Private policing: a view from the mall

Alison Wakefield

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In many Western democratic societies the primacy of the police has begun to diminish with a proliferation of alternative service providers, particularly within the private security sector. This raises questions about how such bodies can best be mobilized and integrated within policing. This paper reports findings from three ethnographic case studies of private security teams operating within areas of semi-public space, to advance understanding of their nature and operations. It shows how the character of security work is determined by vastly differing structural arrangements to those of the police, but by a similar heterogeneity of function. While private security is seen to have a valid place within the ‘extended police family’, it is depicted as a low status sector whose authority in undertaking policing derives from the autonomy of other more powerful players. Future ethnographies, it is therefore argued, need to focus on the corporate users that govern its activities.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)659-678
Number of pages20
JournalPublic Administration
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2008


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