by sophisticated analyses that are interfaced with the qualitative dimensions of the delivery of police services. Police services have strengthened research and planning units, increased the number of civilians with specialized expertise, and worked to close the gap between the administrative and operational levels of police work.

In contrast, the development of best practices and evidence-based policy and practice in private security has been far more elusive. This is due to a variety of factors, including a lack of analytical capacity and expertise, the contract-focused nature of much private security work, and the transient nature of many private security contracts. With the exception of companies providing specialized services, such as forensic accounting and cyber-security, private security firms are less likely to invest resources in assessing the effectiveness of specific strategies in various environments when the work is being provided on a fixed-term basis. There is a need to understand the factors that contribute to, and limit, the effectiveness of private security (Dupont, 2005:5).

A number of benefits of public police-private security partnerships have been articulated (Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium, 2009: 2-3), including:

  1. reducing the costs of public police operations;
  2. providing private security officers with access to training and development;
  3. providing the public police with access to resources and technologies held in the private sector; and,
  4. bolstering emergency planning capacities and preparedness.

To date, however, these assertions have rarely been subjected to empirical study and the situation is particularly dire in Canada where this review revealed no published studies.

A number of police scholars who study private security have argued that private security services have played a significant role in preventing property crimes and crimes of violence (Prenzler, 2013:16). There is, however, only a limited amount of research on the effectiveness of private security in enhancing public safety (Heaton, et al., 2015:1). Many of the assessments of the effectiveness of the private security industry are subjective (Button, 2007a) and a number of observers (Cook and MacDonald, 2010:7) have noted, “there is little systemic evidence on the crime-prevention effects of private security guards.”

Australian observers have noted that private security personnel are “the guardians of patrons in the night-time economy” although there is an absence of research on their effectiveness in reducing alcohol-related disorder and injuries (Hayes-Jonkers, Pointing, and Clough, 2012:326). In the U.S., university police have been found to contribute to public safety and that these private security services may be a cost-effective way to address crime and violence in this particular setting (Heaton, et al, 2015:21). A key argument of proponents of expanding the role of private security is that it increases the number of sworn officers on the street, although there is no empirical evidence to support this contention.

Research studies on the effectiveness of private policing in Canada are virtually non-existent and those that do exist have produced mixed results (Nellis, 2012). Scholars have called for research into the activities of private security officers as a critical component of the dialogue on public policing and private security and the economics of policing (Manzo, 2009). At present, there is a scarcity of evaluation research that would determine, for example, whether private security services are cost-effective and efficient (Prenzler, 2013:22).

From the literature, a number of best practices for private security providers have been identified (Hayes-Jonkers, Pointing, and Clouth, 2012:330-31). The major categories and examples within each include:

Training and Skill Levels of Private Security Personnel

Training is a key component of the effort to raise the standard of private security yet a number of observers have expressed concerns about the minimal training of private security personnel (Heaton, et al, 2015; Roberts, 2012). With the continued expansion of private security into areas formerly the domain of the public police, this assumes even greater importance. Training will determine the extent to which private security personnel are effectively able to take on the role of “para-police” in which they utilize the full legal tools at their disposal. This includes private security personnel being involved in “risky situations” (Button, 2007a:184-185). It has been noted that in most instances, private security personnel are less carefully screened and receive less training that public police officers, although this generalization may not hold for personnel working in the security units in large corporations (Lippert, Walby and Steckle, 2013).

In Canada, there is considerable variation across the country with respect to oversight, licensing, mandatory training, and in the provisions for oversight and accountability. This information is presented later in the report. Review of legislation showed government in most jurisdictions approves and authorizes training service providers. Training providers include educational institutions and private service providers. A number of provinces have provincial security guard or security service manuals (e.g. SK, AB, ON). In some provinces, the basic training is offered on-line and through approved career institutes. There is an issue of quality control, however. In Ontario, for example, anyone can teach the private security course, regardless of qualifications. The province does not have a standard oversight protocol or certification process for all of the private security courses taught in the province (Inside Security, 2012:1). The training curricula for private security personnel generally includes topics such as an overview of private policing, legal issues, patrol, report writing, responding to emergencies, and personal safety. Noticeably absent is instruction in interacting with addicted persons, persons with a mental illness, and visible or cultural minorities. The Ontario training program, for example, provides for a total of 5 hours of “sensitivity training” – three hours in class and two hours outside of class (Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services, 2012:3). A number of observers have called for national training and licensing standards. Interviews with a sample (N=29) of private security officers found that their training had focused primarily on “practical procedures” and in “customer service” (Manzo, 2009:403). These officers managed emergencies by utilizing skills sets acquired outside of their positions. (A more detailed discussion of training for private security personnel in Canada is presented below.)

The private policing industry is very cost-competitive. Data from the Canadian Labour Force Survey (Hutchins, 2015:15) indicate that the hourly wage of police officers in Canada during 2012 was $27.12, compared to $12.88 for security guards. The average hourly wage rate for police officers increased seven percent in the decade 2002-2012, as compared to five percent for security guards. This low pay, combined with minimal regulation by governments, has resulted in an occupation that is generally filled by low-wage and less-skilled workers (The Training Group, 2006). A study of a sample of Canadian private security officers (N=108) found significant gaps in skill levels in reading, document use, and numeracy skills. For example, on average, only 30% or less of the sample of commercial, institutional, and special event security officers had writing skills at the benchmarked level. Only 16% of the institutional security guards had reading texts levels at the expected “typical” level (Training Group, 2006:1; 18). The authors of the report concluded that mandatory training courses of two weeks were not sufficient to provide officers with the required skill sets.

The Limits of Private Security

The discussion of the role of private security in reducing the costs of policing and increasing police effectiveness has generally centered on the potential for contracting out and outsourcing. This has included more administrative type activities such as crime scene security, process serving, traffic control, photo radar enforcement, and by-law enforcement.

Less attention has been given to the limitations of private security and few jurisdictions have set the parameters within which private security will operate. Allowing the role of private security to evolve organically and in the absence of a strategic plan may produce creative initiatives, however, it also runs the risk of compromising the safety and security of the community. Several provinces have taken a more strategic approach to developing provincial security programs. The Alberta (AB) program, for example, is a three-layered model that includes police, peace officers (including sheriffs) and private security. The oles and responsibilities for each are specified. The Province of Ontario Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services (2013) is working on a Future of Policing study and the Association of Municipalities in Ontario's Policing Modernization Report are examining private security services as an integral component of the public safety and security web.

Private security has the potential to contribute to public safety and security, although it may also, potentially, “breed anxiety without offering workable solutions” and undermine public policing (Gill, 2015:278). The unfettered expansion of private security into public spaces may also compromise the core principles of policing as set out by Sir Robert Peel: that the public are the police and the police are the public. A number of observers have questioned whether the privatization of public policing will erode the tenets of democratic policing where (at least in principle) the rights and interests of all citizens are protected, not just those of persons and entities than afford such protection (Sklansky, 2006). Ayling, Grabosky and Shearing (2009:251) have identified a number of dangers in the public police developing external relationships, including with the private security industry, which they contend, may lead the public to believe that safety is a “purchasable commodity.”

In many cases, public police and private security play fundamentally different roles, which limit the extent to which policing services can be transferred to private security firms. It is unlikely, for example, that private security firms would be able to contract out to provide investigative services in cases of serious violent crime; or to conduct sophisticated covert operations against organized crime. The extent to which private security firms would be amenable to participating in multi-agency, collaborative initiatives and the degree of public support for these partnerships is unclear.

A notable feature of many community-based policing initiatives is that they are time-consuming and may not result in outcomes that can be directly measured on a cost-benefit basis. This includes the increasingly popular and demonstrably effective “hub” model that brings together the police and a variety of social service and other agencies and organizations to address the needs of persons in conflict with the law (McFee and Taylor, 2014).

Similarly, although public police-community relationships have often been tainted by conflict, particularly in Aboriginal, visible minority and cultural minority communities, it is not known what the response to private security firms assuming a broader role in these environments would be. Whether private security firms could play an expanded role in rural and remote areas of Australia, Canada, and the U.S. has also not been examined.

Private Security and Privatization

The United States

Private security has a long history in the U.S., extending back to the 19th century when private security companies were used to break labour strikes and were involved in criminal investigations and bounty hunting (Prenzler, 2013:33). White (2010:183) notes that, “[P]rivate security companies have never been completed pushed out of the security sector by monopolistic state forces.” The entrepreneurial, free-market ideology has also facilitated the expansion of private security firms (White, 2010:183). Today, private security personnel now outnumber the public police by a wide margin (Sallee, 2014).

The accelerated growth of private security in the U.S. beginning in the late 1970s was due to a number of factors, including a change in the community and commercial environments. More specifically, “More commercial and residential activities occur in a quasi-public environment that is beyond the normal reach of public police” (Blackstone and Hakim, 2013:160). This was accompanied by the emergence and growth of in-house corporate security units with investigative and analytical capacities that in some instances are more sophisticated than those of the public police (Blackstone and Hakim, 2013:161; Lippert and Walby, 2014). As Blackstone and Hakim (2013:168) note, “Police provide a standard service of sworn officers while private security is able to differentiate officers according to clients' demands.” The authors also (2013:164) noted that, “The structure of the private security industry is conducive for competitive pricing, technological and managerial innovations, differentiated products, and ultimately growth at the expense of public police.”

There are also incentives for companies to use private security firms rather than the public police to investigate malfeasance, “A company is typically interested in solving the problem as inexpensively as possible rather than punishing the perpetrator” (Blackstone and Hakim, 2013:166). The increased demand and requirement for private security was also influenced by court decisions that held businesses liable for crimes against their customers (Blackstone and Hakim, 2013:162).

Two recent events that had a significant impact on the role and activities of private security organizations in the U.S. were the terrorist attacks on 9/11, and the fiscal deficits of governments. The terrorist attacks resulted in an increased focus on risk and security and recognition that the public police alone did not have the resources to be everywhere at all times. As one report stated, “[T]o effectively protect the nation's infrastructure, law enforcement and private security must work collaboratively because neither possess the necessary resources to do so alone” (Morabito and Greenberg, 2005: vii). It was recommended that police leaders form partnerships with their private security counterparts. As a consequence, the public police in the U.S. no longer have a monopoly on providing security for the community (Blackstone and Hakim, 2013) and further that “the increased penetration of private security is socially beneficial by improving efficiency, delivering client-oriented services and forcing police to improve their performance” (2013:157).

Private security firms in the U.S. are involved in a wide range of activities, including “guard services, alarm monitoring, armored transport, correctional facilities management, systems integration and management, security consulting, pre-employment screening, and information security” (Strom, et al., 2010:4-6). A study conducted in 2005 found that “guarding” (both armed and unarmed) represented nearly one-half of the services provided by private security firms (Strom, et al., 2010:4-8). Figures from 2009 illustrate the range of settings where private security officers have proprietary status: retails, restaurants and food service (16.7%); casinos, hospitality, arenas and entertainment venues (15.7%); healthcare businesses, medical centres, hospitals (12.9%); and federal, state and local government (10.9%) (Strom, et al., 2013:4-12).

Of the jurisdictions reviewed for the present study, U.S. private security personnel are most likely to be armed with lethal force. This may have a significant impact on how private security personnel act and how they are perceived by the public.

It has been argued that the monopolistic nature of policing has hindered competitiveness and efficiency in the delivery of security services (Blackstone and Hakim, 2013:167) and it has been pointed out that public police services have been losing “market share” as municipalities have contracted out public police tasks to private security firms in an effort to control costs. In an interview with the project team, the Vice President of Operations for a large U.S. private security company observed that many police services don't agree with shared services models or restrict information exchange. In their view, the best practice is sharing as much information as possible.

In the post-9/11 era, there has been an exponential growth in private intelligence firms, many staffed primarily by ex-military personnel. Van Buuren and den Boer (2009:7) have noted that during the period 2005-2009, “2,435 former senior U.S. military personnel have been recruited in 52 different private security and intelligence companies and 422 of those occupied roles [are] identical to those [they had] when in active service.” In addition, they noted, “It is estimated that 70% of the budget for U.S. intelligence agencies is provided via subcontracts to private corporations.” This raises a number of issues about transparency and accountability and may portend the rise of a military-private intelligence complex and the involvement of multi-national conglomerates in private policing.

In the 1970s, the U.S. federal government commissioned a council to investigate the private security industry and to make recommendations to improve standards and to increase its effectiveness (U.S. Department of Justice, 1977:3). In its final report, the council stated, “Law enforcement and private security both have significant responsibilities in crime prevention and reduction, but their most effective role will be one that combines their respective talents and resources in a complementary and coordinated attack on crime”. The council made a number of recommendations with respect to licensing, training standards, and the development of public police-private security partnerships. A subsequent report by the U.S. Department of Justice in 1987 identified a number of collaborative initiatives between police and private security, including crowd control (Connors, et al., 2000).

Types of Private Security

Table 4 presents the various types of private policing that exist in the U.S.

Table 4: Types of private security in the United States
Type: Example Goals Resources Legal Powers Jurisdiction Organizational Location

K Mart Guards

Prevention of property loss

Material resources, social technologies, “old boy network”

Property law, citizen powers, or deputization

Confined to boundaries of property

Typically contracted

Kroll Associates

Gathering information

Material resources, “old boy network”

Citizen powers or court-appointment

Wide ranging if citizen powers use

Incorporated within organization or contracted

Publicly Contracted:
Kalamazoo, MI force

Provision of previously public and specific service

Materials resources, social technologies

Citizen powers or deputization

Scope defined by contract with public agency

Supervised and/or contracted by public agency


Multidimensional: risk assessment, reputation protection, loss prevention

Materials resources, social technologies, “old boy network”

Employment contract, property law, citizen powers

Physical and legal boundaries of organization

Incorporated within organization

Source: Joh, 2005:610

Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

In the U.S., there are a variety of collaborative programs involving public police and private security. Among the activities of these initiatives are: 1) networking; 2) information sharing; 3) crime prevention; 4) resource sharing; 5) training; 6) drafting and supporting legislation on a variety of topics, including training; 7) operations; and, 8) distribution of research findings and protocols (U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics, 2000:6).

A review of the private security industry in the U.S. revealed a wide variety of partnerships between public police and private security firms.

  1. The Minneapolis Police Department has established a shared radio channel in the downtown area to improve communications between police officers and private security guards and off-duty officers. This resulted in a drastic reduction in bank robberies in the area, leading the Chief to comment, “It's amazing how that partnership has paid off for us” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014:26).
  2. Commenting on the role that private security personnel fill in Greensboro, North Carolina, the Chief noted that, “I think there are ways to incorporate private security into the work we do without the fear of them taking over our responsibilities” (U.S. Department of Justice, 2014:26).
  3. In New York, the Area Police-private Security Liaison (APPL) works to enhance collaboration and cooperation between the public police and private security, particularly in the area of risk and security in the post-911 era (U.S. Department of Justice, 2005:11). In 1986, the NYPD established the APPL program, which is designed to facilitate cooperation between the police and private security organizations (U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2000:7). The program provides a forum for information sharing, supports the operation of a specialized business squad in mid-town Manhattan, and facilitates the inclusion of private security representatives in the NYPD command and control centre during emergencies (U.S. Bureau of Justice Assistance, 2000:7).
  4. The town of Sand Springs, Georgia has privatized nearly all of its public services. Although the town does have a police and fire service, police 911 dispatch has been contracted out to a New Jersey company (Segal, 2012).
  5. Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) are illustrative of partnerships between government, business groups, police and private security (Cook and MacDonald, 2010). The overall objective is to improve the physical environment through crime prevention and other initiatives. Evaluations of these programs have produced mixed results (MacDonald, et al, 2009) although in some instances there have been significant reductions in the levels of crime (Brooks, 2008; Cook and MacDonald, 2010; Vindevogel, 2005). More specifically, a study of BIDs in Los Angeles (Cook and MacDonald, 2010) found that this initiative reduced the levels of crime, did not displace crime to adjacent areas, and resulted in significant reductions in criminal justice system costs.

There have also been instances of community “push-back” to attempts to privatize police functions. Community pressure forced the city government in Fullerton, California, for example, to rescind a proposal to contract out certain police tasks (Ponsi, 2012).

Training, Licensing and Certification

As in other jurisdictions, there is in the U.S. considerable variation in the provisions for training, licensing, certification, and oversight of private security. Observers have noted, “Licensing and regulation vary widely from state to state. Some states require all security officers to be licensed, while others require only contract security officers or those carrying firearms on the job to have licenses” (Strom, et al., 2010:6-1;6-2). There is also variation from state to state in the composition of licensing boards. In Hawaii, for example, the Board of Private Detectives and Guards “is composed of one private detective, one security guard, two chiefs of police, two members of the public, and the Director of Commerce and Consumer Affairs” (Strom, et al., 2010:6-6). Fourteen states currently have no licensing requirements for private security.

