People’s ears have a tendency to shoot up at the mention of a private, non-tax funded, non-government police department, and usually for the wrong reasons. This is seen as a radical idea, and radical ideas are almost always seen as bad ideas. Believe it or not, though, we already have private police in some limited functions.
We have private police patrolling corporate properties, college campuses, museums, and wealthy gated communities. In some cases, these same private companies offer their services to the general community as well, and more often than not pro-bono. But what about a private police force functioning in the same sense as the municipal police on a large-scale. Would this work?
In the state of Virginia, there are 9 state-recognized private police departments statewide that act as supplementary units for various government municipal police. These departments derive a great deal of the funding through additional services or by soliciting donations and undergo the same training in the same academy as municipal officers. The departments have saved the state and communities money and provided similar services and quality for the most part without issue.
But what if the police departments operated more like businesses? Wouldn’t this mean that the poor would remain unprotected and it would lead to a purge-like scenario where only the wealthy survive in a world of anarchy? Well, there are a couple of possible contingencies that could be provided. Take for example a cheap home owner’s insurance policy, available to some renters for as little as $10 a month. Let’s say one of these poor people owned a computer, a tv, a gaming system, and an expensive phone and someone breaks into their home.
Since they cannot afford to pay for police services they would seem to only have two options, fight or flight. Do they take matters into their own hands and potentially be physically hurt or killed, or even liable as seen in some odd legal cases? The only other choice would be to run out the back door or hide until the perpetrator carries out all their stuff, including the phone they forgot they left on the kitchen counter. Their stuff would be gone and it’d be a hassle, but that’s what insurance is for, right? It would seem that the insurance company would have some kind of incentive to provide police coverage as part of their policy, as allowing the victim the option of calling the police may be cheaper than replacing their electronics.
It may also be worth considering starting a business providing low-cost crime insurance to cover such fees in the event of the worst. It’s hard to tell whether or not the private sector would eventually provide this service under a system where we currently just kind of expect the government to do it, but we do know that at least in some cases the community may still be provided for.
The wealthy, since they can afford to pay top dollar would provide the funds to have their communities patrolled. The same businesses could offer group plans to lower-earning communities. Meanwhile as a gesture to the community in the name of public relations they could provide services to the community free of charge. As it stands now one company, the Detroit Vipers Police force, already does just that. This same company also provides not only superior service to poorer residents in Detroit but they do so with less violence and a higher sense of professionalism.
So could a private police force work? It certainly could, and it could perform better and with more accountability (due to liability issues) than the current government alternative.