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Convergence of Public and Private Security Research Paper


Convergence refers to the act of bringing together different elements in order to form one single unit. It is made up of many factors that may either be national, regional or global in nature. Ostensibly, all factors are important and the problem of security can not be dealt with effectively without a careful considering of each factor. Convergence of public and private security involves the complete integration of the efforts of state organs and those of the private sector in the fight against insecurity.

According to Allen (2005), convergence is a term with a very long history and with numerous applications. Presumably, the earliest use of the term convergence was by a gentleman by the name William Derman between the 17th and 18th centuries. In the 19th century, the usage of the term widened and this led to its application in different fields including geography, mathematics, and biology.

In the middle of the 20th century, convergence was used in political science to refer to the convergence of the U.S. and Soviet systems as well as in economics referring to the convergence of national economies into a global economy.

The coming of computers and computer networks later led to the application of the term to many other areas including mergers of giant corporations, developments in technology such as the transmission of voice and data communications using the same transmission medium and the integration of security operations in different settings.

This paper discusses the convergence of public and private security and addresses a number of issues related to the challenges of maintaining security in the contemporary world. It compares and contrasts public and private security by looking at different view points. In addition, the applicability of the concept of convergence to the security profession will be explained. The conclusion provides a summary of key issues discussed in the paper and presents some recommendations.

Public Security and Private Security

The relationship that exists between public security and private security has been growing over the years. In their study, Smith and Brooks (2012) argued that both public security and private security practices are important. Apparently, state governments can not effectively address the problem of insecurity without involving the private sector.

To a large extent, private security practice complements the efforts of public security organs to ensure that no loopholes exist within the security system. While public security officers are generally expected to deal with security concerns from the frontline, private security complement their efforts in the background. Undoubtedly, this improves the fight against insecurity.

There are, however, obvious differences between public security and private security. According to Smith and Brooks (2012), the differences are mainly in terms of philosophy, underlying principles, authority, and status. Typically, public security is controlled by the government and considers the interests of every citizen. On the other hand, the contract of private security agencies is limited to clients. Private security agencies thus focus on ensuring that the security of their clients is guaranteed.

Put differently, public security maintains social contracts whereas private security is concerned with an individual’s personal interests. One of the greatest responsibilities of private security agencies is to take care of the family, assets, and any information belonging to an individual. As a result, this leads to varying needs among organizations that are generally meant to be similar. This notwithstanding, public security and private security have intentions that are quite distinct.

Another striking distinction has to do with the fact that public security mostly reacts to an event with the intention of getting every individual to obey the law. This reactive nature creates a major distinction between public security and private security. Unlike public security that often requires officers to react to situations, private security agencies take time to come up with strategies to protect one’s property.

Simply put, private security is private and has various limitations regarding its obligations. It is selective, fragmented and focuses on making profits and protecting clients from loss. It is also quite specific to the needs of clients and takes a proactive approach when dealing with client issues.

Public security on the other hand is concerned with the interests of the public and emphasizes equality for all. It is centralized, predetermined and funded by the public through taxation. It is also legislated and requires intensive training as opposed to private security.

Despite the various differences discussed here, the distinction between public security and private security is not quite obvious. In the event that a private security officer is hired by a public institution or when a private security officer is deputized, for example, constitutional restrictions may apply equally to private security officers. Generally, private security officers who are deputized or contracted by a public authority are subject to the same restrictions as public security officers.

In addition, public officers who work during off-hours in private security positions are regarded as public law enforcement officers in many places in the world. As a result, many police departments prohibit their public security officers to moonlight in private security positions. Clearly, the distinction between public security and private security is not always black and white.

Instead, various shades of gray may be noticed time and again. In some places, it is common for private security officers to be given greater powers than those of public security officers. However, some people recognize private security officers who have total public police authority based on compliance with certain legal and training requirements.

Security Issues of Our Time

The world today is faced with very complex security issues largely associated with technological advancements. Despite the fact that technology has tremendously transformed how we live and interact with one another, it has created new challenges that must be addressed with so much care. With the help of technology, criminal activities can easily be organized and executed without being detected by security officers.

While the discovery of powerful encryption techniques is a major development in the technology sector and enables individuals to secure their communications, it is used by terrorists to send coded messages to one another regardless of where they are located as they go about planning their evil activities.

One of the greatest threats to national and international security is terrorism. According to a report released by the 9/11 commission, nations must utilize every available option to enhance security and ensure that citizens feel secure all the time. Apparently, this includes the use of a diplomatic approach and constructive engagement with security agencies in other domains.

In the present day world, terrorism is managed by highly organized, global networks of terrorists that have the ability to fully finance and execute their wicked activities. Sadly, religious groups have been accused of being behind some of the terrorist activities. Radicalized groups using religion as an excuse have been linked to various terrorist activities that have left scores of people dead and many others injured.

