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THE THIRD WAY


September 1, 2012
By Gregory Saville

DRAFT

In the last issue of Robert Lunney described the economic crisis as an ominous threat hanging over Canadian policing. He outlined a “Third Way forward” in the form of the not-for-profit, social enterprise organization. This article describes the formation of that model and how it works.

The Great Recession of 2008 has led to enormous challenges for our economic and social life. Economists still have a profoundly negative outlook for the immediate future and police budgets are under scrutiny. The Globe and Mail recently quoted Alok Mukherjee, Chair of the Toronto Police Services Board: “I’ve been trying to raise this issue for years. We are sort of going along merrily in this fashion but at some point we’ll come to a reckoning. It’s unsustainable.”

Police finances are being cut to the bone. Service delivery has suffered and whatever efficiencies can be squeezed from an already tight budget have been exhausted. The situation for officers on patrol is equally demanding. Every new piece of legislation and regulation increases processing time and paper work. Some officers comment that paper work now trumps street police work.

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{Early attempts to streamline}

In the 1980s police services implemented differential response (sending some complaints to other agencies or private companies). For example, in some communities police do not respond to minor traffic accidents since those are now processed by private Collision Reporting Centers that handle the reports and insurance claims. Many are not aware those functions were once the sole province of police officers.

Civilianization also gleaned efficiencies. Civilians replaced sworn police officers for administrative duties. However, non-sworn civilians in those roles were, or became, public service employees incorporated into the police budget, a budget that is nowadays unsustainable. Private sector organizations accustomed to maximizing efficiencies were rarely involved.

{Crass privatization}

Police chiefs already hire private security to help with selected duties, such as special event security. However there are two reasons this is a poor choice for full-scale alternative service delivery. First, thus far the role of security has been minor and, as a result, has had only a small impact.

Second, purchasing private security for single source jobs is a far cry from what is currently underway in places like the UK. British police chiefs are currently privatizing large segments of police work. Training, accountability and quality are decided on a contract-by-contract basis with no national standards.

{The social enterprise}

The Third Way forward is a new form of not-for-profit organization called the social enterprise, which adopts a mandate to provide social benefit to the community.

Not surprisingly, not-for-profits pay salaries to employees. They also cover standard costs for operations and programs, just like any other organization (including police). That does not make them “for-profit”. Instead, unlike private corporations, not-for-profit costs must be visible. While proprietary ownership, profit margins and even executive salaries can be kept invisible inside the private corporation behind what is known as the corporate veil, that is generally not the case in the not-for-profit.

The social enterprise has a transparent veil. Is it possible for not-for-profits to hide fees and defer operating costs so they turn a shadow profit? The rare exceptions that do exist are not the rule and it is never good practice to base social policy on exceptions. More importantly while shadow profits are possible with any organization, in not-for-profits that is a breach of the law. In the social enterprise described below, “profits” go directly back to the community in the form of crime prevention programs, community safety research and police leadership training.

{The Civic Protection Institute}

The concept of a Third Way has been discussed for the past year at national conferences on the economics of policing. The concept evolved significantly this summer with the formation of Canada’s first not-for-profit social enterprise. The Civic Protection Institute (CPI) was established to provide professional procurement services to police agencies. Its mandate is to establish a competent pool of private security companies vetted for quality standards. Where national standards do not yet exist, CPI will work with national organizations such as the Police Sector Council to establish them.

The CPI is not a security provider per se but rather a buffer between the private and public sector with professional expertise in police services, public safety, procurement and professional security.

One mandate of the CPI is to avoid police layoffs by creating efficiencies in ways not possible in the present system. This is done through a comprehensive vetting process for private security services that can be deployed to non-core police duties. Public police officers currently drawn away from core duties can then be reassigned back to core duties such as problem-solving high crime areas and incident call response.

Another mandate of the CPI is to build an electronic library of best practices in order to retain public safety innovations from one contract to the next. Currently private firms on contract have exclusive ownership of their own innovations and procedural improvements. With a social enterprise these innovations become public property. The CPI will administer an on-line library available to public safety agencies nationally of best practices over time for continual improvement regardless of what company is contracted.

The following answer further questions about the Third Way.

Q: Isn’t this a matter of reallocating budgetary funds? There is money elsewhere to make up the shortfall.

A: Not really. True, to a point some efficiencies can be found, but that point is narrow and vanishing by the day. Most chiefs have already found them and there is very little squeezing left. Among the many strained lines on the municipal payroll – roadways, garbage, schools, water, public transit – police typically represent one of the largest items in the budget. With falling crime rates it is difficult for politicians to justify increasing police budgets while schools, roadways and garbage pick-up is cut back.

Q: Security guards are not trained nor qualified at the level of public police. Should they be doing core policing duties?

No, they should not. The social enterprise concept does not suggest that. The UK has been adopting full-scale public police/privatization. The CPI social enterprise was established as a Third Way forward to provide a coherent and measured way to create a private/public hybrid. It does not compromise safety but rather enhances it.

Q: How is the social enterprise different?

A: A social enterprise provides a middle-ground for introducing market forces of efficiency and competition into policing while still ensuring consistent national standards of training, accountability and deportment. The CPI social enterprise uses a technical advisory committee and a board of directors comprised of notable Canadians and Canadian policing leaders.

Q: How does this ensure high standards?

  1. The CPI works with national organizations, such as the Police Sector Council, to establish training, hiring and employment standards that will apply across the country. Any security company successfully vetted by CPI will enter a qualification pool of companies available to bid on contracts.

Requiring standards in contracts does not ensure those standards are sustained over the life of the contract. In the CPI this is a regular part of the corporate mission. That is not typically the case in private security firms.

  1. Compliance audits using forensics, electronics and inspectors in the field must occur prior to contracting and also during the course of the contract. Obviously private security companies may claim they satisfy national standards, but self-declarations are hardly proof of compliance.

Q: Why not just hire private security on a contract-by-contract basis through normal purchasing procedures?

A: Some police services are un-reflexively contracting out services to large international security corporations of shifting ownership, thus diluting their brand and losing their institutional expertise and memory. This process, unchecked, may quickly ensure that public police organizations become private corporations.

Other police services are pressured by populist politicians to take a meat axe to their organizations and amputate a percentage of members. Many in the Canadian police community feel that both these options are knee-jerk reactions to the real and ongoing financial crisis in public safety. The social enterprise is a more coherent and measured way to move forward.

BIO BOX

Gregory Saville is a criminologist, former Ontario police officer and executive director of the Civic Protection Institute. Visit civicprotectioninstitute.org for more information.