West Midlands Police private firm plan criticised

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Plans to contract out some elements of policing to private companies have been criticised in the West Midlands.

The West Midlands and Surrey police forces have invited bids from companies on behalf of other forces.

The proposals could see security firms taking on some investigations and patrolling neighbourhoods.

Critics say policing should not be for profit, but security firms say it will save money and free police officers up for the most important tasks.

Steve Grange, from the West Midlands Police Federation, said: "Policing should not be done for the benefit of shareholders.

"We think policing, as paid for by taxpayers, should not be used to make money for private security firms."

He added that the plans could see many civilian employees and staff such as police community support officers (PCSOs) transferred into the private sector.

Jack Dromey, Labour MP for Birmingham Erdington, described it as a move "to privatise the police service".

"The public want bobbies they can trust not Cameron's cops employed by G4S," he added.

Kash Shahban, from Birmingham-based company My Vision Security, said criticism of the private sector was unfounded.

"The industry is very strictly regulated. A lot of jobs currently done by police could be done by security companies, which could save money and free up police to do the most important jobs," he said.

John O'Connor, former commander of Scotland Yard's Flying Squad, argued that private companies would cherry-pick the easiest and most profitable elements of policing, such as enforcing fines for littering or speeding.

Front-line policing

West Midlands Police Authority faces budget cuts of £125m over the next four years.

The contracts are expected to be worth about £1.5bn nationally over seven years, depending on the number of forces in England and Wales who sign up to the scheme.

Ch Supt Phil Kay of West Midlands Police said forces around the country were already working with private security companies on elements such as managing custody blocks.

Bishop Derek Webley, Chair of the West Midlands Police Authority, said the notice sent out to security companies was "broad" and no decision had been taken in terms of what functions could be performed by private companies.

He added: "Front-line policing and the office of constable will be protected.

"It's just an exploration of how the private sector can help police forces with various duties."

Bishop Webley said any contract, which could be introduced in 2013, would be signed-off by the new police commissioner, who is expected to replace the authority after elections in November.

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