Despite the fact that a number of Muslim religious leaders have come up to strongly defend their religion and condemn the acts of a few wicked individuals, nothing much has changed and people are still being subjected to suffering by terrorists operating under the disguise of religion.

Growth in technology has also worsened the problem of national and international security. The development of the Internet has particularly played a key role in promoting the activities of organized terror gangs across the world. The Internet enables international terrorist groups to easily network and share information leading to the execution of terrorist activities in various parts of the world. Using the Internet, terrorist organizations can exchange important information as well as training materials in different forms.

Technology also permits terrorist organizations to learn the tactics used by state machinery and with this information, they are able to devise counter mechanisms or come up with strategies that can not be easily detected. While television is good, for example, it may be used by terrorist groups to understand the weaknesses of state machineries and explore them to their advantage.

Strong encryption technologies are also used by terrorist groups to ensure that their messages get to their destinations unnoticed. Using sophisticated methods, terrorist organizations are also able to tap into state controlled systems in order to obtain vital secrets that are used to plan and execute destructive activities.

Applicability of the Concept of Convergence to the Security Profession

Over the years, technology has drastically changed and threats to national and international security have equally increased. As has been explained in the previous section, the Internet today provides a very good ground for criminal activities to be carried out. Consequently, state governments have been forced to engage private security officers in the fight against insecurity. Terrorism, for example, is a problem that affects the entire world and one that must be fought through collaboration with like minded organizations and individuals.

With nasty incidences such as the 9/11 terrorist attack taking place all over the world, it is quite obvious that the issue of national security can not be left to the government alone. Since the September 11th 2001 attacks, terrorism still remains the greatest threat to both national and international security with the ability to interfere with peace and stability.

Apparently, the threat of terrorism is gaining momentum and continues to become extremely complex. Presently, terrorist organizations are led by creative individuals capable of devising survival mechanisms to help overcome the challenges of harsh counter terrorism environments. Their resource base has grown and they are now able to privately fund their terrorist activities.

As stated earlier, engaging private security agencies helps to fill any gaps left by the operations of public security officers. The convergence approach to the security problem helps to consolidate the efforts of all stakeholders in maintaining security for all. However, to be effective, it is necessary for convergence of public and private security to involve individuals as well as technology so as to successfully counter the threats of insecurity.

Efforts must be directed toward preventing, detecting, and responding swiftly to avert any form of security threat. Without implementing an integrated approach to security, a nation may be subjected to catastrophic repercussions. It is thus advisable for state governments across the world to avoid depending on a disintegrated approach when dealing with security.

Over and above the costs encountered when dealing with consequences of insecurity, lapses in security can lead to more costly long term effects such as a damaged reputation or loss of income caused by the departure of scared foreign investors back to their countries of origin or possibly other places considered secure.

The concept of public security and private security convergence is not a very new phenomenon. The need for convergence is often talked about after the occurrence of disasters whether natural or man made. Allegedly, various efforts were made by different associations to build partnerships aimed at dealing with security challenges.

Following the attacks of September 11th 2001, however, efforts intensified and it immediately became apparent that a convergence of public security and private security was necessary (Marabito & Greenberg, 2005). For many nations, public-private security convergence is very critical for dealing with terrorists and other groups organized to create disharmony in the society. This is especially important since the private sector owns most of the infrastructure while governments are in possession of vital information about individuals.

For effectiveness to be realized, it is imperative for the law enforcement team and private security agencies to work very closely and support each other’s endeavors. Evidently, none of the two agencies possesses the resources needed to deal with security challenges without the support of the other. Arguably, public security and private security arrangements have different weaknesses and strengths and collaboration is thus meant to lessen the weaknesses and magnify the strengths of each partner in collaboration arrangements.

Through partnerships, a number of benefits may be realized including the ability to creatively provide solutions to problems, sharing of intelligence information and minimizing the time needed to recover from a disaster (Marabito & Greenberg, 2005).

During the September 11th 2001 attack, for example, the private sector was hailed for the efforts made to save the lives of so many people caught up in the disaster. Public security and private security convergence also creates an avenue to reach the members of a community through private security mechanisms. While members of a community may be uncomfortable dealing with law enforcement officers, they may be easily reached and engaged through the private sector.

Certainly, the application of convergence to improve national security is very critical and must be encouraged at all costs. For this reason, stakeholders must make every effort to overcome notable barriers to the success of public security and private security partnerships. Debatably, lack of trust, sharing of wrong information with malicious intentions and safeguarding important trade secrets are some barriers to the effectiveness of public security and private security convergence (Marabito & Greenberg, 2005).

It is thus imperative for those spearheading such collaborative arrangements to do everything possible to minimize the effect of barriers in order to promote healthy partnerships and improve the state of national security.

According to Stockton (2011), the civil society has a big part to play in creating a secure environment that encourages individuals to go about their businesses freely. Although the idea of law enforcement officers taking care of civilians is well understood, little is known about what the civilians can do to complement the efforts of public security officers. While it is increasingly becoming important, little is being done to understood how best to engage with the private security agencies and members of the community.