In 2011, the state of California passed legislation that established regulations requiring proprietary guards and their employers to register and for the guards to receive training within six month of registration. The legislation also set financial penalties for non-compliance (Strom, et al., 2010:6-7). In recent years, there has been the move toward certification of guards; through ASIS International, for example, security personnel can obtain the Certified Protection Professional (CPP) designation, a transferrable certification. The certification indicates that the person is “Board Certified in Security Management” (Strom, et al., 2010:6-7). A number of jurisdictions have also developed requirements that background and security checks be done on applications for positions in private security and requiring that personnel participate in continuing education.

Despite these developments, there is still considerable work to be done to professionalize private security firms. In 2010, 31 states had in place licensing and registration requirements for private security guards; however, only 18 states required all armed guards to be licensed (Strom, et. al., 2010:8-1). There is also a paucity of information on the legal powers of private security personnel in the States.

It has been argued that private security personnel should be held to the constitutional limitations found in the Bill of Rights (Enion, 2009). As Enion (2009:553) states, “Both official police and private police functioning as arms of the state should be held to constitutional standards because they have been legitimized, directly or indirectly, by the state, to fulfill a public demand for order and security.”


During the time period 1996-2006, the number of private security personnel in Australia increased by 41% as compared to 14% for public police (Prenzler, Earle, and Sarre, 2009:3). In 2006, there were 226 public police officers per 100,000 population, as compared to 266 private security personnel per 100,000 population (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:14). Between 2001 and 2006, there was an 8.4% increase in the numbers of public police and an 8.6% increase in private security (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:15).

The primary catalysts for the growth of private security in Australia appears to be market demand, coupled with the rise of self-protection (Rollings, 2008; Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:31). One major area of growth is in the area of home and commercial security and the increasing use of surveillance technology. This led one observer to point out that, “Private security personnel appear to have been growing at a faster rate than both the police and the population (Prenzler, 2013:42). A review of the private security industry found a high level of concentration in a small number of companies and a high degree of foreign ownership of the major security companies in the country (Prenzler, Earle, and Sarre, 2009:5).

Training, Licensing and Regulation

In Australia, regulation of private security falls under the authority of the states and territories and all jurisdictions have enacted legislation setting out licensing and operational requirements. It is estimated that the security industry in Australia is worth over AUD$4.5 billion. Most persons in the private security industry are employed in manpower roles, i.e. bodyguard, bouncer, mobile security guard, loss prevention officer, or in a technician role, i.e. security system installers.

The licensing and regulation of private security in Australia, however, has been described as a “dog's breakfast” (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:6) and a number of issues have surrounded oversight, training, and qualifications (see below). There is considerable variation across the country with respect to oversight, training, and qualifications for private security personnel and inconsistency in regulatory practices (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:34). Table 5 sets out the relevant legislation for private security in each Australia state.

Table 5: Relevant legislation for private security regulation in each jurisdiction
Jurisdiction Legislation

Australian Capital Territory (ACT)

Security Industry Act 2003 (ACT)
Security Industry Regulations 2003

New South Wales (NSW)

Security Industry Act 1997 (NSW)
Commercial Agents & Private Inquiry Agents Act 2004 (NSW)
Security Industry Regulation 2007

Northern Territory (NT)

Private Security Act 1995 (NT)
Together with the Criminal Code 1994 (NT)
Security Industry Regulations 1995

Queensland (QLD)

Security Providers Act 1993 (QLD)
Security Providers (Crowd Controller Code of Practice) Regulation 2008
Security Providers (Security Firm Code of Practice) Regulations 2008
Security Providers (Security Officer Licensed Premised Code of Practice) Regulation 2008
Security Providers Regulation, 2008

South Australia (SA)

Security and Investigation Agents Act 1995 (SA)
Security and Investigation Agents Regulations 1996

Tasmania (TAS)

Security and Investigations Agents Act 2002 (TAS)
Security and Investigations Agents Regulations 2005

Victoria (VIC)

Private Security Act 2004 (VIC)
Private Security Regulation 2005

Western Australia (WA)

Security and Related Activities (Control) Act 1996 (WA)
together with the Security and Related Activities (Control) Act 2007 (WA)

Source: Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:36

Recently, increasing attention has been given in some jurisdictions to strengthening the regulation and oversight of private security and to the powers of private security personnel (Sarre, 2008). The Council of Australian Governments (COAG) has been very active in promoting the development of minimum national standards for training (COAG, 2008). Some States are more progressive than others are in this respect, Sarre and Prenzler (2011:39) noting, “There are significant discrepancies between jurisdictions about what licenses are available and which activities are regulated.”

In South Australia, for example, reforms have focused on licensing security industry trainers, and in other jurisdictions provisions and regulations have been developed to regulate crowd controllers (including alcohol and drug testing) and penalties for unlicensed private security operators (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:36). Western Australia is considered to have the most tightly regulated private industry in the country (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:36). Table 6 sets out the type of regulatory authority in each of the Australian states.

Table 6: State Regulatory Authorities, Australia
Jurisdiction Regulatory Authority


Government agency


Police with internal administrative agency


Government agency


Government agency


Government agency


Government agency




Police with internal administrative agency

Source: Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:37

The information in Table 6 reveals that in some Australian States, the police are involved in providing regulatory oversight of the private security industry.

A survey of security personnel (N=170) in Australia found that 67% of the respondents felt that existing regulatory systems were “highly effective,” “effective” or “moderately effective” in ensuring practical competencies for persons entering the industry. Sixty-one percent had similar views of the extent to which the regulatory regimen encouraged ethical conduct in the industry. In contrast, 59% of the respondents indicated that the regulatory system was “highly ineffective” in removing disreputable operators from the private security industry and 33% felt that the regulatory system was “highly ineffective” in removing criminal elements from the industry (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011).

There was general agreement among the respondents that the regulatory systems were effective in ensuring appropriate training and licensing, although a majority felt that there was not adequate pre-license training in a number of skills areas, including communication, conflict resolution, physical restraint, and self-defence (Sarre and Prenzler, 2013:67-68). Further, nearly 60% felt that there had not been adequate consultation with the private security industry in the development of regulatory legislation, the level of communication between the regulatory agencies and the private security industry was inadequate, and that there was insufficient enforcement of legislative and regulatory provisions (Prenzler and Sarre, 2013:72-73).

The Activities of Private Security

In Australia, private security personnel are involved in a wide variety of activities that were previously in the domain of the public police. This includes crowd control, guarding and patrolling premises, court security, crime prevention, risk management, evidence-gathering, and case investigation (Sarre and Prenzler, 2011:8).

In 2015, police in the state of Victoria signed a AUD$164 million Information Technology (IT) services outsourcing contract to support all of the department's computers, mainframe, infrastructure and applications and storage services (Coyne, 2015). This deal replaced outsourced contracts with five separate providers. A comprehensive review of police and community safety in Queensland called for the police to examine the potential for developing partnerships and outsourcing with the private sector in certain areas such as fleet management and training (Keelty, 2013:289). One initiative was to have civilians replace sworn officers in speed camera vans (Murray, 2013).

The Blue Ribbon Paper produced by the Victoria Police (2014) set out a wide range of activities that may not be considered core police business. These are presented in Appendix B, Table 11. The Blue Paper provided the catalyst for a number of proposals to outsource police services. These includes proposals that private companies would manage police cells and that tasks such as firearms licensing, transporting prisoners, and processing traffic fines would be handed over to public servants or outsourced to private firms (Bucci, Mills, and Cook, 2014; Mills, 2014). Considerable resistance was encountered from politicians and the police association and the fate of the proposals is unknown as of mid-2015.

Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

There is a considerable literature on the partnerships between public police and private security in Australia (Sarre, 2011). An Australian police scholar (Prenzler, 2013:43) has noted the trend toward greater cooperation between the public police and private security. This includes collaborative efforts at sporting events and in providing airport security. Survey research conducted during the 1990s found that there was “good” or “very good” cooperation between police and private security, although there was resistance among the police to outsourcing many functions to the private sector (Goldsby and O'Brien, 1996).

There are a number of illustrative examples of public police-private security partnerships in Australia:

  1. The “Eyes on the Street” program is a crime prevention initiative in Western Australia that involves a partnership between the police, local government, the private business sector, and the private security industry. It mobilizes the efforts of all of the partners to report incidents to the police and to provide information that will lead to arrests. An evaluation found that although there was strong support for the program among the participant businesses, there was no evidence that it reduced crime (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:157).
  2. An initiative designed to reduce the number of thefts from ATMs in New South Wales, involving a partnership between the police and bank security managers resulted in significant reductions in these offences (Prenzler, 2011).
  3. The Ipswich (Queensland) Safe City Program is centered on a CCTV system managed by a contracted private security firm. The initiative was designed to reduce disorder in the city centre. The monitoring centre is linked to public police and private security personnel. The program also focuses on crime prevention and provides referrals to social services for persons in need. Despite the high levels of support for the program and media claims of success, there is no empirical evidence that the program has been successful in reducing the rates of property and violent crime (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:163).

Concerns Surrounding Private Security

There have been a number of inquiries into the private security industry, conducted by the Australian Crime Commission, the New South Wales Independent Commission against Corruption, and the Fair Work Ombudsman (Prenzler and Milroy, 2012). A number of issues were identified from these, including the potential for criminal activity and the infiltration of private security by organized crime groups, exploitation of security officers through low wages, and corruption in security guard training schemes (Prenzler and Milroy, 2012). There are concerns in some jurisdictions with the criminal infiltration of the private security industry (Australian Crime Commission, 2013). Fraud, corrupt practices, insider crime, trading in illicit goods, and money laundering are of particular concern. Australian scholars cite instances in which private security companies have been prosecuted for misrepresentation of patrol and alarm monitoring services; abuse of citizen's rights; and other violations of the law (Prenzler and Sarre, 1998). A report by the Fair Work Ombudsman (2010), based on audits of private security firms (N=256), found that 49% of the firms were found not to be complaint with the provisions of the Fair Work Act. Among the issues was noncompliance with time and wage record reporting requirements and under payment of wages (Prenzler and Milroy, 2012:351). These inquiries raised both the profile and the risk profile of the private security industry in Australia (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012).

The Effectiveness of Australian Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

Research on initiatives in Australia has found that while there is often support for specific initiatives and programs that may provide a degree of reassurance to the community and to businesses, the impact on crime reduction is uncertain. From their review, Prenzler and Sarre concluded that the research evidence “lends cautious support to the idea of public-private crime prevention partnerships” (2012:164). An evaluation of the impact of private security on the nighttime economy of Cairns, Queensland found that a model of community-based crime prevention was being used. This involved a network of all of the key stakeholders and reflected a number of established best practices although there were significant gaps in training and in communication between the partners (Hayes-Jonkers, Pointing and Clough, 2012:337).

From a review of the experience of public police and private security in Australia, Prenzler (2013:51) concluded, “[T]he evidence suggests strongly that police and government can work successfully with private security in a way that goes well beyond corporate jargon in producing real synergies in crime reduction. This observer goes on to note that private security has made a significant contribution to the reduction in crime rates. The key players in this effort have been municipal and state governments, the public police, private security services, and various private sector groups, i.e. business associations.”

Sarre and Prenzler (2011:6) have identified a number of best practices that increase the potential of police-private security collaboration. These are: 1) a common interest in reducing a specific crime or crime set; 2) effective leadership from each partner organization; 3) mutual respect; 4) information-sharing based on high levels of trust and communication; and, 5) a willingness to experiment and consider all ideas; among others (2012:163).

New Zealand

Private security companies in New Zealand are involved in a wide variety of activities, including patrolling and monitoring private property; providing bodyguards; monitoring movements into and within premises; and consulting on security issues; among others (Ministry of Justice, New Zealand, n.d.). Oversight is provided by the Private Security Personnel Authority, which was established under the Private Security Personnel and Private Investigators Act (2010). The Authority is responsible for issuing licenses and certificates of approval for persons working in the security industry and as private investigators; disciplines licensees; and maintains a registry. This legislation also defines specific roles and activities of various personnel in the private security area, including that of “security technician” and “private investigator.” The legislation also contains provisions on licenses and certificates and discipline.

An example of the activities of private security is contractors from the private company Datacom working in the northern communications centre to answer *555 calls, which involve road incidents that are urgent but not life-threatening, i.e. non-injury crashes, reports of erratic driving, traffic congestion, etc. (Theunissen, 2013). This decision was taken to address the increasing number of emergency calls.

United Kingdom

The growth of private security services and outsourcing traditional police functions to private companies is most pronounced in the UK. This trend was given added impetus by an announcement by the federal government in 2010 that there would be a 20% reduction in the Home Office police budget over four years as part of an effort to dramatically reduce public spending (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2014; Rogers and Gravelle, 2013).

It is projected that, by March 2015, there would have been a reduction of 16,300 police officers in England and Wales (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary, 2014:34). This has also been accompanied by a growth in civilian policing schemes across the country which has raised a number of issues, including how to monitor citizen activities directed toward crime prevention and crime control and ensuring that these schemes do not undermine the legitimacy of the public police (May, 2014; Sharp, Atherton and Williams, 2008).

Observers have noted that the “commercialisation of public policing” in the UK is not a new phenomenon, but has its roots in the history of policing in the UK (Williams, 2008:192). As Williams (2008:192) has noted, “[T]here was never a time when British police were not for hire to anyone acceptable who could pay.” He cites (2008:193) the example from the late 18th century, wherein “prominent (often institutional) ratepayers within the City of London wards could get extra police either by lobbying within the ward vestry (the basic unit of urban local government) for more officers, or by paying for them directly.”

The key events that led to the legitimation of the private security industry as reflecting the “public good” in the UK have been documented (White, 2010). There have also been a number of theoretically oriented works that have examined both the market forces and political dynamics that contributed to the exponential growth of private security in the UK over the decades (White, 2010). White (2010:167; 174) has noted that the executives of private security companies have been adept at recognizing opportunities for expansion and in negotiating their way through “the complex political terrain of the ever-changing security sector.”

Writing on the evolution and state of private security in the UK, White (2010:176) has considered the paradoxical relationship that the private security sector has with the State and with the police, noting that executives in the private security industry regard the police “both as competitors and as a vital source of competitiveness (in the form of increased legitimacy).”

Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

Initially, the involvement of private security was in response to high rates of crime in the early 2000s. In recent years, it has been driven by drastic cuts to public police budgets and the need to reduce the costs of policing. Since that time, private security personnel have expanded their activities to include partnerships with the police as well as assuming a major role in criminal investigations (Button, 2008). At present, for example, 95% of the funding for the British Transport Police is provided by private train companies (Ayling, 2007/2008:343).

Governments in the UK have embarked on an aggressive program to privatize many public police functions and to expand the role of private security companies (Travis and Williams, 2012). This includes contracting private firms to become involved in criminal investigations, giving evidence in court, and conducting beat patrols. The term “business partnering” has been coined to describe the relationships that exist between the public police and private security. This is defined as, “going beyond traditional outsourcing; it draws on the skills, expertise, technology, and innovation of the private sector to support end-to-end transformation of service delivery within the organization and to improve services to the public” (Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary, 2012b:60).

The National Audit Office (NAO) and the HMIC have jointly produced a handbook to be used by governments and police services in “procuring and managing private sector partnerships” (NAO and HMIC, 2013:5). The document focused on three delivery models:

  1. major business partnering, where the force contracts a private sector partner to provide a significant areas of policing (for example, by outsourcing business support services). These contracts are typically high value and medium term (up to ten years);
  2. custody partnering, where the force contracts a private sector partner to provide either services (for example, detainee management, catering and cleaning), buildings or both, including through Private Finance Initiative (PFI) contracts. PFI contracts are typically long term (between 25 and 30 years); and,
  3. consultancy support, where forces purchase skills and expertise to help a transformation and can include contractually consultancy support, where forces purchase skills and expertise to help a transformation and can include contractually committed levels of savings. Contracts are short term (typically one to twelve months).

The types of police-private sector partnership arrangements and illustrative case studies in the UK are set out in Appendix B, Table 12. This trend has not been without controversy and the outcomes of the expanded role of private security in the UK are yet to be determined (Sambrook, 2012a; 2012b).

Selected Examples of Public Police-Private Security Partnerships

There is a variety of police-private security partnerships in the UK (Soltar, 2009). Project Griffin is an initiative developed by the London Metropolitan Police and is designed to facilitate information-sharing and collaboration between the police and private security firms on security, crime prevention, and terrorist threats (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:152). The program is now operational country-wide and is considered a best practice (City of London Police, 2012). This program was subsequently adopted and implemented by the Vancouver Police Department. Reliance, a private firm, provides a number of services under contract for the Cleveland Police Authority, including custody management, forensic services, and managing bail (Home Office, 2011). The West Midlands Police and the Surrey Police have outsourced a number of tasks to private security firms, including “investigating crimes, managing intelligence, patrolling neighbourhoods and collecting CCTV footage” (Townsend, 2012). These developments have not been without controversy. In 2012, the West Midlands Police and Crime Commissioner (PCC) abandoned plans for “business partnering” in that jurisdiction, having faced opposition from the public and the police (Brunger, 2012). A key issue in the election of Police and Crime Commissioners across the UK in 2012 was privatization, with candidates from the Labour party generally taking an anti-privatization stance (Crawford, 2012). This was referred to at the time as the “politicalization of police ‘privatization'” (White, 2014b). A plan by the London Metropolitan Police to outsource back-office functions to a French IT provider Steria, was roundly criticized by a union leader, who expressed concerns about sensitive materials being handled by an “off-shore” firm (Flinders, 2015).

