I like this moment of clarity from the unnamed West Midlands police authority spokesman:
“Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business – improving the service provided to the public.”
Law enforcement = business.
If you start thinking about Mussolini and corporatism as you read the piece below, I think you’re on the right track. And here’s a fun little fact that many people don’t know about Il Duce:
In 1917, Mussolini got his start in politics with the help of a £100 weekly wage from MI5, the British Security Service; this help was authorised by Sir Samuel Hoare.
Private companies could take responsibility for investigating crimes, patrolling neighbourhoods and even detaining suspects under a radical privatisation plan being put forward by two of the largest police forces in the country.
West Midlands and Surrey have invited bids from G4S and other major security companies on behalf of all forces across England and Wales to take over the delivery of a wide range of services previously carried out by the police.
The contract is the largest on police privatisation so far, with a potential value of £1.5bn over seven years, rising to a possible £3.5bn depending on how many other forces get involved.
This scale dwarfs the recent £200m contract between Lincolnshire police and G4S, under which half the force’s civilian staff are to join the private security company, which will also build and run a police station for the first time.
The joint West Midlands/Surrey “transformation” programme, which has strong backing from the Home Office, looks set to completely redraw the accepted boundaries between public and private and the definition of frontline and back-office policing.
The programme has the potential to become the main vehicle for outsourcing police services in England and Wales. It has been pioneered by the West Midlands chief constable, Chris Sims, and Mark Rowley, who has just moved to the Metropolitan police from the post of Surrey chief constable. The pair lead on these matters for the Association of Chief Police Officers.
The breathtaking list of policing activities up for grabs includes investigating crimes, detaining suspects, developing cases, responding to and investigating incidents, supporting victims and witnesses, managing high-risk individuals, patrolling neighbourhoods, managing intelligence, managing engagement with the public, as well as more traditional back-office functions, such as managing forensics, providing legal services, managing the vehicle fleet, finance and human resources.
A West Midlands police authority spokesman said: “Combining with the business sector is aimed at totally transforming the way the force currently does business – improving the service provided to the public.
“The areas of service listed in this notice are deliberately broad to allow the force to explore the skills, expertise and solutions a partnership could bring.” He said not all the activities listed would necessarily be included in the final scope of the contract, but if the force added other activities later a “new and costly procurement exercise” would be needed.
The contract notice does state that “bidders should note that not all these activities will necessarily be included in the final scope, and that each police force will select some activities from these areas where they see the best opportunities for transformation”. But the police clearly want to test whether it is possible for new areas of policing to be provided by private companies.