The Future of Private Security Guards in Kansas City

Brief History of Private Security

You’ve probably seen them at sporting events, apartment buildings, or on TV in Iraq and Afghanistan. Sometimes greeting a group of middle school students at a basketball game, or detaining a drug dealer until the police arrive. I’m talking about the private security guard. And after the most recent city budget numbers, private security guard is needed more than ever in Kansas City.

According to Hub Pages, the history of the private security guard, or more accurately the “mercenary,” dates back to the thirteenth century B.C., when Egyptian Pharaoh Ramses the II hired many mercenaries from several different countries and cultures to boost his own military might. This became (or maybe already was, but Ramses was one of the first actually recorded events) standard practice for the next several hundred years and involved the Romans and the Byzantines, the Orient, and other parts of Asia, and became very popular when protecting property and people from the Mongol Hordes. This form of private security continued to flourish and even made its way to the United States when Allan Pinkerton formed the Pinkerton Agency in the 1850s. This paved the way for the more modern versions of private security firms that you see now in the U.S. and Europe.

Why is this important?

Because this cycle of a decrease in organic law enforcement / military and an increase in outsourcing the jobs to private security professionals is once again happening right now in the modern world.

Private Security Replacing Police Officers

In a recent article posted earlier this year in the Seattle Times, residents of several Seattle neighborhoods took it upon themselves to hire private security guards for unarmed patrols when police couldn’t effectively cover all the areas during recent crime waves. In the words of the head of one of the hired security companies, “The SPD (Seattle Police Department) is a wonderful group of guys. They’re just being overwhelmed.”

Oakland, CA has also seen a surge in violent crimes since 2013. According to CBS News, many neighborhoods also began hiring their own security guards to combat the lawlessness and frequent appearance of guns and threats. In their story, a pastor was threatened at gunpoint for the simple fact that his power washer was being “too loud,” and the police just didn’t have enough man power to constantly be out on patrol in every area.

And if we look at our neighbors across the pond in England, they are suffering from the same “police force is stretched too thin” syndrome that we are combating here in the U.S. A town in Essex now hires a security firm to do presence patrols every night from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. to fill the void created by their own recent police budget cuts.

And in Lincolnshire, an entire police department will be run by global private security firm G4S to run cells, administer drug tests, firearms licensing, human resources, computer systems and manage the force's vehicle fleet. Basically, they’re outsourcing everything except actually arresting criminals. And with a projected saving of 2.8 million pounds a year, you can’t really blame the police department for outsourcing when their budget was cut by 17.8 million pounds by the city.

The Future of Kansas City Law Enforcement

You may be asking yourself how examples of cases in England and the West Coast of the U.S. affect the Midwest. And here’s where it gets interesting.

According to Chief Forte’s blog, the Police Chief of Kansas City, this year’s budget was not friendly to the police department.

They suffered a budget cut that forced them to reduce their personnel drastically, couldn’t replace the desired number of high mileage vehicles, and once again, was not able to offer a raise to anyone in the department, so retaining top performing police officers and employees will be difficult.

What does a lack of police officers mean?

It means that response times will be higher for all emergency calls. But we also need to remember that that’s for emergencies and crimes that are already happening. Those presence patrols they routinely do that often prevent crime in the first place will also be radically reduced because of the lack of manpower.

All of this equates to parts of Kansas City most likely following in the footsteps of its West Coast brethren and hiring private security firms to supplement this void of police officers. And why shouldn’t they? Private Security firms in Kansas City offer both armed and unarmed officers. And both patrol and stationary posts. And many hold an EMT-B qualification or higher and can take care of basic medical needs until paramedics arrive. Just because city officials don’t want to pay for the Kansas City Police Department to be properly staffed and equipped doesn’t mean that citizens won’t need protecting.

There are parts of Kansas City that are already dangerous, a lack of police force will only make them worse. And with the city’s homicide rate climbing back up to its normal higher rate after a fluke 2014 low, crime is obviously already back on the rise. But let’s hope as a city that we’re proactive and on the cusp of this news as opposed to reactive and wait until it’s too late, or too lawless to clean up.

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