The Impact of Privatization and the Increased Role of Private Security

The potential difficulties of relying on private security and the tendency of private policing companies to “oversell” their capacities and expertise, is illustrated by the dramatic failure of G4S, one of the world's largest private security firms, to meet its contracted obligations to provide 10,000 trained police personnel for the 2012 Olympic games in London. Two weeks prior to the opening ceremony, the G4S informed the British government that it was able to provide only about one-half of the contracted personnel. The government was forced to call in the military to provide extra security.

A variety of factors caused the shortfall, including the below-UK minimum wages paid to employees, the company underestimating the challenges of recruiting and training a large force of police officers and a lack of management skills and expertise to complete the contract. The company incurred a £70 million loss. This crisis highlighted an absence of effective government oversight, a major concern given the high profile nature of the event and the lengthy pre-Olympic planning process (Andreou, 2012; Milne, 2012). Subsequent to this, G4S failed to secure a multi-million pound contract to provide support functions for the Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire, and Hertfordshire Strategic Alliance (Cockerell, 2013).

Police-private security partnerships in the UK have in some instances resulted in crime reduction, particularly in relation to property crime (Bowers, 2001; Prenzler, 2009). The Safer Merseyside Partnership, for example, provided businesses with free security audits and subsidized security that resulted in increased crime prevention measures including improved lighting and security locks. An evaluation of the program found a significant reduction in the number of successful burglaries from 31% to 13% (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:155). No reductions were recorded in businesses that did not participate in the program.

A review of the response of UK police services to the new austerity found some police services “as having an outstanding response to the spending review” (HMIC, 2014:33). However, there were also concerns that the reduction in funding had significantly affected neighbourhood policing. Between March 2010 and March 2015, the total number of personnel working on the “front line,” including police officers, staff, and Police Community Safety Officers (PCSOs) was reduced by 8,500, or seven percent. The plan is for these reductions to be offset by improvements in intelligence-led policing and the use of evidence-based policing strategies.

Although police services were attempting to make the necessary adjustments to reduced personnel, the report stated, “reductions of this magnitude have an adverse effect on the amount of work that can be done to prevent crime and protect the public” (HIMC: 2014:33). In addition, the review found that “collaboration between forces, public and private sector organizations remains patchy, fragmented, overly complex and too slow” (HMIC, 2014:33).

A survey of police officers (N=14,167) in England and Wales (Bradford, Brown and Schuster, 2013) found that most of the officers were opposed to the involvement of private companies in policing. 44% were against private security firms managing detention facilities; and over 80% did not support private security firms being involved in investigating traffic accidents, interviewing witnesses and suspects, and dealing with the victims of crime.

Notably, Scotland is not participating in the outsourcing and the privatization movement that is occurring in the UK. There appear to be few collaborative partnerships between the public police and private security companies, nor has the private sector taken over back officer and middle officer functions of the public police. In an interview with the project team, a European police association member stated, “Scotland is different than the UK. It wants to be viewed as valuing the public sector and has avoided privatization.” Scotland has no private security legislation, although there are some provisions for licensing. Security in shopping malls (and similar public-private spaces) is the responsibility of the owner. In serious occurrences, the police are called. Private clubs are strictly controlled and police can enter only if invited to do so. Nightclub security is accredited by local authority and this process varies by community.

The Lincolnshire Police-G4S Partnership

One of the more unique partnerships is between the Lincolnshire Police and the multi-national private security firm G4S. In Lincolnshire, the public police have collaborated with the multi-national private security firm G4S. This has resulted in G4S wearing uniforms that have both the Lincolnshire Police and G4S logos on the shoulder patch (Ashford, 2012a; 2012b). In 2012, G4S entered into a 10-year contract to provide backroom police services for the Lincolnshire police. This involved 550 civilian staff in the police service transferring to G4S. Staff wears a Lincolnshire Police-G4S epaulet and lanyard. In 2013, G4S claimed that it had saved £5 million during the first year of the contract (BBC News, 2013). This case, while unique, is nevertheless instructive as it represents “the most extreme and experimental public-private partnership in UK policing history” (White, 2014b:1011). It was, as one observer has noted, an arrangement that “blended together public good and market rationalities” (White, 2014b:1014). A review of the events surrounding the agreement with G4S reveals that it was driven largely by the fiscal challenges faced by the senior leadership in the Lincolnshire police, rather than by a shift to a market-focused approach (White, 2014b:1008). The contract negotiations between the police management and G4S required each party to learn a new “language:” the police about business processes and costs, and G4S about the culture, ethics, and standards of the police (White, 2014b:1011). Table 7 sets out the details of the contract between the Lincolnshire police and G4S.

Table 7: Lincolnshire Police-G4S Strategic Partnership Contract Details
Service Areas and Features HMIC Designation Key

Force Control Room


Total contract value £229 million




Front Counter (Town Enquiry)



Crime Management Bureau

Operational Support


Firearms Licensing

Operational Support

Duration: ten years (with the option for five year extension) commencing 1st April 2012

Identification Unit

Operational Support


Criminal Justice Unit

Operational Support


Collisions Unit

Operational Support


Central Ticket Office

Operational Support



Business Support

Savings to Lincolnshire Police: £36 million over ten years

Finance and Procurement

Business Support


Learning and Development

Business Support


Human Resources

Business Support


Information Technology

Business Support

G4S profit margin: 6.2% per year (with 50% of annual profit above this margin transferred to Lincolnshire Police)

Administrative Support

Business Support


Strategic Asset Management

Business Support


Estate Asset Management

Business Support


Facilities Management

Business Support


Source: White, 2014b:1012

There are a number of interesting features of the Lincolnshire police-G4S partnership. First, it appears to have been negotiated and finalized in the absence of any pilot projects that would have identified potential challenges with the arrangement. Secondly, the contract is a decade in length. Ostensibly, at the end of this period, there will be efforts to re-negotiate a renewal of the contract. The Lincolnshire police will be in a somewhat weakened position, given that the service areas set out in Table 9 will have been operated by G4S for ten years.

The prospect of the police service assuming control over these service areas is unlikely, particularly given the costs that would be associated with this effort. G4S will be in a position to, potentially, require a significantly higher contracted amount to continue to provide the services. Third, a primary metric that is being used to assess the effectiveness of the services provided by G4S is cost. Other considerations, including how these contractual arrangements affect the public's perception of the police and whether these arrangements serve to heighten, or undermine, the legitimacy of the police appear not to be included in the contractual agreement/framework. Another issue that remained largely unaddressed was the ethics of hiring former police officers to oversee a number of the service areas. These retired officers were also drawing a pension from their police service, as well, are being paid by G4S.

The implementation of the Lincolnshire police-G4S contract has not been without its challenges. An attempt by G4S to replace switchboard operators with interactive voice response (IVR) as a cost-savings measure, was unsuccessful. One G4S staff member stated, “Most of the public don't know which button to press. The problem with ringing the police is that often you don't know whom you want to talk to or what you want. They ring us with everything. An IVR can't capture that” (cited in White, 2014b:1015). That the public calls the police for “everything” should have been anticipated. This example was taken to illustrate “the conflict between policing as civic governance and the commodification of a service into discrete units” (White, 2014b:1016) and may portend the limits of privatization and outsourcing of police tasks.

Concerns have also been raised that the dual “branding” of employees as Lincolnshire Police and G4S has undermined the institutional unity of the police service (White, 2014b:1018). The association of staff with the private sector was viewed by some staff as compromising their status with the public, particularly in the time period when G4S failed to deliver on the London Olympics contract (White, 2014b:1018).

The Effectiveness of Privatization

From a review of the impact of privatization of police functions in the UK, one police scholar concluded, “The ‘privatization' of policing has not been as transformative as alleged” (Prenzler, 2013:32). In support of this conclusion, reference is made to a report by Her Majesty's Inspectorate of the Constabulary (HMIC, 2012) which found in a review of 543 projects in the 43 UK police services that collaborative partnerships were primarily between public sector agencies.

More specifically, 1) more than two-thirds (N=381) involved collaboration between police services; 2) one-fifth (N=116) of the projects involved collaboration between the police and another public sector agency; 3) thirty-four involved collaboration between a police service and the private sector, i.e. the Lincolnshire Police work with the private security firm G4S for back and middle office functions; and, 4) twelve projects involved collaboration between the police and the private and public sector, i.e. Avon and Somerset Constabulary work jointly with a consortium of country and borough councils and private sector organizations to deliver a range of support services (HMIC, 2012:5-6).

The Safer by Design initiative, a crime prevention program in West Yorkshire, was found to reduce residential burglaries (Armitage and Monchuk, 2009). Secured by Design focuses on crime prevention of homes and commercial premises and promotes the use of security standards for a wide range of applications and products. It involves a partnership between the public police and private security companies.

Privatization and Partnerships: Lessons Learned

The issues surrounding the provision of forensic services in UK police services illustrate the challenges that are often associated with privatization and outsourcing. Prior to 2012, the Forensic Science Service provided police services with forensic services. With the closure of the Forensic Science Service, the Home Office established a national framework to provide these services via the private sector. This was designed to reduce costs and to standardize the provision of services. A review of this arrangement, however, found that some police services were conducting their own forensic analyses, undermining the national framework. Police services cannot be compelled to purchase forensic services from the private sector. This has resulted in a situation where the private sector framework has been compromised and there are little data on how much police services are spending to conduct forensic analyses in-house (National Audit Office, 2014).

There are also private security initiatives that have not been successful. There was considerable debate surrounding the decision in York to contract for private security patrols in public spaces. The patrols involved personnel known as “community rangers” patrolling pre-determined areas in the evening hours. Patrols were purchased for one area of York in 1999 and by 2003; sixteen of the twenty-two council wards were funding the patrols. However, by 2011, only two council wards were funding patrols. A review of the reports produced by these personnel revealed that over 80% of incidents were in relation to youth and anti-social behaviour. An evaluation (Lister, 2012) identified a number of reasons why the private security patrol program was not successful. Primary among these were the failure to develop clear terms of reference for the program. This contributed to the private security personnel spending a majority of their time focusing on anti-social behaviour among youth. It was also apparent that the program did not meet the expectations of the community that the patrols would be addressing the underlying sources of the problem rather than merely displacing it to other areas of the region. There was also a failure to develop relationships between the private security personnel and the local police. On a more general level, the experience of this program illustrates the policy and operational challenges of developing private security programs in a pluralistic policing model.

From a review of police-private sector partnerships in twelve police services in the UK, the National Audit Office and HMIC (2013) identified a number of “lessons learned” that can guide initiatives in this area. While produced in the UK, the findings are instructive for other jurisdictions as well.

  1. It is important to have clear strategies, objectives and outcomes communicated to the market, and to identify the appetite for risk and tolerance levels early on;
  2. Success depended on there being strong leaders, who recognised where there were shortages of commercial skills and expertise (either in themselves as strategic leaders, or in their procurement teams) and acted to address them;
  3. Careful planning is needed to develop detailed service specifications. Forces should use cost and performance analyses to help align the specifications to their wider force priorities, drawing on available benchmarking data; and,
  4. Some forces acknowledged that they initially placed too great a focus on ‘saving money' as an objective. Many have since altered their key performance indicators and introduced measures that help improve service quality.

Recommendations have been provided for sourcing and tender evaluation (NAO and HMIC, 2013:9-10):

  1. Forces should develop their relationships with their potential partners and ensure both sides understand each other's culture and values. This will help to inform the bid and contract award processes;
  2. Forces should consider contract flexibility early in the process;
  3. Forces entering into partnerships should be aware that the sourcing stage; tender evaluation; baselining of costs and performance; and improving business understanding are resource-intensive activities. The advantages should be weighed against the costs incurred. Governance, leadership and stakeholder management;
  4. It is important for senior leadership to act as a catalyst for ensuring that projects have impetus and direction – this has been repeatedly stressed;
  5. Forces should consider how best to communicate with their stakeholders and how they respond to feedback. This will help to ensure that stakeholders support the project as far as possible and achieve the best outcomes. Contract and performance management;
  6. Forces should consider a strategy for monitoring performance. For example, whether to pursue service credits wherever the contract provides this or to adopt a more flexible approach during periods of complex change. Forces should agree and document these decisions; and,
  7. Forces should also understand how they will obtain feedback from end-users.

Although the NAO and HMIC study (NAO and HMIC, 2013:12-13) did not examine value for money in the partnership arrangements, there was an attempt to gather information on outcomes. These included:

  1. Financial outcomes: there was evidence of savings and reduced running costs as well as positive impacts on the duties that were retained by the police service;
  2. Performance outcomes: examples were cited wherein the performance of the police service had improved;
  3. Professionalism and working environments. Materials provided by the police services indicated that there had been an improvement in the level of professionalism in many of the positions; and,
  4. Better data and business intelligence leading to improved force performance. In a number of the police services, there had been improvements in the capture, recording and sharing of information. This, in turn, increase organizational performance.


The number of private security service providers has grown significantly in the last two decades. The most recent Statistics Canada examination of private security and public policing in Canada was produced in 2008 (Li, 2008). It revealed that there has been a large increase in private security personnel between 2001 and 2006, a 15% growth rate as compared to 3% for public police (Li, 2008:3). The analysis also revealed that the proportion of women and visible minorities had been increasing in both the public police and in the private security industry, with the increases being the greatest in the private security industry.

An analysis of statistics from 1991 to 2001 noted a 69% growth in Canadian investigation and security services over that time (Sanders, 2005). A 2012 situational analysis states there were approximately 140,000 individuals and 3,000 business in Canada were licensed in the private security industry. There were approximately 70,000 police officers in Canada at that time. This represented a 40% increase over 2006 (Hovbrender, 2012). Indications are that this trend in growth has continued. The Director of Private Security and Investigative Services in Ontario notes that the number of private security licenses issued in Ontario has increased from 55,000 to 77,000 (28.6% growth) over the past five years. The Deputy Registrar of Alberta Security Programs notes an increase from 20,000 to 24,000 registrations (16.7% growth) over the same time period. Between 1999 and 2014 the number of police officers increased by 24.5%, topping out at 68,896 officers, less than half the number of security service providers (Hutchins, 2015).

A situational analysis of the private security industry conducted by the Police Sector Council (2012) found that the industry was “segmented and competitive.” It was estimated that there were approximately 120,000 persons licensed as security guards across Canada, 8,500 licensed as private investigators, and 9,000 as armoured car guards.

An analysis of Statistics Canada data conducted by Winterdyk and Ruddell (Ruddell and Jones, 2014:61) found considerable variation in the number of private security personnel per 1,000 residents across the country. Figures ranged from 2.13 in PEI to 3.58 in Nova Scotia. Examining statistics from 2006 and 2011, Ruddell and Winterdyk found a relationship between levels of violent crime and the number of security officers deployed, and more officers were employed. In addition, controlling for other factors, richer communities tended to have more security officers. The findings reported by Ruddell and Winterdyk may be an indication of two-tiered policing where those who can afford a higher degree of safety or security are able to purchase those services, a practice that is occurring more often in U.S. cities experiencing police cutbacks (Ruddell and Jones, 2014:60-61).

The Continuum of Canadian Policing

An examination of the civilianization and privatization of policing in Canada identified a continuum of policing that includes civilianization and privatization, and the benefits and challenges of these developments (Public Safety Canada, 2012). This continuum, which is often discussed in terms of “tiered” policing, contains a number of thematic categories: 1) sworn officer; 2) civilianized – administrative (i.e. clerical and administrative support, human resources); 3) civilianized-community services (i.e. parking enforcement); 4) civilianized – investigative assistance (i.e. special constables, dispatchers); 5) civilianized-specialized support (i.e. forensic specialists, criminal intelligence analysts); 6) municipal – regulatory enforcement (i.e. by-law enforcement); 7) volunteer-integrated (i.e., community patrols); 8) volunteer-community (i.e. event security); 9) public police force contracting (i.e. sworn officers at specific events); 10) private-regulatory enforcement (i.e. by law enforcement); 11) private-investigatory support (i.e. forensic accounting, specialized communications systems); 12) private-investigatory (i.e. private investigators); 13) quasi-public private security (i.e. Canadian Air Transport Security Agency); and, 14) private-security (i.e. security consultants, loss prevention officers) (Public Safety Canada, 2012:18-24).

