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Shadow Run style Private Police


薔薇語
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To be honest, I find the idea of the authorities tolerating what are essentially militias not under their control, even less plausible than privatized police forces. After all the US already has an armed private police force with inter-state arrest and detention powers (they grew out of the Pinkerton agency, already mentioned). The UK government at least is open to the idea of privatising the police and so are some towns in the US.

 

I have also worked in places (Brazil, South Africa) where private policing is routine. The suburb where my best friends in Sao Paulo lived was patrolled by heavily-armed quasi-private police (technically, I think they worked for the city government, but the work had been contracted out and they were at least partially supported by the local homeowners association: exactly how official that was, I don't know). That was not a gated community for the ultra-wealthy: just an upper middleclass community. And it might not have been gated, but the rentacops stopped, questioned and checked the ID of everybody who was not a known resident who entered - even when you were driving together with someone who was a known resident.

 

I can totally see citizen militias springing up in areas where the (largely private) police forces simply are not active, but I cannot see them gaining official sanction. More likely they would be tolerated - something we have seen already in some other countries, simply because they fill a hole in those societies and they don't cause the authorities any grief. As far as privatizing the police goes, I can't see it as at all unlikely. In the US, more and more police or civil justice functions (prisons, jails, 911 call centres, forensic labs, routine office work, etc) are already being or have been outsourced and some communities are looking to add patrol officers to that list. Instead of a sweeping decision to just close down the police, which I agree is implausible, you could get death by a thousand budget cuts. In that scenario (which is basically the situation in Snow Crash) you still have civil police (at least in theory), but they are so underfunded that they are basically irrelevant. At that point, policing is the function of private firms, who don't serve a community policing role, but act to protect their own clients - be that a community or a firm.

 

The fiction that there is still a functioning civil justice system allows those private security firms to operate under the "old rules". That is basically the situation in the countries I described: the private cops might "arrest" somebody - although officially they are not actually cops, and don't actually have police powers - and hand them over to the justice system. It's not a big leap to see the functions of the justice system also privatised - as I noted, in the US, a lot of them already are. If searched and arrested by people who are not "really" cops, you could try to sue, but ... good luck with that. The system is as it is, because it doesn't function transparently. You could try protesting or fighting the actual arrest ... but a lot of people who try that end up in the morgue. 

 

cheers, Mark

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