During the September 11th 2001 incidence in the United States, it was quite clear that the civil society has a role in supporting public security officers in their efforts to protect civilians. In the incident, different groups including firefighters and other emergency preparedness groups worked extremely hard to provide safety for many who had been affected by the attack.

After the 9/11 attacks, it became apparent that law enforcement officers can do with help from private sector groups. However, it is necessary for state governments to develop new strategies that will make pubic security and private security convergence to work effectively.

In its endeavors to ensure national security, the United States has worked very closely with various partners to counter the effects of terrorism. Among others, this has made it possible for the United States and its partners to destabilize the operation of destructive terror groups such as the Al Qaeda. It has led to the death of the leaders of the group including Osama Bin Laden. In addition, many efforts have been made by partners to reduce the effect of terrorist activities across the world.

To a large extent, the powers of Al Qaeda have been watered down and it is no longer as fierce as it was before the 9/11 attacks. However, the fact that groups such as Al Qaeda have been weakened is not a good reason to celebrate. While Al Qaeda has been weakened, for example, it is not completely destroyed.

There is a possibility that its remnants may fight work strategies to revive the operations of the group. Obviously, this is a clear indication that the concept of public security and private security convergence is critical and must be implemented so as to minimize the activities of wicked groups.

Considering the benefits associated with the collaboration between public security and private security agencies, efforts must be made to promote convergence. Among other things, bringing like minded individuals or groups together in the war against insecurity will help in cutting down the overall cost of maintaining security and building a safe environment where every individual feels secure and free to go about his or her operations.

While poor security will drive investors away, improved security will serve as an incentive for them to continue living and operating in a secure environment. As has already been pointed out, the involvement of different groups creates an environment where individuals and groups can exchange ideas and learn from each other. Ostensibly, the overall output from a collaborative effort is greater than that of a single group or individual.

The use of new strategies such as community policing is meant to make it possible for public security officers to actively involve citizens in dealing with the security problem. Through community policing, it is possible law enforcement officers to access vital information that can lead to important arrests and help to create a healthy and secure environment. In any cohesive society, people have very healthy relationships and can easily detect any weird behavior by an individual or even an organized group.

A healthy collaboration with members of the community will thus ensure that such information gets to public security officers. It is, however, important for law enforcement officers to work hard to win the trust of members in the community. Certainly, it is easier for law enforcement officers to engage with community members when it is clear to them that the officers can be trusted. Collaboration with private security agencies must also be based on trust and openness.

Oftentimes, private institutions are concerned about disclosing their secrets with others for fear of rivalry from competitors. As earlier explained, the goal of private security agencies is to make profit and any attempts to interfere with its intentions to make profit will be fought harshly. In order to deal with these challenges, it is imperative for public security and private security agencies to have clear rules of engagement. Possible benefits for all partners involved must also be explained to them clearly.

Without a doubt, such an approach will help to eliminate any form of confusion. It will certainly motivate both public security officers and private security officers to give their best in the partnerships for the safety of the nation and for the betterment of the entire society.


The war against national and international insecurity can not be fought by state governments alone. In the same way, the private sector can not provide the solution to the insecurity problem alone. The complexity of operations of terrorists is a clear indication that stakeholders must work very hard to come up with effective strategies to promote security. It is a high time that national governments all over the world took the idea of public security and private security convergence serious.

As explained in this paper, there is need for a stronger partnership between the public and private security agencies for the betterment of the society. It is, however, imperative for state governments to understand how best to engage with the private sector for the betterment of everyone. Arguably, public security and private security agencies have strengths and weaknesses. By consolidating their efforts in the fight against insecurity, the two agencies can bring their strengths and weaknesses together in order to be effective.

While public security organs may experience difficulties engaging with the community, the private sector may not face such a challenge. In addition, infrastructure is mostly owned by private sector and state governments must partner with them to realize their goals.

While there are several challenges that can hinder the effectiveness of public security and private security partnerships, the major ones are lack of trust, sharing of wrong information, and the desire to safeguard important secrets. Considering that none of the security agencies can successfully operate alone, efforts must be made by all stakeholders to deal with any noticeable barriers so as to create a healthy environment for collaboration.

As discussed elsewhere, efforts must be made to ensure that no group or individual takes advantage of another. To reinforce the concept of public security and private security convergence, it is necessary to have clear rules of engagement in place that will ensure that collaborations are run effectively and that intended results are realized.


Allen, B. (2005). . Web.

Marabito, A. & Greenberg, S. (2005). . Web.

Smith, C. & Brooks, D. J. (2012). Security Science: The Theory and Practice of Security. Waltham, MA: Butterworth-Heinemann.

Stockton, P. (2011). Ten Years after 9/11: Challenges for the Decade to Come. Web.

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