McKenna (2014) has examined the emergence of “tiered policing” in Canada, a model of policing that “broadens the categories and types of police personnel that perform various police functions” (2014:1; see Appendix A). This has been driven in large measure by the increasing costs of public policing and the search for innovative ways to address the safety and security needs of communities.

Across Canada, private security personnel are being used by police services in a number of capacities, including guarding crime scenes, conduct loss prevention investigations and to provide security outside of courthouses, among others. Business Improvement Districts often hire private security to monitor public order issues. Police services are often involved in providing training for private security personnel in specific areas, such as in how to conduct loss prevention investigations.

Rigakos and Leung (2006:130) have identified a number of state and quasi-state policing bodies in Canada. These include the Corps of Commissioners, a private, not-for-profit organizations that offers security services to the public and private sector, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA), a federal not-for-profit Crown corporation which focuses its activities on aviation security, and Business Improvement Areas or Associations (BIAs) that may employ private security guards or sworn officers.

The Economics of Policing and Private Security

Discussions of the potential role of private security are occurring against a larger backdrop on the dialogue surrounding the economics and sustainability of policing (Hutchins, 2015). There is the view that many of the tasks currently performed by sworn police officers can be as effectively carried out by others, including private security.

It should be noted that anecdotal evidence is used in the absence of empirical research that would identify what of the “great deal of work” not done by sworn officers can be transferred to non-sworn personnel, including private security. In their report on the economics of Canadian policing, Ruddell and Jones (2014:59) note, “There has been comparatively little Canadian research conducted on the operations of private security firms.”

Similarly, identifying those activities and incidents that are “only tangentially related to law enforcement” has thus far proved elusive. This is associated with the long-standing challenges in determining the “core” duties of the police. Recalling the UK “time and task” study, it may be that the majority of incidents to which Canadian police officers respond involve a risk of law-breaking behaviour. If this is the case, determining which incidents para-police and private security personnel could respond to becomes more difficult. Another issue that is often not discussed is the downloading onto the police of tasks that are legislatively the responsibility of other agencies, i.e. responding to the needs of persons with mental illness (Griffiths, 2016). It is unlikely that these functions can be turned over to para-police and private security personnel.

In his report on strategies for reducing the costs of policing, Leuprecht (2014:12) acknowledges that “demand-side factors” have contributed to the escalating costs of policing, noting, “Today, we expect police to deal with everything from mental-health cases to liquor violations by rowdy teenagers.” The impact of downloading, commenting, “Police must deal with the fallout of provincial and municipal governments looking to balance their budgets by reducing social services, incarcerations, and the number of people in institutional care” (2014:13).

In its discussion of the economics of policing, the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security (Kramp, 2014) noted that the private security industry may be a cost-saving alternative, although this fell under provincial jurisdiction and there was considerable variability in the regulation and role of the private security industry across the country. The federal government has on numerous occasions discussed the need to reduce policing costs by having sworn officers focus on core duties, with support services provided in a tiered policing arrangement, including private security (Quan, 2013). In early 2015, for example, the Toronto Police Services Board asked the Chief Constable of the TPS to consider outsourcing parking enforcement and court security.

The Province of Ontario has established a Future of Policing Advisory Committee that is focused on implementing more efficient and strategic use of resources. This has involved broad discussions at the government level and a number of recommendations for a safer Ontario. One objective of the committee is to implement standards that focus on collaboration, information sharing, and performance measures and outcomes. A senior government official in Ontario noted that there was an appetite for change in that province, particularly with respect to increased oversight and the development of a long-term, strategic approach.

Alberta has taken a layered approach to providing public safety services that incorporates public police, peace officers and private security. Roles and responsibilities for each group have been defined. A senior government official indicated that all three groups are working well together in many communities.

The City of Edmonton is using a similar layered approach to safety and security in its development of the new downtown entertainment district and the downtown revitalization project. The model layers police officers, peace officers with responsibility for the light rail transit system, major city squares and buildings, and private security with responsibility for the arena (currently under construction), the major downtown mall and library, all working in complementary fashion to ensure public safety and social order.

Private Security Functions

A review of several private security investigation and risk mitigation company websites illustrates the broad scope of security-related services provided by private sector companies in Canada. These are presented in Table 8, next page.

An executive officer of an international private security firm interviewed for this study highlighted the scope of activities and specializations his company was involved in the week of the interview:

  1. labour dispute site security;
  2. retail loss prevention;
  3. executive protection;
  4. complex computer forensics for a large theft of intellectual property;
  5. arson investigation;
  6. "dozens" of fraud cases for law firms and insurance companies;
  7. consulting on three pipeline security projects;
  8. security audit for a federal government agency; and,
  9. threat investigation for a high profile individual.
Table 8: Services Provided by Private Security Firms
Guard and Protective Services Human Resources Management Support
guard and low profile uniform guard services
concierge services
static security
mobile patrols
close protection and executive/VIP protection
emergency alarm response services
high risk terminations
pre-employment screening
background checks
employee drug testing
human resource assessments
Occupational Health & Safety Consulting
Investigation Organizational Support
cold case witness locates and interviews
technical surveillance counter measures
undercover operations and surveillance
interviewing / interrogation
injury / long-term disability investigations
litigation support
due diligence research
reputation management
global security and protective services
procurement management
security project management and program development
competitive intelligence
intellectual property
Loss Prevention Security Consulting and Research
loss prevention officers anti-bribery and corruption measures - implementation and compliance
cyber security assessment
Human Safety and Security Threat and Risk Assessment
special event security and management
nurse call & healthcare security
personal locators
risk, threat and vulnerability assessment and mitigation
open source intelligence research - e.g. data mapping and analysis using complex tools
surveillance - criminal, civil, corporate, insurance and litigation
hazard assessment
Asset/Physical Protection Cash Services
commercial and residential security systems design, installation, service and monitoring
physical and electronic protection system design
access controls (systems and gates)
remote monitoring
secure fencing
corporate cash management
cash logistics
armored transport
Technical Products and Services Emergency Management and Business Continuity
GPS locators
video analytics
video management (including thermal cameras)
visitor management (including X-ray & other screening)
emergency management
emergency management continuity planning
pandemic planning
Critical Infrastructure Protection Specialized Services
physical infrastructure network identification
interdependency analysis
specialized vulnerability assessment
critical infrastructure risk assessment
aviation pre-boarding security screening
organizational security, safety and risk management training
labour disruption security

Sources: G4S Canada, 2015; Garda, 2015; Intelligarde, 2015; Paladin Security, 2015; Xpera, 2015

Public Police-Private Security Collaboration

In the view of some observers, the relationships between the public police and private security in Canada are improving (Kitteringham, 2009). A provincial justice official described the integration of public police and private security as “an inevitability.”

Here are selected examples that are illustrative of collaborative arrangements between public police and private security:

An illustration of a public police-private security partnership is Project Griffin, which originated in the UK, and has been adopted by the Vancouver Police Department and other police services. This involves a partnership between the police service and external security organizations and other public and private sector agencies the police provide the partners with weekly updates of their crime prevention and anti-terrorism concerns in order to have thousands of eyes and ears on the street. For example, the VPD provides stolen vehicle information to security agencies, and private security firms report findings of suspicious persons and circumstances.

The private firm Genesis Security has been involved in introducing the Vancouver model to Canada as well as being on a Steering Committee with development companies and the CATSA. The Vancouver Police Department is also involved in Operation Cooperation, an information exchange between the VPD and security professionals, primarily in the downtown area of the city.

Police Resistance to Private Security

There are instances in which Canadian police services have actively resisted the expansion of private security operations.

Cote-Lussier (2013) documents the response of the SPVM in Montreal to a white paper produced by the provincial Minister of Public Safety which “the private security industry was described as being a partner in ensuring public security much like the police, correctional services and the fire department (Cote-Lussier, 2013:187).” The province subsequently passed the Private Security Act (2006) which “sought to increase the credibility of the private security industry as a legitimate security provider” (Cote-Lussier, 2013:187) although the Act did differentiate the roles of the public police and private security. These efforts were not supported by the SPVM, which undertook to “rebrand itself” and expand its activities in the city, including assuming responsibility for parking enforcement. Part of the expansion of the Montreal police has included sworn officers being “rented out” to the private sector via privately paid contracts (CJAD News, 2014). This has generated annual revenues of $3.9 million for the SPVM.

Currently, there appear to be limits on private security involvement with the police. A senior manager in a large Canadian private security firm indicated that private security was not involved in multi-agency efforts to identify potential national security threats and thwart attacks. A Chief Constable interviewed for the project stated that the focus should be on driving down demand rather than relying on private security to fill the gaps by increasing collaborative partnerships with other government agencies and NGOs. Significantly, this Chief Constable had little idea of the activities of private security units in large corporations. A Deputy Chief Constable interviewed for the project suggested that the police should hire persons to fill identified gaps in service delivery. This would ensure proper oversight and performance management and facilitate standards and compliance.

Montreal Airport Policing

Prior to 1998, the RCMP provided all policing and security related services at the Montreal airport while the Corps of Commissionaires provided security to all restricted area access points. In 1998 the RCMP were replaced with the Montreal Airport Patrol (MAP), who are all employees of the Montreal airport. The responsibility for armed response for USA trans-border crossing was given to the Montreal Police by contract, as these areas require an armed response. All other airport security related functions are the responsibility of the MAP and GardaWorld, a private security agency whose purpose is to ensure security to all restricted areas as well as provide traffic control on the upper and lower ramps. In addition to providing security, GardaWorld agents are also trained as first responders.

MAP security officers are trained by the Montreal and Sûreté du Québec police, and are certified by the École Nationale de Police Québec (ENPQ). Constables receive 13 weeks of training; section chiefs receive additional training. In addition, they receive follow-up, on the job training that meets, and exceeds the training requirements set out in Sections 115-118 of the Canadian Aviation Security Regulations.

The MAP was created in 1996. The agency was accredited by the Commission for Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA) in 2003. The MAP is the only non-police agency to receive this accreditation in Canada. They now perform many of the functions formerly restricted to the RCMP such as traffic enforcement and radar control. They are authorized by federal regulation and the Criminal Code of Canada to effect arrests in relation to the airport and then turn arrests over to a peace officer. They are also authorized to confirm identification of persons at access points and to perform traffic and parking related functions.

The MAP officers are trained by the Montreal Airport Patrol Academy and various other courses, such as radar qualifications, are obtained and certified by the École Nationale de Police Québec (ENPQ). The MAP has a Director and two Deputy Directors, one in charge of operations and the other in charge of the Expertise Centre. In addition to the training required for licensing, GardaWorld security agents receive six weeks of training while personnel such as the Sector Supervisors receive 13 weeks of training to enable them to work at the airport. In addition, they receive follow-up, on the job training that meets, and exceeds the training requirements set out in Sections 115-118 of the Canadian Aviation Security Regulations.

The Montreal Airport Patrol also contracts GardaWorld Security personnel to provide security services for static posts, access control to restricted areas and to act as first responders for medical aid. They can provide traffic management services, but are not authorized to operate radar or conduct enforcement for moving violations. The MAP manages GardaWorld staff and activities. Licensed Garda guards applying for work at the airport are screened by the MAP investigators. Once accepted they receive an additional seven weeks of training on aviation related regulations and functions by the MAP Academy.

The MAP investigators work cooperatively with Montreal Police officers on investigations that can range from merchant or luggage theft to threats against individuals, airlines, or other organizations. Their expertise, developed over many years of working throughout the airport and the relationships built with other airport employees over many years, enable them to add considerable value in areas ranging from engaging contacts to determining the credibility and validity of threats to ensuring proper placement of cameras and accessing photo and video required for investigation.

The MAP executives describe the working relationship between the public and private security entities as a very good partnership. One of their biggest challenges continues to be the restrictions on exchange of information. Although the MAP provides a lot of information to the public police, the public police often cannot provide a comparable level of information to private security. Work is underway with the Province of Quebec to develop mechanisms to improve information exchange.

University of Waterloo Police

In Ontario, the campus police are private security personnel who have special constable status only on campus property and only with the endorsement of local police through the provincial Ministry. The local jurisdictional police have a stake in meeting and maintaining police standards and consistency in University policies, practices and procedures. At the University of Waterloo, for example, the university pays to second a police officer to the Campus Police – initially used to enhance skillsets to make police officers more competitive for advancement; however, the last two appointments have been long term. Their role is to ensure that investigations are done to standard and public complaints can be addressed to the same standard. The Waterloo Police Service (WPS) officer is armed and the initial concern about having an armed officer on campus has dissipated.

The Waterloo Regional Police Service complaints branch has oversight and investigates, while the provincial SIU investigates incidents where injuries occur during investigation or custody. The Staff Sergeant with Campus Police has access to Canadian Police Information Centre (CPIC) and Niche databases. Provincial privacy legislation provides for the sharing of information between law enforcement agency and special constables.

Threshold offences must be investigated by police – e.g. domestic violence. In these cases, WPS comes on campus to investigate, if complainant or witnesses do not want to complain to police the matter is investigated internally. The focus is to determine if the suspect should be on campus, and if so, if there should be restrictions. The most common crimes investigated are theft, assault, mischief, fraud; while some major frauds required police resources.

Canadian Private Security Legislation by Jurisdiction

Security-related Acts and Regulations in most jurisdictions are responsible for oversight, licensing, and compliance of licensees. Each province and the Yukon have a Private Investigator and Security Agency/Guard Act. There is considerable variation in the contents of the legislation and accompanying regulations. A list of security related legislation by province is included as Appendix C.

All Acts define private investigators and security guards, the functions they perform, qualifications required for licensing. All detail Ministry and licensee obligations related to licensing, regulating, and investigation of complaints against individual and organizational service providers. Some include auditing and reporting requirements, including use of force reporting requirements. Legislation in several jurisdictions provide more detailed application and record keeping requirements. Some specify training, trainer, and education institution requirements and standards.

The growth and expanded breadth of private security services has prompted a number of provinces to introduce and/or amend legislation to more accurately reflect and monitor the private security industry and improve governance and accountability in an effort to enhance public safety and security. Alberta introduced the Security Programs Office to manage oversight, licensing and compliance for the security, investigator and locksmith services industries in Alberta. The Security Services and Investigators Act, introduced in 2010 are continually being updated, with the most recent amendments approved in April 2015. In Ontario, the Ministry's Future of Policing study and the Association of Municipalities in Ontario's Policing Modernization Report have examined private security services as an integral component of the public safety and security web.Changes to the Private Security and Investigative Services Act are being contemplated within these efforts.

Quebec is one of the provinces at the forefront of legislation and oversight of the private security industry. Efforts to establish governance over the industry began in the mid-1990s and culminated in 2006 with the passage of the first of several pieces of legislation under a new Private Security Act. The Act became fully enforceable in 2010 (Government of Quebec, n.d.). The Act contains regulatory provisions for the licensing of private security agencies and agents, sanctions for non-compliance, authorization to conduct inspections, maintaining a register of license holders, among others. The administration of the Act, including implementation of the new Act and its regulations, is overseen by the Bureau de la sécurité privée. The Bureau issues licenses for agents and agencies and is the organization tasked with addressing complaints received against licensees within six industry activities identified by law (Bureau de la Sécurité privée. n.d.).

Licensing Authority

The licensing authority in British Columbia (BC), Alberta (AB), Saskatchewan (SK), Manitoba (MB), Ontario (ON) and the Yukon (YK) is the Registrar; in New Brunswick (NB), the Commission; in Prince Edward Island (PEI), the Minister, and in Newfoundland and Labrador (NL), the Administrator appointed under the Security Act and in Quebec, the licensing authority is the Bureau de la Sécurité privée.

Government Accountability

Legislation mandates the agency responsible for private security to conduct inspections of licensees. These can be site visits to an agency's office or to the location where the guard or service provider is working to validate licensing, compliance with licensing or uniforms, for example. Alternatively, they could be full audits that include a review of licensing, policies, processes or procedures. In Alberta, for example, requirements for full audits are determined by warning indicators identified through risk-based assessments. Alberta is presently examining criteria and mechanisms to assist in determining when routine audits should be conducted.

Security Services Licensing

Licensing for security guards and private investigators is a requirement in each Act. A number of jurisdictions have expanded licensing to include services that are more specific.

The majority of provinces also license agencies that employ security guards and private investigators. A number of provinces license additional services ranging from electronic security monitoring to valuables transport, locksmiths and automotive lock bypass.

Alberta, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have the most extensive security related licensing requirements in Canada. In addition to security guards, private investigators, and the agencies that employ them, these provinces also license a number of the following service providers and agencies:

Some Acts break down activities that are included in each category of service providers and service agencies. For example, under electronic security systems, the Quebec legislation includes installation, maintenance, repair and remote monitoring of burglar or intrusion alarm systems, video surveillance systems and access control systems, except vehicle security systems. Table 9 provides a summary of private security services licensed in each of the provinces and territories.

Licenses in most jurisdictions are issued for one year, however, Alberta issues two year licenses for individuals and three year licenses for organizations, and Quebec issues five year licenses. Licenses in all cases must be renewed annually.

