Thursday, November 15, 2012
Private police assume many of the same roles as traditional law enforcement. But courts and legislatures regulate public and private police very differently. This article evaluates the statutory and judicial regulation of private police. By collecting and coding all state statutes related to the regulation of private police, I theorize on the inadequacies of the current regulatory scheme. I show that most state statutes only regulate a certain category of private police officers, leaving a substantial portion of the private policing industry virtually unregulated. Many state regulations of private police misunderstand, and thus inadequately protect against the threat posed by the private policing industry. I argue that while most state regulations facilitate predictable transactions for security services, few statutes protect individuals from the potential social harms of the privatized police. Based on these descriptive observations, I make several normative recommendations for future regulation. In doing so, I borrow from the sociological literature on organizational regulation. I conclude that judicial attempts to control private police behavior through the expansion of the state action doctrine would be ineffective at deterring private police misconduct. Instead, state legislatures should expand the depth and breadth of current statutes.