Substantial growth in private policing has been documented in countries throughout the world, and the division of responsibilities for policing between public and private authorities has become increasingly blurred and contested during the last three decades. Because private policing is so frequently assessed on the basis of criteria established with respect to the public police, substantial myths have developed about the powers and accountability of private police; specifically, it is commonly asserted that private police have no significant power(s), and are essentially not accountable, in comparison with the public police. The author argues that such assertions misrepresent the very substantial coercive power of private police as well as the variety of mechanisms through which they may be held accountable, and also commonly exaggerate the effective accountability of the public police. The author concludes that a greater appreciation of the actual power and accountability of private police will provide an improved basis for the development of sound public policy with respect to both private and public policing, and with respect to appropriate relationships between private and public policing organisations.
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