Table 9: Security Services Licensed by Jurisdiction

British Columbia






Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Prince Edward Island

Labrador & Newfoundland




Private investigators














Investigation agency














Security guards














Security guard agency














Valuables transport agency














Armed guards














Personal protection














Security alarm response














Locksmith work














Locksmith agency














Patrol dogs and handlers














Electronic security systems














Electronic security system agency














Burglar alarm agents & agencies














Security consultant














Security consulting agency














Loss prevention workers














Automotive lock bypass techs














Training services














Licensing Requirements for Individuals and Agencies

Licensing requirements for security guards, private investigators, and other security services and service providers vary significantly from one province to another. With the exception of the Yukon, all jurisdictions that regulate private security licensing specify a minimum age of 18 or 19 years for licensing eligibility. All jurisdictions require criminal record checks, and the majority specifies that the licensee must be a Canadian citizen or eligible to work in Canada. Several provinces require police record checks, correctional service information checks, child abuse registry checks, and outcomes of previous licensing application(s). British Columbia requires disclosure of mental health conditions for which treatment was received. Alberta and British Columbia specify fluency in English.

All jurisdictions with legislation governing private security agencies require that the agency operate in the province or territory in which they are seeking licensing. All conduct owner/administrator verification checks, require liability insurance, and require that a bond is posted. Several specify confirmation of no outstanding charges against owners/administrators, and police information and criminal record checks.

Quebec requires that the owner have five years of experience in the security industry.

Legislation in British Columbia, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario specifies that the agency licensee provide the Registrar with information on the security workers employed in the agency. Saskatchewan and Ontario require this information at the time the agency applies for their license. Only Manitoba requires that monthly updates be forwarded to the Registrar's office. Other jurisdictions such as Alberta require that agencies report hires and terminations within 30 days. For large companies that report is often forwarded monthly. For smaller agencies time between reports may be much longer. Table 13 in Appendix B details the legislated individual and agency requirements for obtaining licenses and periods of license validity.


In an effort to ensure persons entering the private security industry are competent, accountable, and can deliver services professionally British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, Quebec, and Newfoundland and Labrador have created provincial basic security training standards. Private security legislation in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island does not regulate training.

Training standards vary somewhat between provinces, however all prescribe that private security licensee applicants must complete required training (or demonstrate equivalence) and pass a provincial examination in order to apply for a license. Government-defined examination passing grades range from 60% in British Columbia to 80% in Alberta, with a common passing grade requirement of 70%.

The training standards prescribe the hours and content of training required. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario mandate 40 hours of training, Newfoundland and Labrador requires 60 hours, and Quebec requires 70 hours of training. Training is available in classroom-based environments and on line. Content is consistent with the requirements of the Standards Council of Canada Security Officers and Security Officer Supervisor standard (CAN/CSGSB-133.1-2008). Some course providers include additional topics such as gangs, presenting evidence in court, protecting evidence, responding to fire and bomb threats, conducting evacuations, searches and crowd control techniques. When noted approved training service providers are identified and authorized by government. They include educational institutions and private service providers.

Appendix B, Table 14 provides information on the legislated basic training requirements for private security guard, security services and private investigators in the provinces and territories, as well as information on the prescribed content of training courses. Of note is that only Saskatchewan specifies that relationships with police be included as a component of training.

Mandated Training for Specialized Licenses

A number of provinces mandate training for specialized licenses and circumstances. For example, to qualify for an unrestricted private investigator's license in British Columbia an applicant must work and train for 2,000 hours under supervision. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Ontario require 60, 40, and 50 hours of completed coursework respectively. Quebec requires 135 hours of coursework, or related post-secondary education (specifically identified) within the five years preceding the private investigator application. Newfoundland and Labrador requires proof of completion of a security related community college program.

Alberta specifically excludes armoured vehicle services and the guards in their employ from security licensing. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and New Brunswick security legislation is silent on any training requirements for armed guards. British Columbia, Quebec, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, Newfoundland, and Labrador have mandated training that includes firearms training for guards transporting valuables and other authorized armed guards. Only Nova Scotia requires an annual firearms proficiency test for those authorized to carry firearms.

The provinces of Quebec, Alberta and British Columbia require that locksmiths have locksmith or locksmith journeyman certification to be licensed. British Columbia is the only province that requires a certification of qualification from the Industry Trade Authority for security alarm installers.

In order to be authorized to carry a baton in Alberta and Nova Scotia, employees must complete a mandatory Use of Force and Baton Training and a certified baton-training course (Alberta only). British Columbia mandates a 24-hour advanced security-training course if the security service providers is required to carry and use handcuffs in the performance of his/her duties. Alberta legislation is silent on the use of handcuffs, however, and requires the employer to be approved if they will employ a security services worker who carries handcuffs. British Columbia and New Brunswick require security-related dog handlers to have completed canine courses. British Columbia also requires that security guards licensed to carry and use handcuffs take a 24-hour advanced security-training course. Appendix B, Table 15, sets out the government mandated training for specialized private security licenses in the provinces and territories.

Legislated Conduct Requirements

Quebec imposes the most extensive conduct obligations on private security personnel, followed closely by Alberta, British Columbia, and Ontario. Quebec has a separate regulation on standards of conduct for private security personnel, and a guidebook titled Private Security Legal Aspects Concerning Agency Representatives to Support Security Personnel.

Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia provide some guidance, but do not have a section specifically focused on conduct. This does not imply that good conduct is not important in these jurisdictions. For example, the Manitoba security guard training manual contains a segment on conduct that includes some of the elements listed below, especially as those referencing professionalism and the importance of complying with laws and legal requirements. Of note is that Alberta requires every business licensee to provide the Registrar with a Code of Conduct that the agency has established.

Conduct requirements are presented in three major areas: professionalism; compliance with laws and licensing; and, working within the limits of authorization. Appendix B, Table 16, and presents a summary of the legislated conduct requirements for private security personnel in each province and territory.

Complaint and Appeal Management

All provinces except Newfoundland and Labrador specify complaint-handling processes in legislation. In Newfoundland and Labrador, complaints about a security guard or service can be filed with the government's Consumer Affairs Division. Ontario and Quebec specify that complaints must be filed within 90 days of the occurrence, and British Columbia requires reporting within a year. British Columbia, Ontario and Alberta post easily searchable complaints processes and/or policies online. Complaints in Quebec are directed to the Director of the Bureau de la Sécurité privée; in Prince Edward Island to the Minister of Economic Development, Tourism, Justice and Public Safety; in Newfoundland and Labrador to the Administrator of Private Investigator and Security Services. In Alberta, complaints about individual licensees are directed to the employer. In all other jurisdictions and for complaints about security agencies in Alberta, complaints are directed to the Registrar for private security services. In the majority of jurisdictions, complaints must be submitted in writing. British Columbia requires submission within a year of occurrence; Ontario and Nova Scotia require submission within 90 days of the occurrence. Legislation for other jurisdictions does not specify timelines for submission. In Quebec, complaints can be filed online, by phone or by letter. Alberta is the only province that accepts anonymous complaints.

Legislation in all jurisdictions permits the individual in charge of private security programs to initiate investigations without a complaint. The individual is also authorized to determine whether an investigation should be conducted. Legislation in a number of jurisdictions list conditions under which the Registrar or other responsible person may refuse to investigate.

Manitoba, Alberta and British Columbia legislation requires that the complainant be advised if the complaint will or will not be investigated. Alberta and British Columbia legislation specifies that the complainant must be provided with a status report of the investigation every 30 and 60 days respectively. British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba legislation also requires that a complainant be notified at the conclusion of the investigation. Additionally, Manitoba legislation requires that everyone affected by the outcome of an investigation must be notified.

Alberta and Manitoba require that the licensee against whom the complaint is filed must be advised of the complaint. Ontario legislation uses the wording "may be advised." Only Saskatchewan specifically requires the licensee to respond. Alberta is the only province that obliges the employer to investigate complaints against individual licensees. Legislation specifies that the employer must investigate and render a decision within 90 days of receipt of the complaint.

The Registrar, Commissioner, Director or Minister in each jurisdiction investigates or assigns an investigator to investigate the complaint. Ontario may refer code of conduct complaints to a facilitator, who can make recommendations to the Registrar. In Alberta, employers may attempt to informally resolve the complaint through mediation prior to conducting a formal investigation, but only with consent of the complainant and the licensed worker involved (as per the company's complaint management policy).

Upon conviction for a violation of provincial legislation, British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Ontario, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island legislation provides for the imposition of fines, prosecution and/or suspension or cancellation of individual or agency licenses. British Columbia additionally provides for verbal or written warnings. Alberta legislation includes options for restitution, compensation and/or a requirement to pay other associated costs.

Legislation in Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia permits appeals of Registrar's decisions. In Alberta, persons dissatisfied with the decision of the employer, may file an appeal in writing to the Registrar within 30 days of the decision. In Saskatchewan appeals must be submitted to the Commissioner of the Saskatchewan Police Commission (period not specified), and in Manitoba to the Court of Queen's Bench within 90 days of the decision.

If complainants are not satisfied with the decision rendered on appeal they may, in Saskatchewan, file a further appeal with the Court of Queen's Bench, and in Alberta with the Director of Law Enforcement, Solicitor General and Minister of Public Security. These decisions are final. Appendix B, Table 16, presents a summary of the legislated complaint management processes for private security in the provinces and territories.

Licensee Reporting Requirements

Legislation requires individual licensees in Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Nova Scotia to report if they have been charged with a criminal offence. Alberta, Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia also require a report for any use of force exercised by a licensee. Business licensees in Alberta, Ontario, Nova Scotia, and Newfoundland are required to report any employee use of a baton or other weapon, any criminal charges and any incidents involving serious injury or death. Table 10, next page, presents information on the reporting requirements for private security in the provinces and territories.

Table 10: Licensee Reporting Requirements
Province or

British Columbia






Nova Scotia

New Brunswick

Prince Edward Island

Newfoundland & Labrador


North West Territories



If charged or convicted with criminal or drug offence














Loss of license














Any use of force















Employee use of baton, weapon or other force














Allegations of crime














Criminal charges or convictions against licensee














Incidents involving serious injury or death














Persons purchasing body armour














Names of employees authorized to carry firearms, batons, handcuffs














* Within 24 hours
** Within three days

Uniform, Vehicle, Equipment and Service Dog Regulations

Legislation in all jurisdictions regulating private security services require uniforms to be approved by the Minister, Registrar, Director or Bureau chief. With the exception of Saskatchewan, all require that the word "Security" OR "Security Guard" is prominently displayed on the uniform, and British Columbia, Alberta, Nova Scotia and Newfoundland require that uniforms do not display the word police on them or resemble a police uniform. Alberta and Ontario require that any striping on a uniform is restricted to reflective white stripes. BC, Manitoba, Ontario and Nova Scotia specify that the use of badges is not permitted. British Columbia and Manitoba specify that any logos used must not resemble a police or military logo. British Columbia further requires that logos or insignia must not promote intolerance or hatred. PEI specifically prohibits the use of the word "police" in a security agency name.

Regulations for vehicles vary across jurisdictions. The provinces of Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta, and British Columbia specify that private security vehicles must not be marked or colored in a way that resembles police vehicles. Quebec and Yukon legislation does not address vehicle colours or markings. British Columbia, Alberta and Saskatchewan prohibit security vehicles from having flashing lights or searchlights resembling police lights unless specifically authorized. Alberta and British Columbia also prohibit sirens and light bars resembling emergency service vehicles.

British Columbia, Alberta, Ontario and Quebec require security vehicles to have the word "Security" on both sides of the vehicle. British Columbia and Alberta require the security company name and contact information to be displayed on the vehicle. In addition, Alberta requires that the company logo is displayed on the vehicle.

Prohibited and Restricted Equipment

Legislation in all jurisdictions except Quebec, New Brunswick, Newfoundland and Labrador and the Yukon specifically prohibits private security service providers from carrying or using weapons, ammunition or devices prohibited by the Criminal code unless specifically authorized. The legislation in Alberta specifically mentions the following weapons and prohibited weapons: OC spray, SAP gloves, PR 24 nightsticks, shock sticks, conducted energy weapons or any other weapon prohibited by the Code of Canada will not be permitted. Alberta permits security service providers to carry bear spray if their work environment warrants it. British Columbia legislation specifies that devices designed to debilitate or control a person or animal are prohibited. Alberta also prohibits the use of flashlights longer than 18," batons longer than 26," and the use of police scanners. Saskatchewan and Nova Scotia prohibit the use of batons. Ontario prohibits the use of cable or strip ties, as restraints.

Use of Dogs

Legislation specifies that dogs used for security work must be properly trained and used only for authorized purposes, and that unless they are "yard dogs" (left in a yard on their own) they must at all times be under the control of an authorized security worker. British Columbia specifies that dogs that have been trained to kill or seriously injure people or animals are not permitted. Ontario and Nova Scotia prohibit the use of dogs for crowd control. British Columbia, Ontario and Nova Scotia require that security service dogs wear a collar and identification tag that includes the name of the security business licensee. Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Quebec, Prince Edward Island, and Yukon security legislation is silent on the use of dogs. Appendix B, Table 18 sets out the provisions for private security uniforms, vehicles, equipment, and service dogs in the provinces and territories.

Review of Legislative and Policy Guidelines for Private Security

A review of the materials in Tables 8, 9, 13 to 18 reveals a number of key findings, including:

  1. licensing requirements vary considerably across the country - some jurisdictions license no one, others license everyone in a security related field.  Only Alberta licenses security-training providers.  Other provinces authorize training providers. Some jurisdictions have no legislation, policy or guidelines on specific dimensions of private security;
  2. there is no provincial or territorial legislation that requires licensing for in-house security/investigators etc. who work for private companies not focused on security services - e.g. financial institutions, oil and gas industry, with the result that there is no information on this very important private security sector;
  3. there are no national training standards, although some equivalencies are recognized between provinces/territories. Content in those provinces with training standards is consistent with the requirements of the Standards Council of Canada Security Officers and Security Officer Supervisor standard (CAN/CSGSB-133.1-2008).
  4. the growth in the private security sector has been significant, although government capacity to provide oversight and ensure accountability of the industry is limited;
  5. all jurisdictions hold government responsible for licensing and inspections – what that entails varies from one province to another - e.g. an Ontario government representative noted that they do not have information on which individuals work for which private security firm, so tracking is difficult.  Only Manitoba and Alberta actually require security agencies to provide monthly updates on employees working for them;
  6. training and testing standards vary across the country; and,
  7. complaint mechanisms, processes, and appeals processes vary across the country.

Governance, and Government Perspectives on Private Security

Another component of the project was the collection of materials through interviews with representatives of the police, private security, and government. Interviews were conducted via telephone. Respondents were assured of anonymity and that prior permission would be obtained should any quoted materials be used in the final report.

The interviews centered on five topic areas: 1) the issues surrounding the role of private security firms; 2) the relationship between public police and private security; 3) the gaps that private security could fill; 4) existing practices and best practices; and 5) any additional comments that the respondent would offer on the role of private security. The interview questions are contained in Appendix C.

A number of key issues emerged from the interviews. These included:

  1. Respondents tended to focus on security guards in their comments on private security, most likely due to this group having the highest profile;
  2. There was a general acknowledgement that specialized expertise is required for complex investigations and that police often don't have this capacity, but that private security often does;
  3. None of the respondents raised the issue of skewed crime statistics as a consequence of private entities not being required to report criminal incidents that come to their attention; several of the respondents noted that police statistics were problematic, as well;
  4. In the view of private security personnel, they are responding to an unfulfilled demand and are an alternative to the increasing concerns with the costs and sustainability of the public police;
  5. A view among private security personnel that in the future those parties who want additional protections and are willing and able to pay for it will be able to secure it, while the public police will respond to the safety and security needs of those who are unable to purchase private services;
  6. The view by some private security personnel that, for a variety of reasons, the public police are unresponsive or challenged to respond to client needs, whereas private security can provide immediate and focused attention, great customer service, and results;
  7. Public police and police governance representatives expressed concern with the governance, oversight, and accountability of private security;
  8. Provincial and territorial governments are finding it challenging to monitor and provide proper oversight for private security, particularly given its rapid growth in recent years;
  9. There was acknowledgement that there is a possibility that organized crime has infiltrated the private security industry;
  10. Identification of the needs for legislation and regulations to provide oversight of the private security industry, particularly in provincial and territorial jurisdictions where this is either absent or minimal;
  11. A view among private security personnel that they are future oriented, with a focus on mitigation and prevention rather than being only response-oriented;
  12. The changing social landscape, wherein there has been a move from clearly defined public and private spaces to a blurring of the boundaries;
  13. A focus in some jurisdictions on a holistic approach to safety and security that involves multiple partners; some provinces include private security in that mix, others do not;
  14. Metrics used by the public police focus on outputs such as number of arrests and crime rates, while those used by private security outcomes including client satisfaction, repeat business, and growth in business; output measures are valuable in loss prevention efforts;
  15. Private security incursions into traditional policing functions are haphazard, unplanned and there is a widely held view that growth is driven by private interests; and,
  16. A concern with the expansion of security units in private corporations, which may result in the police not having access to, and being able to utilize intelligence that they gather.

