'Softly, softly', private security and the policing of corporate space

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter (peer-reviewed)peer-review


Since the modern private security industry began to emerge in North America in the late nineteenth century there has been a critical view on its legitimacy and role. This perspective is less dominant today, but frequently arguments are raised of private security as ‘private armies’, engaged in political policing and the oppression of marginalised segments of society (Bowden, 1978; Bunyan, 1976; Hunt Saboteurs Association (HSA), 1994; Liberty, 1995; Vidal, 1997). Moreover, there is still evidence to support such perspectives, particularly when the experience of developing and former Communist countries is examined. What these disturbing examples mask, however, is the general emergence in post-industrial societies of a private security industry centred upon the reduction of losses for its corporate clients through preventative strategies and working in partnership with the agents of the state (Cunningham, Strauchs and Van Meter, 1990; Johnston, 2000; and Shearing and Stenning, 1985). This chapter will seek to illustrate this ‘soft’ approach to policing generally pursued by private security in post-industrial societies. It will begin by theorising the characteristics that distinguish ‘hard’ from ‘soft’ policing, applying them to the most dominant theoretical perspectives explaining the emergence of private security. Some of the evidence illustrating examples of ‘hard’ policing will then be examined, before moving on to demonstrate some of the evidence for the ‘soft’ approach to policing generally pursued.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHard Cop, Soft Cop
Subtitle of host publicationDilemmas and Debates in Contemporary Policing
EditorsRoger Hopkins-Burke
Place of PublicationCullompton
PublisherWillan Publishing
Number of pages14
ISBN (Electronic)9781843924531
ISBN (Print)9781843920472
Publication statusPublished - 2004


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