A representative of a European police association expressed concerns that if routine police work were contracted out, the police will lose all corporate capacity and become entirely reliant on the private security industry; making the public service a “complete hostage to private service demands or would be unable to respond to instances in which the private sector failed to deliver on its contractual obligations.” He cited the example of the British private security firm G4S not fulfilling its obligation to provide an adequate number of security personnel for the London Olympic games, necessitating at the last minute the British government to call in the armed forces to provide security.

An RCMP Superintendent who was interviewed gave the example of the challenges of a homeless camp in their area. This involved approximately 70 persons camped at the end of a residential street. Police were insufficiently resourced to respond to increased calls for service for loud noise, open liquor, property crime issues. The municipality has hired private security to monitor the camp as an interim step in the development of a housing strategy. Security in marked cars patrol the area from three to ten p.m. daily and guards walk in the area. Security files a daily report with the City. Security call police directly in cases of assaults, overdoses, and weapons offences. Calls for service have been reduced, and it appears that community residents are the direct beneficiary of this initiative. The guards are equipped only with radios and cell phones. There has been no observed or reported overstepping of boundaries to date, nor have there been any complaints against the private security employees.

A European respondent noted that the UK had experienced challenges with private service providers who would rather pay a fine than meet 24/7 work placement obligations and that, in some instances, the costs were higher for private service providers. This respondent also noted that private security firms are privately owned companies that focus on growth, not on the public good. This view was echoed by a senior Canadian provincial justice official who raised the issue as to whether private police had public interests as a priority.

However, the Vice President, Operations of a large private security company in the U.S., noted that the police are stretched too thin and are unable to do all that is required. Police chiefs are faced with the challenge of saving money while at the same time providing increased safety and security to the community. In his view, communities will always want more than police can give. This makes it important to consider how the time and energy of sworn officers can best be used. This provides an opportunity for private security to free the police up to do what they are trained to do.

Other issues raised by the respondents in the interviews included: recruitment and training; community engagement; creating a legislative and regulatory framework for private security; collaboration; oversight and accountability; and organized crime.

Recruitment and Training

A major concern expressed by several interviewees is that there is no “public” control over services, including recruiting, selection, training, performance assessment, and policies and procedures of private security firms. There was a widespread view that there is a need to examine standards, expectations, and governance and that there should be more compliance requirements. The Vice President, Operations of a large U.S. private security company stated that a big question is, “How much authority should be given to non-government agents?”

The director of a campus police service noted that there was no training requirement for special constable training. Their service was using a handbook that was a decade old until a training course was developed by the jurisdictional police service. The course is of two weeks duration, is hosted by the university, and is delivered by the police service. Employees are required to take a refresher course every five years. The university covers the costs of the training. The course is also made available to other university security officers in the province and there is the hope that a province-wide, accredited training course will be developed.

Community Engagement

A senior provincial justice official indicated that there was a need for increased community engagement on the issue of the role of private security. This should occur within a framework that considers the costs, legislation and funding sources for public police and private security.

Legislative and Regulatory Framework

There was a consensus among the Canadian respondents of the need for more clear delineation of responsibility between the public police and private security. Noting the need for increased oversight, one provincial official noted that the legislation in their province had been was written ten years ago. In her view, there was need to close the gaps. Thousands of licenses had been issued in recent years. The increased number of private security personnel and the complexity of the situations in which they become involved require increased oversight. This respondent also noted that while security personnel in the province receive a two-year license, the government does not know where they are working. There is a requirement for the company to report who is working for them. The interviewee noted that it is important to know where these personnel are working.

This provincial official noted that a number of businesses were exempt from provincial legislation, including the armoured car industry. However, these personnel are authorized to carry firearms. There is a need for higher standards and to have provisions in place to ensure that private security personnel have both initial and continuing training. It was noted that the requirements for increased regulations and requirements for private security personnel must be balanced against low wage jobs where employees often have to pay for their own training and uniforms. Costs could be reduced by using on-line training.


A number of the respondents indicated that a fundamental challenge is that private security firms are focused on generating revenue, growth and creating value for shareholders, not on public interest. A Deputy Chief Constable noted that, because of this, the response of private security to situations is often unsophisticated and not of a problem-solving nature.

In the opinion of the Chair of a municipal police board, private security could provide low-level “policing,” including apartment and neighbourhood monitoring and access control monitoring. This respondent advocated a hybrid model wherein the public police have primary responsibility and can access private resources when required.

Oversight and Accountability

A former police official with extensive policing experience noted that currently in Canada, the legislative, legal, structural and policy regiment don't support the use of private security for many police functions. In his view, key questions are: “Who would hold private security accountable?,” “How can it be ensured that public interests trump private interests?” This respondent stated that there was a need to focus on service delivery and to set standards for information sharing to support a mix of state and non-state actors. One respondent pointed out that in his province, private security personnel are licensed by the province, which is supposed to provide oversight of training. However, there are not sufficient resources to ensure that this is done. This official noted that there were huge gaps in regulation and oversight. It was suggested by several respondents that there is a need for provisions to oversee conduct and public complaint issues.

A provincial official noted that government often did not know about problems in the private security industry unless a member of the public files a complaint. Registrars or other designated government officials can apply remedies that vary from a warning to revoking licenses. Many interviewees reinforced the need to investigate those who are not playing by the rules.

A Deputy Chief Constable in a large Canadian urban police service expressed a preference for quasi-police positions in those areas where full police responsibilities are not required. This would provide for more control and public accountability through review, selection standards defined by the police act and other policies.

The Chair of a police board in a large municipality indicated that it was imperative that governance and oversight of private security be maintained and that the police play a major role in this. His suggestion was that private security be accountable to the police. This could be accomplished by MOUs wherein the police would establish training standards, monitor investigation performance, and ensure the complaint mechanism is functioning well.

One respondent provided the example of a case in which a landlord had hired a private security firm to patrol an apartment building. Residents were angry about the guard's behaviour, citing the use of a ferocious dog when it was not required. The police had to respond and resolve the situation. There was otherwise no recourse for the residents.

A notable gap identified by several of the respondents was that there are currently no reporting requirements for private security. This precludes governments from understanding the nature and extent of their activities, and hinders them in identifying problems that might exist, and developing and implementing legislation and policies that could improve the effectiveness and accountability of private security personnel. Similarly, there are no data gathered on the nature and extent of public police-private sector partnerships, the effectiveness of these ventures, and the factors that either facilitate or hinder collaboration.

However, the Vice President, Operations of a large U.S. private security company noted that his firm has a contractual obligation to discipline (verbal warning to termination) employees who do not work within prescribed guidelines. The investigation is done “in house” by the company. An Alberta government official noted that they have a similar system where complaints received are forwarded to the company where the employee is working for investigation. The government further requires that complaints be investigated and resolved within 90 days. Appeals to the government are available if the complainant feels the complaint has not been appropriately concluded.

Organized Crime

Concerns were expressed by several respondents about the potential linkages between security and organized crime. One provincial official noted that there were opportunities for organized crime to invade private security, although they could not provide specific examples. This official stated that there was a need to move inspections of private security to an arms-length agency and that in Ontario recommendations to that effect were currently being made to the Minister responsible. For many years, licensing involved approval by the Ontario Provincial Police (OPP) anti-rackets unit although this responsibility was transferred to government.

Areas for Policy Dialogue

Privatization and the expansion of the activities of private security can be viewed against the larger debate over the transformation of policing and the extent to which police services can be commodified (Rigakos, 2002). It raises a number of important questions, including, “Should the increasing ratio of private security to police actors be regarded as a positive or negative development?” (White, 2014:1019), and “How should the emergence of private policing be valued? Is it a threat to established notions of civil rights, equality and impartiality” or “Does private policing have the potential to deliver security in a way that is beneficial for society?” (van Bruun and den Boer, 2009:28) Addressing these fundamental concerns requires an informed dialogue on the role of private security within the larger context of the economics of policing. This study can be an element in such a dialogue, but there are yet a number of questions that remain to be answered. The authors of this report offer the following questions to guide further discussion:

Determining the Potential of Private Security

  1. What are the current activities of private security in Canada?
  2. What are the outcomes of those activities?
  3. What are the best practices in private security?
  4. What portions of public policing are “unsustainable” and could be assumed by private security?
  5. What are the parameters of private policing?
  6. Is a new model of policing required?
  7. What is the potential for collaborative relationships between the public police and private security?
  8. What is the potential role of private security companies in providing specialized services currently delivered by public police (This is a separate issue from civilianization in police services.)
  9. Training
  10. Is the training received by private security adequate for the tasks that they perform
  11. What are the current gaps in training and how can these be addressed
  12. What are the implications for training if the role and activities of private security are expanded?

Oversight and Accountability

  1. What oversight and accountability structures should the provinces and territories put in place to ensure that the operations and activities of private policing companies and officers are monitored and, where required, sanctioned?
  2. What provisions should be in place to address cost-overruns and cases in which contractual obligations are not met (e.g., the G4S situation with the London 2012 Olympics)?

Contracting and Performance Assessment

  1. What metrics should be used to assess and evaluate the expertise of private policing firms and their employees?
  2. What criteria should be used to vet the capacity of a private policing firm to meet its contractual obligations?
  3. What metrics should be used to assess the effectiveness of private security with respect to “value for service”, performance outcomes, and other facets of activity?
  4. What provisions exist to conduct follow-up assessments to determine whether private security can achieve the anticipated results?
  5. What are the “hidden” costs of outsourcing public police functions to private security firms, e.g. a potential decrease in public legitimacy of the public police; a lack of institutional knowledge of communities, neighborhoods, issues; high turnover among private security personnel; private security officers “behaving badly”?

The Community

  1. How does the community conceptualize the role of private policing?
  2. What are community attitudes toward, and experiences with, private security?
  3. What activities would the community ascribe to public police and to private security?
  4. What provisions are required to ensure that Canadians receive equitable services from private security officers?
  5. What provisions should be in place to ensure feedback from visible minority communities?
  6. What requirements should be in place to ensure proper responses to persons with addictions, mental illness, and other challenges?
  7. What safeguards should be put in place to ensure that private security can provide bias-free security?

Information for Decision Makers

  1. How knowledgeable are the decision makers who are considering the expansion of private policing about policing issues, cost-effectiveness, deployment, and other factors?
  2. What initiatives are required to ensure that decision makers have sufficient knowledge and information to make informed decisions about the expansion of private policing?

Public-Private Partnerships

  1. What strategies and policies should the public police adopt to maximize the benefits of collaboration in a pluralized policing environment?
  2. What challenges does the pluralization of policing pose for effective and acceptable governance of, and public accountability for, policing? How might these challenges best be met?
  3. How can we best ensure equitable access to safety and security in a plural policing environment? (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013:17).

Areas for Further Research

This study provides a foundation for further dialogue on the role of private security in Canada, the potential for public police-private security partnerships and for privatization. As well, the study has identified a number of areas for which not much is yet known. These include:

  1. exploring the activities of in-house corporate private security units and their interface with public police services;
  2. considering the role of police unions and associations in the transfer of police tasks to private companies and the role of private security industry;
  3. examining the implications of the increasing concerns with terrorism on the potential for privatizing certain police tasks and for transferring traditional police duties to private security companies; and,
  4. considering the development of nationwide standards for training and oversight of private security officers.

Among the research questions that might be posed by researchers in academia, or on behalf of business, governments, or police organizations, are:

  1. What are the optimal strategies that governments and the police can use to maximize the benefits of police-private sector collaboration?
  2. Is the relationship between the public and private security inherently one of competition?
  3. What are the limits of privatization and in the role of private security agencies?
  4. What is the impact of downloading on the potential role of private security and of privatization?
  5. What unique challenges to the discussions of private security and privatization are presented by the RCMP as a federal and contracted provincial or municipal police service? More specifically, are their contingencies surrounding the RCMP as a national police force that do not exist for independent municipal police services?
  6. To what extent should private security firms be held to the core tenets of contemporary professional policing, including: community engagement; ensuring public confidence; and, legitimacy?
  7. What challenges are faced by private security services in Canada where there are limited force options to resolve situations?
  8. How does Canada avoid the “good policing for the rich and bad policing for the poor” syndrome that may be an outcome of plural policing? (Pearson-Goff and Herrington, 2013).

The expansion of private security in Canada appears to have occurred in the absence of a framework informed by best practices and lessons learned from other jurisdictions. There is little information on key areas, including: 1) how police associations and police officers feel about private security; 2) the potential and limitations of private security; 3) what types of oversight is required for private security; 4) the nature and extent of relationships between public police and private security personnel; 5) the protocols, if any, that are in placed to ensure against the infiltration of private security by organized crime; and, 6) how the continuing growth of private security is being influenced by the issues surrounding the economics of policing, gaps in service delivery by the public police, and community expectations, among others. Similarly, there are few published evaluations of the efficiency and effectiveness of private security.

Key Considerations

The materials gathered for this report, both from the published literature and in interviews with police and private security officials indicate that there is the potential for private security to play an important role in community safety and addressing issues of crime and social disorder. There are numerous examples in the jurisdictions surveyed for this study of the police working in effective partnerships with private security.

The Effectiveness of Private Security

Research evidence as to the effectiveness of police-private security and private security initiatives in preventing crime and reducing disorder is mixed. As one observer has noted, “Expensive and elaborate partnerships have at times failed to show a crime reduction effect. In other cases, the precise factors affecting reductions in crime are difficult to identify (Prenzler, 2013:52).” A key factor in the success of these initiatives is management; that is, ensuring there is open communication among the parties, the integrity of the initiative, effective supervision of police and private security officers, and protocols for evaluation. Leuprecht (2014:16) has argued that the challenges associated with expanding the role of private security in Canada can be mitigated, in part, by a licensing and bonding regimen.

Implementing Effective Police-Private Security Partnerships

The Australian police scholars Prenzler and Sarre (2012) have identified a number of key factors that are important to the success of police-private security partnerships. Among these are: 1) a common interest in reducing a specific crime or crime set; 2) effective leadership, with personal with authority from each partner organization driving participation; 3) mutual respect; 4) information sharing based on high levels of trust in confidentiality; formal meetings of consultation and communication; and, 5) a willingness to experiment and consider all ideas (Prenzler and Sarre, 2012:163). These processes seem to be in their infancy in Canada. The tiered policing system in Alberta is perhaps the best current example of a system-wide framework for police-private security collaboration.

Defining the Core Functions of the Public Police

In all of the jurisdictions reviewed, a major challenge is that the core functions of the police have not been defined. This makes it difficult to identify the parameters of the role and responsibilities of the public police, and to determine the niche for private security, working in partnership either with the police, or in an outsourcing or privatization arrangement. Therefore, the expansion of private security has evolved on a de facto basis.

The Impact of Privatization on the Numbers of Public Police

It is often assumed that privatizing and outsourcing traditional police tasks will result in reductions in the numbers of sworn police officers. This may not necessarily be the case, one observer stating, “A growing market for policing-type services can grow alongside growing or stable police numbers” (Prenzler, 2013:52). Public police-private security collaboration may, on the other hand, result in innovative initiatives that previously did not exist (Prenzler, 2013:52).

Ensuring Effective Oversight of Private Security

It was previously noted that little attention has been given to the legal framework within which private security firms operate (Sarre, 2010a; 2010b; 2012). Similarly, there has been little attention given to developing compliance standards and structures for a regulatory regimen (Button, 2007a:207). There is also considerable variability across jurisdictions in provisions for enforcement where regulations do exist. Most often, sanctions involve revoking operating licenses (Button, 2007a:213).

In the absence of a national, provincial or territorial strategic plan for private security, there has also been a failure to develop mechanisms to ensure effective oversight of private security. This has a number of consequences, including an inability to ensure that private security companies are not vulnerable to organized crime, unethical and/or illegal behaviour.

The Role and Activities of Corporate Security Units

An examination of the role and activities of corporate security, both in the private and public sectors, was beyond the scope of this study. Nevertheless, it is evident that the size and scope of activities of these units is expanding. Despite this, there are few, if any, protocols in place to ensure communication and information sharing between these units, many of which are staffed by ex-police and security officers, and the public police. Similarly, there is no information on the size of these units, their budgets, and their activities. At present, these units seem to inhabit a parallel universe to both public police and traditional private security firms. Study could be made of these units, their current interface with public police services, and the potential for increased collaboration and partnerships. This assumes even greater importance with the rise of technology-related crimes and cyber-crime.

The Role of Police Unions and Associations

It is important to include representatives from police unions and associations in any discussions of the role of private security. Many of the issues that surround this topic fall within the purview of collective agreements that currently exist between police unions or police associations and their employer. Further, the success or failure on initiatives that involve private security may well turn on the goodwill and involvement of not only police leaders but police members as well.

Measuring the Cost Effectiveness of Police-Private Security Initiatives

In Canada, discussions about the current and potential role of private security have occurred in the context of the economics and sustainability of public policing. The adage “Policing costs are up; crime rates are down; policing is not sustainable” has been the catalyst for initiatives to reduce the levels of public police and to outsource tasks traditionally performed by the police via tired policing and other arrangements.

Significantly, however, the movement by governments to expand the role of private security is occurring in the absence of empirical research studies that would reveal the nature and extent of cost savings, the effectiveness, and the sustainability of police-private sector partnerships, outsourcing, and privatization. Cost savings are most often assumed rather than demonstrated (Brunger, 2012).

Within the larger context of the economics of policing, there is no published data on the relative cost-effectiveness of private versus public police. Any cost comparison would be problematic, due to the legislated mandate of the public police and the inability of public police to “download” responsibilities to other agencies and organizations, including private security firms.

At a theoretical level, police scholars have called for the study of the economic context of the emergence of private security, including considering “What fluctuations in supply and demand are responsible for facilitating the expansion of private security providers?,” “What business strategies are these providers using to capitalize upon these fluctuations?,” and “How are these strategies impacting upon the delivery of domestic security?” (White, 2011:95).

Public Police-Private Security Partnerships versus Privatization and Outsourcing

The greatest potential for ensuring that private security is value added to crime prevention efforts and to the response to crime lies in public police-private security partnerships. Ideally, these partnerships would be a component of strategic plans that identify areas where collaboration between public police and other groups in the community can be undertaken, monitored, and evaluated.

The experiment in the UK with the extensive privatization of police functions and with collaborative partnerships such as that which exists in the Lincolnshire involving the police and the private security firm G4S remains to be subject to outside evaluation. Cost should be one of only several metrics that are used to evaluate the effectiveness of these collaborative partnerships and of outsourcing. Given the unique role of the police in society, other metrics including the legitimacy of the police, the community's view of the various initiatives, and the sustainability of collaborative partnerships must be examined.

Research on Private Security Activities

The absence of evaluation research on private policing in Canada (and in most other jurisdictions as well) precludes an informed discussion on proposals for expanding the activities of private policing companies. As well, it is difficult to assess the proposals that are made by private security companies to assume responsibilities currently managed by public police, or to evaluate the effectiveness of the strategies that are being proposed by private security firms. There is a need to know more about what private security personnel are doing, the rationale for their activities, and whether these rationales are supported by empirical data. There is no information on the ethics of private security, the values of private security officers, and the private security subculture – all key facets in the study of public police (van Buuren and den Boer, 2009:57).

Developing Standards and Accreditation

A number of the issues raised in this review can be effectively addressed by the development of national standards and a uniform accreditation certification process. This could be set as a best practice to which all jurisdictions could contribute. This might include certification that was transferable across jurisdictions.

Next Steps

This review has revealed that private security is already playing a significant role in the safety and security web in Canada. The challenge is to optimize this role while ensuring that there are standards for training and oversight, as well as protocols, for the development and maintenance of public police-private security partnerships and collaboration. To date, the role of private security has generally evolved in the absence of legislative and policy frameworks that addresses these requirements.

In a comparative context, Canada lags behind other jurisdictions in legislative and policy frameworks that would provide a measure of oversight of private security firms to ensure governance, accountability, and transparency of private security operations, and that could be used to identify the potential for collaboration between the public police and the private sector. There is little or no governance or oversight of private security firms in Canada, no mechanisms that require standardized reporting by private security firms, and only minimal standards in place for licensing, training, and discipline of the various positions within the private security industry. Similarly, there appears to be limited information on the size, expertise, and activities of in-house corporate security units and of how these units might interface with the public police for mutual benefit.

A possible next step in exploring the potential for public police-private security partnerships might be to develop a series of pilot projects that could provide the template for expanding these partnerships across the country. It could also be beneficial to bring together senior police leaders and the senior management of private security firms to discuss the opportunities for partnerships. At present, most of the dialogue on the topic has remained at a general level, often within the framework of the differences between public police and private security and the obstacles to partnerships. A direct and concrete dialogue could focus on the potential for partnerships and the requirements for creating and sustaining collaboration and feature case examples of existing partnerships. It would be important to involve police unions and associations in any such discussions and initiatives.

Discussions could also include the current state of in-house corporate security units, which have to-date not been part of the discussion of public police and private security. These units are expanding in size and in capability and often are better resourced than public police services. The need to rationalize policing services and ensure that public police service delivery is effective and efficient requires a close examination of how private sector corporate security units can contribute to preventing and responding to crime, particularly more sophisticated forms of criminal activity, including cybercrime.

As Canadian communities, police services, legislators, policymakers and private security firms begin to address the outstanding issues that have been identified in this review, it is important to be mindful of the observation that “If policymakers ignore the fundamental role of private action, they are in danger of misunderstanding observed trends and patterns in crime – and of failing to recognize effective tactics for reducing the costs of crime … In the co-production process by which the private and public sectors serve to influence the crime rate, greater public effort to enhance private inputs is a promising avenue to efficient crime control” (Cook and MacDonald, 2010:28).

From an examination of the state of public policing and private security in Canada, Rigakos and Leung (2006:137) found that there is considerable confusion surrounding their current and prospective roles and that “it remains to be seen whether or not market principles alone will dictate the future of security provision in this country, or whether the state will re-impose itself to reclaiming policing as public good.” Considering the issues that have been identified in this study will provide an opportunity to create the frameworks within which these policy discussions can occur.


Accredited Community Service Officer
Aéroports de Montréal
American Society for Industrial Security
Automated Teller Machine
Business Improvement District/Business Improvement Association
Bureau de la Sécurité privée
Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies
Canadian Air Transport Security Authority
Canadian Cyber-security Incident Response Centre
Closed circuit television
Cyber-security Information Sharing Partnership
Council of Australian Governments
Certified Protection Professional
École nationale de police du Québec
Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Constabulary
Human Resources
International Association of Chiefs of Police
Independent Police Complaints Commission
Interactive Voice Response
Montreal Airport Police
National Audit Office
Ontario Provincial Police
Police Community Safety Officer
Private Finance Initiative
Persons with Mental Illness
Royal Canadian Mounted Police
Staff Sergeant
Security Guards
Special Investigations Unit
Service de police de la Ville de Montréal
Toronto Police Service
University of Waterloo
United Kingdom
United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime
United States of America
Victoria Police Service
Waterloo Regional Police Service


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Rigakos, G.S. and C. Leung. 2006. “Canada.” in T. Jones and T. Newburn, eds. Plural Policing: A Comparative Perspective. London: Routledge. 126-38.

Roberts, C. 2012. “The U.S. Federal Protective Service: A Troubled Agency—The Need for Improved Contract Guard Training and Oversight. “Journal of Applied Security Research, 7(4), 478-88.

Rogers, C. and J. Gravelle. 2012. “Policing After Winsor: Outsourcing and the Future of Policing.” The Police Journal, 84(4), 273-84.

____. 2013. “Future of Policing in the UK: Understanding the Economics.” Review of European Studies, 5(1), 116-23.

Rollings, K. 2008. Counting the Costs of Crime in Australia: A 2005 Update. Canberra: Australian Institute of Criminology. Accessed on March 4, 2015 from

Rowland, R. and T. Coupe. 2014. “Patrol Officers and Public Reassurance: A Comparative Evaluation of Police Officers, PSCOs, ACSOs and Private Security Guards.” Policing & Society, 24(3), 265-84.

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Sambrook, C. 2012a. “Corporate Power Stamps Its Brand on British Policing.” OurKingdom. April 14. Accessed on February 16, 2015 from

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Sarre, R. 2008. “The Legal Powers of Private Security Personnel: Some Policy Considerations and Legislative Options.” QUT Law and Justice Journal, 8(2), 301-13.

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Sharp, D., S. Atherton, and K. Williams. 2008. “Civilian Policing, Legitimacy and Vigilantism: Findings from Three Case Studies in England and Wales.” Policing & Society, 18(3), 245-57.

Shearing, C.D. and P.C. Stenning. 1981. “Modern Private Security: Its Growth and Implications.” in M. Tonry and N. Morris, eds. Crime and Justice: An Annual Review of Research Vol. 3, Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 193-235.

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Sklansky, D.A. 2006. “Private Security and Democracy.” American Criminal Law Review, 43(89), 89-105.

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Theunissen, M. 2013. “Police Hire Outsiders to Answer Emergency Calls.” The New Zealand Herald. November 17. Accessed on March 4, 2015 from

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van Buuren, J. and M. den Boer. 2009. A Report on the Ethical Issues Raised by Increasing the Role of Private Security Professionals in Security Analysis and Provision, Oslo: International Peace Research Institute. Accessed on February 14, 2015 from

van Dijk, J. 2008. The World of Crime. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

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van Steden, R. and R. Sarre. 2007. “The Growth of Private Security: Trends in the European Union.” Security Journal, 20(3), 222-35.

Victoria Police. 2014. Victoria Police Blue Paper. A Vision for Victoria Police in 2025. Melbourne. Accessed on March 4, 2015 from

Vindevogel, F. 2005. “Private Security and Urban Crime Mitigation: A Bid for BIDS.” Criminal Justice, 5(3), 233-55.

Wakefield, A. 2003. Selling Security: The Private Policing of Public Space, Portland: Willan. 2013. “58% Believe G4S and Serco Should be Banned from Public Service Bids.” September 16. Accessed on February 18, 2015 from

White, A. 2010. The Politics of Private Security: Regulation, Reform and Re-Legitimation. Basingstoke, New Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan.

_____. 2011. “The New Political Economy of Private Security.” Theoretical Criminology, 16(1), 85-101.

_____. 2014a. “Five Reasons Why It's Difficult to Privatise the Police.” LSE Comment, Accessed on February 15, 2015 from

_____. 2014b. “Post-crisis Policing and Public-Private Partnerships: The Case of Lincolnshire Police and G4S.” British Journal of Criminology, 54(6), 1002-22.

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A. Persons performing police functions (McKenna 2014)
B. Selected Tables

Table 11 – Police Non-core Activities and Private Security

Table 12 – Types of Police-private Sector Partnership Arrangements and Case Studies

Table 13 - Licensing and Licensing Renewal Requirements by Province/Territory

Table 14 -Security Training Requirements by Province/Territory

Table 15 - Government Mandated Training for Specialized Licenses by Province/Territory

Table 16 –Summary of Legislated Conduct Requirements

Table 17 -Summary of Legislated Complaint Management Processes

Table 18 - Uniform, Vehicle, Equipment and Service Dog Regulations

C. Interview questions
D. Canadian legislation governing policing and private security

Appendix A – Persons Performing Police Functions

Table: Persons Performing Police Functions
  Legal Power/Authority Governance Rank Remuneration Duties & Activities Example

Fully sworn police officer


Civilian governing authority, Chief of Police

Full range of ranks

Full salary, wages & benefits via collective agreement

Crime prevention; law enforcement, assistance to victims; emergency response; public order maintenance

Toronto Police Service 1st class constable

Part-time sworn police officer


Chief of Police

Limited range of ranks

Modified salary, wages and benefits tied to collective agreement

Specified by employment agreement

Calgary Police Service part-time and job sharing officers

Police officer with limited powers

Partial & defined in statute or regulation

Chief of police or senior officer (delegated authority)

Limited range of ranks

Modified salary, wages & benefits tied to collective agreement

Bike & foot patrols; special events; crime prevention

Calgary Police Auxiliary Cadet program

Civilian Police Employee

None beyond civilian powers

Chief of police or senior officer (delegated authority)

No rank

Full salary, wages & benefits via collective agreement; often lower rate of compensation than uniformed counterparts

Wide range of support roles, including financial management, strategic planning, policy & research, information, technology, communications

Ottawa Police Service Corporate Services

Auxiliary Personnel

None beyond civilian powers

Chief of Police or senior officers (delegated authority)

Ranks distinct from regular police officers

No salary, wages or benefits other than expense reimbursement, uniform, equipment etc.

Assisting patrol officers with regular calls, check-stops, and special events

Medicine Hat Police Service Auxiliary Program

Citizen volunteers

None beyond civilian powers

Chief of Police or senior officers (delegated authority)

No rank

No salary, wages or benefits

Staffing community policing centres, Block Watch, Citizens' Crime Watch

Vancouver Police Department

Private security personnel

None beyond civilian powers

Chief of Police or senior officers (delegated authority)

Ranks distinct from regular police officers

Modified salary, wages and benefits tied to collective agreement

Bylaw enforcement; parking control; crime scene security; jail guard/detention services

Commissionaires under contract to police service

Excerpted from: McKenna, P.F. 2014. “Tiered Policing: An Alternative Model of Police Service Delivery.”

Appendix B – Selected tables

Table 11: Police non-core activities and private security
Service Area Rationale and Comments Model Examples

Back- and middle-office functions


Many activities such as IT, finance, training, payroll, call handling, file management, procurement, transport, storage, property management and correspondence.

These functions have received particular attention in outsourcing discussions and projects in the UK. Outsourcing can enhance service quality whilst driving cost efficiencies, and release-sworn police for operational duties. It provides access to staff that can carry out routine and repetitive tasks more efficiently. If used more strategically, it can allow police forces to gain specialist providers as skilled partners, to help drive innovation.

Other administrative processes


Licensing functions. For example, Western Australia Police has outsourced some of its licensing functions, working with Australia Post to administer firearms license applications in a collaborative service approach.

Potentially the outsourcing of this type of administrative process could be applied to firearms or other licensing functions of Victoria Police, or in relation to other areas such as processing of infringement notices currently undertaken by Victoria Police through the Traffic Camera Office.

Custody suite management

Property management and detention duties, and further services in custody facilities, including catering and medical functions.

Custody suite management has formed part of the outsourcing debate, given the significant costs associated with maintaining the physical infrastructure as part of police stations, as well as the substantial police resources currently required to supervise detainees – again arguably not core police business.

Custody suite management

VPS staff.

Alternatively, custody administration functions could be delivered by civilian staff. Management of prisoners is a specialized skill; alternative delivery would likely increase both the effectiveness and efficiency of this service.

Detainee transport

Outsourcing or other alternative model of picking up detainees and transporting them back to police cells in stations.

Removing the requirement on police to transport detainees back to a police station could free up considerable frontline policing time.

Physical infrastructure and land holdings

Outsourcing or public-private partnerships.
Evidence and records storage, logistics facilities, and radio communication base sites.

Further services associated with expensive facilities should be considered for outsourcing. Often facilities owned by Victoria Police, for example its metropolitan property storage warehouse, are not purpose-built and require substantial ongoing work in management and maintenance that could be eliminated by exploring other configurations of service delivery such as public-private partnerships.

Police station infrastructure

Public-private partnerships.

A potentially more cost-effective way to provide service infrastructure where it is needed. This model is already in use in other countries and for other public facilities including schools, hospitals and prisons.

Specialist or infrequently-practiced functions

Commissioning external providers on an as-needs basis.

Medical and some forensic services.

Multi-disciplinary sworn and partially-sworn or VPS teams.

Investigative duties, such as e-crime or fraud, intelligence analysis, administration for court services. delivery of road safety functions.

Practitioners are starting to challenge whether all specialist functions, or functions related to rare incidents, in fact require police forces to maintain full-time sworn or VPS staff at significant cost ‘just in case.' There might also be scope for greater use of external providers of training, extending to aspects of basic training.

The workforce mix of Victoria Police also merits examination to consider how multi-disciplinary teams could better draw on specialist technical and professional skills or expertise to complement sworn roles.

Public safety management

Collaborative partnerships.

Businesses: greater involvement of businesses in funding and coordinating local safety management or to target industry-specific issues.

Private security sector, social enterprises and volunteer schemes supplementing public policing activities.

Public safety management is front-of-mind for many police forces that are exploring alternative service delivery mechanisms to enhance operational effectiveness and increase local visibility and capacity. By sharing and shifting the responsibilities of public safety, police forces will be able to achieve better value for money without compromising on the extensive service that the public expects. For example, police presence at commercial events, such as large sporting events, is currently well established; it is, however, no longer viable for Victoria Police to provide this service at a subsidized rate (therefore essentially consuming public funds), when aiming for optimal operational effectiveness in an era of budget constraints. Victoria Police should, instead, seek full cost recovery, to reinvest in priority operational areas. Other potential activities for which cost-recovery might be sought need careful analysis.

Other commercial initiatives

Greater business ownership.

Collection of tolls.

Victoria Police currently collects unpaid tolls for the privately operated City Link and East link toll roads. This would also be appropriate for delivery under an alternative model, and is an arrangement that would desirably be renegotiated in the future.

Source: Victoria Police, 2014:29-31.

Table 12: Types of Police-private Sector Partnership Arrangements and Case Studies
Type of Arrangement, Length and Size Characteristics Case Studies Scope of Services, Contract and Frequency of Staff Involved

Major business partnering

Covers a significant area of the cost base; partner assumes responsibility for the delivery of services

Avon and Somerset Constabulary

Commenced in 2008, involving the following services: enquiry offices; district HR; estates; financial services; site administration; facilities; corporate human resources; information services; purchasing and supply; reprographics.

Ten year contract involving 554 seconded staff

Affected police force staff are either transferred or seconded to the partner organisation; contracts are typically medium-term, ten years or more

Cheshire Constabulary and Northamptonshire Police

Commenced in 2011, involving the following services: shared business services in human foundation and resources; finance; purchasing; logistics; estates and facilities; analytics (business intelligence); payroll; and duty management.

Ten year contract involving 125 transferred staff


Cleveland Police

Commenced in 2010, involving the following services: call handling; support for the preparation of criminal case files; and shared business services covering finance, HR, payroll, commissioning and fleet management.

Ten year contract involving 514 transferred staff


Lincolnshire Police

Commenced in 2012, involving the following services: assets and facilities management (including fleet management); central ticket officer and road collisions unit; crime management bureau; criminal justice unit; custody (excluding custody sergeant role); finance and procurement; firearms licensing; force control room (excluding inspector role); HR services (excluding occupational health); HR learning and development; ICT; resource management unit and support services.

Ten year contract involving 600 transferred staff

Custody partnering (buildings and services)

Partner assumes responsibility for the delivery of services focused around custody

Forces regain managerial oversight of operations through warranted roles
Staff may be transferred to the partner organisation

Can involve the provision of buildings through private finance initiative (PFI) contracts

South Wales Police

Commenced in 2004, and re-tendered in 2009 the following services: detainee management; provision of laundry services; and “street to suite”.

Non-PFI five year service contract

PFI contracts which are long-term – 25-30 years

Norfolk Constabulary and Suffolk Constabulary

Commenced in 2010, involving the following services: six new buildings with contract management services; estates and facilities services; grounds maintenance services; utilities and energy management services; catering services; cleaning, waste and pest control services; and detainee consumables services.


Metropolitan Police Service

Operational from 2004, involving the following services: four new builds and custody suites at three locations with police services comprising front officer staff; custody assistants; property officers and typists. Other services provided include cleaning; catering and building maintenance.

25 year contract


Sussex Police

Commenced in 2001, involving the following services: four new buildings and refurbishment at two others with detainee management; cleaning; prisoner identification; facilities management and medical services.

30 year PFI contract

Consultancy support

Forces purchase external skills and expertise to facilitate transformation

Staffordshire Police

Commenced in 2008-09, and split into phases. Focused on operational policing as well as business support functions.

Contracts are short-tem — one to twelve months

West Midlands Police

Commenced in 2010-11, and split into phases. Focused on all operational policing areas and local policing units.

Source: NAO and HMIC, 2013:6-7.

Table 13. Licensing and Licensing Renewal Requirements by Province/Territory
Licensing Requirements (Individual) British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island* Newfoundland & Labrador Yukon North West Territories Nunavut












Not regulated

Not regulated

Not regulated

Criminal records check





Police records check











Correctional service information check













Child abuse registry check













Required training completed and exam passed/recertification for renewals if required










Security licenses refused, revoked, or suspended






Within past 5 yrs.






Canadian citizen and/or entitled to work in Canada









English fluency












Disclosure of mental condition for which treatment was received













Period of license validity

1-3 yrs

2 yrs

1 yr

1 yr

2 yrs

5 yrs

1 yr

1 yr

1 yr

1 yr




Operate in province where licensed




Company solvency










Liability Insurance












Licensing authority & decision makers














Owner & administrator verification







Moral person, no criminal record related to security activity













No outstanding criminal charges












Honesty and integrity













Min 5 yrs experience













Information on security workers employed


At time of agency license application

monthly report









Police Information and/or Criminal Record check












Period of license validity

1-3 yrs

3 yrs

1 yr

1 yr

2 yrs

3 yrs

1 yr

1 yr

1 yr

1 yr




*no licensing for security guards in PEI
**Bureau de la Sécurité prive

Table 14: Security Training Requirements by Province/Territory
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland & Labrador Yukon North West Territories Nunavut
Government mandated training for basic security license

Basic/level 1 training required for licensing








Training hours required for security guard licensing














Government examination passing grade














Government mandated basic training content

Duties and responsibilities














Conduct, professionalism & public relations














Legal system, criminal law, security legislation
Charter of Rights & Freedoms
Powers of arrest
Use of force














Access control & alarm systems














Traffic control














Note taking, reports & evidence














Crisis/emergency response














Patrol tactics and techniques














Labour disputes














Health and/or safety issues














Emergency First Aid














Effective communication














Retail security














Fire detection & prevention














Relationship with police














*required for job application only

Table 15: Government Mandated Training for Specialized Licenses by Province/Territory
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland & Labrador Yukon North West Territories Nunavut
Government mandated training for specialized licensing

Private investigators

2,000 hrs*


40 hrs


50 hrs

135 hrs**




Proof of completion - community college program





Certificate of Qualification - Locksmith

Locksmith Journey-man Certificate




Diploma of vocational studies – locksmith








Security alarm installers

Certificate of Qualification from the Industry Trade Authority













Transportation of valuables guards and armed guards

Authority to carry restricted weapons & prohibited handguns certificate





Firearms handling and use of force given by the École nationale de police du Québec (ENPQ) or an ENPQ accredited instructor.

Must pass annual firearms proficiency test


use of restricted weapons

Firearms use and safety course




Dog handlers

Canine Security Validation












Carrying batons


40 hr use of force training & permission to carry by employer












Carrying handcuffs

24hr advanced security training course***













* Under supervision, 2,000 hours training and work experience to obtain an unrestricted private investigator license.
** or Diploma in College Studies in police technology or a BA in Security and Police Studies obtained within the 5 years preceding application.
*** If required to carry and use handcuffs in the performance of their duties.

Table 16: Summary of Legislated Conduct Requirements
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland & Labrador Yukon North West Territories Nunavut


Must act with honesty and integrity










Must not use profane, abusive or insulting language or action











Must treat people respectfully, politely, equally and without discrimination











Must not abuse authority













Must not engage in behavior prohibited by law











Must not be unfit for duty through consumption of alcohol or drugs or other substances causing reduced or disturbed faculties or intoxication










Must avoid conflicts of interest













Every business licensee must provide Registrar with a code of conduct that has been established and maintained













Compliance with Laws and Licensing

Must comply with licensing requirements











Must comply with laws









Must comply with privacy legislation and treat information confidentially










Must work only with agencies licensed to do security work













Must not prevent or contribute to preventing justice from taking its course or conceal or fail to pass on evidence or information that could harm or benefit a person













Working within Authorized Limits

Must not misrepresent themselves or hold self out as a police officer or connected to police








Must not use name “detective” to describe self











If authorized to carry a firearm, use it with caution and judgment













Must use property and equipment in accordance with conditions of license










Must cooperate with/assist police and peace officers












Must not detain any person who is not under arrest or who they are not authorized to detain













Must not use unnecessary force











Must not make threats, intimidate or harass













Must not cause others or conspire with others to contravene provisions of the Act or condition of license










Must not willfully or negligently make a false statement or false complaint











Table 17: Summary of Legislated Complaint Management Processes
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland & Labrador Yukon North West Territories Nunavut

Complaint Processing

Filing a complaint

Wherever possible in writing within 1 yr

In writing to employer or Registrar

In writing

In writing

In writing within 90 days

To BSP directly – online, by phone or letter

In writing within 90 days

In writing

In writing





Anonymous complaints accepted













Registrar, Director or Bureau can initiate complaint against licensees

Registrar or designate

Minister or designate





Obligation on Registrar to investigate

Exemptions: Sec 34.2 Security Services Act

Sec 28(1) Ministerial Regulations




Sec 20(3) Security & Investigative Services Act






Complainant must be advised of decision to investigate/not investigate

In writing within 30 days











Complainant advised of status

Every 60 days

Every 30 days












Complainant must be advised of outcome of investigation

Notice to everyone it may affect










Licensee must be advised of complaint



Notice to everyone it may affect

May be advised









Licensee required to respond














Registrar or other designated person can rescind licenses if required





Upon conviction Registrar may impose fines,
compensation, restitution or other costs

Verbal or written warning, fine, conditions on license, suspend or cancel license prosecute

Fines only

Fines or prison sentence


Fines only


Fine or prison sentence








Appeal of review decision

To Registrar

In writing within 30 days
To Registrar

To Saskatchewan Police Commission

Within 30 days to Court of Queen's Bench










Additional Appeal


In writing within 30 days to Director of Law Enforcement

To Court of Queen's Bench











Table 18: Uniform, Vehicle, Equipment and Service Dog Regulations
  British Columbia Alberta Saskatchewan Manitoba Ontario Quebec Nova Scotia New Brunswick Prince Edward Island Newfoundland & Labrador Yukon North West Territories Nunavut

Approved by Minister, Registrar, Director, or Bureau





Must display the word “Security” or “Security Guard”






Employer name must be displayed










Must not resemble a police uniform or say police on it






Must not wear an equipment belt with an over the shoulder strap linked to a waist belt








Unless authorized





Uniform must be unique to the employer













Only reflective white strips permitted on pants & hats












Badges of any type not allowed










ID tag must be worn with name or number














Shirt must have collar and must not be black or blue













If blazer or suit is uniform, must display license classification and employer name on ID tag













Logos and Insignia Prohibitions

Must not resemble logo or insignia used by police or military












Must not promote hatred or intolerance of persons or class of persons













Security agency









Shall not use police in title






Not equipped with a siren












Not equipped with flashing lights and/or search lights unless specifically authorized by Registrar










Not equipped with a roof mounted bar that resembles those used by police or other emergency service vehicles












Has markings that by design or color cause vehicle to resemble a police or other emergency vehicle









Must display the word “Security”










Must display business name and telephone number, unless specifically authorized by Registrar for use of an unmarked car












Must display company logo on both sides of vehicle













Prohibited or Restricted Equipment

Restraining device










Weapons, ammunition, or device prohibited by the Criminal Code








Devices designed for debilitating or controlling a person or animal













Flashlights longer than 18”













Police scanners

























Batons longer than 26”













Cable ties or strip ties













Dogs (only with permission of Registrar)

Dogs must be trained to the satisfaction of the Registrar











To be used only for purposes authorized









Cannot use dog who has been trained to kill or seriously injure people or animals












Must be under the control of an authorized security worker









Dog must not be used for crowd control












Dog must wear collar and/or identification tag that includes the name of the security business licensee












Must act with honesty and integrity











Must use property and equipment in accordance with conditions of license











Must treat people equally and without discrimination












Must comply with privacy legislation and treat information confidentially











Must comply with licensing requirements












Must comply with laws










Appendix C – Interview schedule

For police interviews:

  1. Have you defined core services for your agency? What are they?
  2. Where do private security services “fit” within your strategic plan/objectives?
  3. What do you see as the potential, and limitations, of private security services with respect to their activities? Are there areas that the public police are currently involved in that could be more effectively and efficiently covered by private security service?
  4. In recent years, have private security services assumed responsibility for areas that your police service previously covered?
  5. Were public police involved in shifting these responsibilities? How?
  6. Can you provide any case examples of where private security services, either alone, or in partnership with your police service, effectively addressed an issue in the community?
  7. What is the nature and extent of your contact/interaction with private security services? What is working well and what challenges are you encountering?
  8. Do you see potential for developing partnerships and for increasing information-sharing and collaboration with private security?
    1. For what purposes?
    2. Potential benefits? Anticipated challenges?
    3. What could private security do better than police?
  9. Are there currently “gaps” in service delivery that could be handled by private security? If so, please provide an example of a gap that could potentially be filled by private security.
  10. Have private security services in your area expressed interest in developing these partnerships?
  11. What has driven the significant growth in private security?
  12. Are there activities of private security companies that cause you concern?

For private security /private industry interviews:

  1. What do you think are the potential limitations and challenges of private security?
  2. In what areas do you think that private security could work with the public police? Take over from public police? Do a better job than public police?
    1. What would be required to make that happen?
    2. What were the anticipated challenges?
  3. Can you provide case examples of where private security has done a better job than the police?
  4. Within the last 5 years, what services are you providing that were traditionally/historically provided by public police alone?
  5. Does your company regularly work with public police on investigations? Information-sharing and collaborative partnerships?
    1. What is working well? And, not working well?
  6. What is your response to the concerns that private security officers are not accountable in the same way that the public police are?
  7. For those services now provided by you or in partnership with public police,
    1. Who drove the change? Was it the: police; board; government; or private service provider?
    2. What role did existing relationships play in establishing those services?
    3. How and by whom are structures, policies and practice determined?
  8. Have you provided police with suggestions/input as to how to improve service delivery to the community? How were these suggestions received?
  9. Do you think training for private security officers is adequate? Why or why not? What would you suggest to improve it?
  10. What performance metrics does your company use to assess efficiency and effectiveness?
  11. What areas would you say private police should stay out of?
  12. What is your response to the critique that private security is “policing for profit”?
  13. What other services that are currently being provided by police do you envision your company could potentially play a role in providing?

For government and governance interviews:
(questions used as appropriate for each group)

  1. What legislation/municipal bylaws govern the use of public police and private security services?
  2. Do you think that current legislation is adequate?
  3. What do you think is the potential for private security to provide more efficient and effective policing than public police in certain areas? What would those areas be?
  4. Do you think there is adequate training/oversight of private security in your province?
  5. In your view, can private security cover the existing “gaps” in policing in the community?
  6. In your view, should private security services be required to share information with public police and to enter into partnerships with public police?
  7. What services historically provided by the public police are now being provided in partnership with, or by other service providers? In your view:
    1. What has been the impact of these changes?
    2. What was the effectiveness and cost effectiveness of these changes?
    3. What were the challenges and limitations, including information sharing, intelligence gathering or sharing, or other consequences?
  8. What other services currently provided by police could potentially be provided in partnership with or by other service providers?
    1. What are the anticipated benefits?
    2. What is needed to make this happen?
    3. What are the anticipated challenges?

Appendix D – Canadian Police Acts and Private Security Legislation

British Columbia

Police Act, R.S.B.C 1996, c.367
Security Services Act S.B.C. 2007 c.30
Security Services Regulation B.C. Reg. 207/2008 O.C. 438/2008


Police Act, R.S.A. 2000, c. P-17
Security Services and Investigators Act 2008 S-4.7
Security Services and Investigators Act Regulation 55/2010
Security Services and Investigators Act (Ministerial) Regulation 55/2010


Police Act, 1990. S.S. 1990-91, C P-15.01
Private Investigators and Security Guards Act 1997 R.R. S. c.P-26.01
Private Investigators and Security Guards Regulations, 2000 cP-26.01 Reg 1


Provincial Police Act, 2009 C.C.S.M. c. P94.5
Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, C.C.S.M. c. P132
Private Investigators and Security Regulation 164/2010


Police Services Act, R. S. O. 1990, c P.15
Private Security and Investigative Services Act 2005 S.O. c.34
Private Security and Investigative Services Regulation


Police Act C.Q.L.R. c. P-13.1
Private Security Act S-3.5
Regulation under the Private Security Act chapter S-3.5, r. 1
Regulation respecting the training required to obtain a license chapter S-3.5, r. 2
Regulation respecting standards of conduct of agent license holders carrying on a private security activity chapter S-3.5, r. 3

New Brunswick

Police Act, S.N.B. 1977, c P-9.2
Private Investigators and Security Services Act, R.S.N.B. 2011 C.209
New Brunswick Regulation 84-103 under the Private Investigators and Security Services Act O. C. 84-386

Nova Scotia

Police Act, S.N.S, 2004, c.31
Private Investigators and Private Guards Act, R.S.N.S. 1989, c.356
Private Investigators and Private Guards Regulations N.S. Reg. 147/2014

Prince Edward Island

Police Act, R.S. P.E.I. 1988 Q-1
Private Investigators and Security Guards Act, R.S. P.E.I., 1988, P-20
Private Investigators and Security Guards Act Regulations c.P20
Private Investigators and Security Guards Act Fee Regulations c. P20

Newfoundland and Labrador

Royal Newfoundland Constabulary Act S.N.L. 1992 c.R-17
Private Investigation and Security Services Act, R.S.N.L. 1990, c. P-24
Private Investigation and Security Services Regulations 2013 c16 s26


Private Investigator and Security Guards Act R.S.Y. 2002 c.175
Private Investigator and Security Guards Act Regulations O.I.C. 1989/073

Northwest Territories

(no legislation regulating security)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, R.S.N.W.T. 1988, c. R-8


(no legislation regulating security)

Royal Canadian Mounted Police Agreement Act, R.S.N.W.T. (Nu) 1988, c. R-8

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