Cities Must Base Public-Private Partnerships on Needs and Projected Goals

May 23, 2014
Dwindling public safety budgets force cities to adapt to the new reality of shared resources

The proliferation of sensor data, connectivity, and analytics is expanding city public safety and security capabilities. Greater system integration is enhancing situational awareness, but requires around-the-clock monitoring. Faster network speeds and cloud infrastructures are improving command and control, but pushing responders to their limit. How can cities leverage advancing security technologies when faced with public safety personnel shortages?

Public- Private Partnerships: Why and What

There is no indication the chronic shortage of public safety personnel will reverse any time soon. In contrast, the security industry continues to find new ways to adapt general technology advances to improve public safety and security capabilities. Cities facing the point of diminishing return -- when their public safety resource capacity prevents them from making full use of their security technology capabilities--need to consider public- private partnerships.

Public- private partnerships (P3s or PPPs) have no single definition. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) views them as relationships built on partner needs, capabilities, and two-way communication. The National Council for Public Private Partnerships (NCPPP) refers to them as contractual arrangements in which resources and capabilities are shared. InfraGard, an FBI-sponsored partnership, originally focused on cybersecurity, constitutes an association of representatives from the public and private sectors; and for the Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium, public private partnerships are either organized efforts with institutional support and written agreements, or informal collaborations.

Public- Private Partnerships: Best Practices and Models

Instead of finding the most applicable public- private partnership based on definition, cities should focus on identifying models of similar public safety and security partnerships and best practices for partnership success. According to FEMA, a partnership must be publicly accessible, dedicated, resourced, engaged, and sustainable (PADRES). NCPPP's seven keys to successful public- private partnerships echo the importance of a dedicated team and stakeholder support, in addition to the need for a partnership leader and a formal plan as key best practices. For InfraGard, collaboration and communication is key, which the Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium agrees with, adding a compelling mission determines the success of a partnership.

Public -Private Partnerships: How to for Cities

Cities considering public private partnerships should appoint a champion or create a staff function, designate an agency, or form a group dedicated to partnership development. However approached, stakeholder participation will ensure organizational buy-in of the partnership plan, governance framework, and supporting administration scheme. Governance oversight will ensure there is city-wide agreement on standards for assessing the value of potential partnerships, monitoring ongoing performance, and establishing the city's own best practices and partnership models.

Cities should assess existing collaborative efforts with private sector organizations to validate whether they constitute partnerships, should evolve into partnerships, or be terminated if no longer needed. This will prove difficult as the most informal partnerships for purposes unrelated to public safety and security could be the ones with potentially the most value.

Ultimately, as FEMA points out, public -private partnerships may not always be the best approach for every situation; however, two-way communication may accomplish the same purpose, with one organization making its capabilities available without expecting reciprocity.

Unique Needs and Expectations: Model Adaption

Recognizing the importance of public- private partnerships to its mission, and through continuous application of lessons learned, FEMA serves as the most authoritative source of information on partnerships between public and private organizations of all types, sizes, geographical locations, industries, and functions. 

Among FEMA's resources, cities can find a growing list of successful partnership models formed by big cities, smaller cities, and counties among other government organizations at varying levels. These models include purpose, goals, objectives, and requirements for success. Reading through these models confirms the underlying reality that all partnerships are different, or as NCPPP puts it, "public private- partnerships come in a variety of forms, and no two are exactly alike."

With a mission to advocate and facilitate the formation of public-private partnerships at all levels of government, NCPPP brings together security product and solution providers such as Simplex Grinnell/Tyco and Johnson Controls, cities, and local government agencies of all sizes.

Government contracts for private security services have raised questions in the past, and while the context was different, NCPPP's emphasis on contractual accountability balances FEMA's government perspective. NCPPP adds that public and private organizations share the risk and rewards of partnerships, so they need to evaluate real versus perceived value, and consider other implications associated with revenue generation. These business dimensions can be helpful when approaching private organizations not familiar with public private partnerships.

Public private partnerships for public safety and security are not limited to those formed by law enforcement and private security (LE-PS) organizations. Private sector organizations could come from any industry, be it small businesses or multinational enterprises.

In the case of public-private partnerships for public safety and security, the Law Enforcement-Private Security Consortium's "Trends and Practices in Law Enforcement and Private Security Collaboration" study complements the sources of information cities should turn to when considering law enforcement-private security partnerships.

This Department of Justice-supported project cites how law enforcement-private security collaboration extends cooperation to benefit both partners: public safety benefits from extra eyes and ears on sensors, and the capability to receive and analyze data as information for integrated situational awareness. In effect, law enforcement-private security partnerships become a force multiplier, enabling both partners to operate more efficiently or effectively.

Evolving needs are leading to new partnership models. As technology advances, new threats to cybersecurity emerge. Sensors deployed for smart city initiatives could be integrated with public safety sensors, enhancing situational awareness through big data analytics. The growth in smart city big data and the criticality of smart city systems will make them targets for more advanced persistent threats (APT), or newer threats to their confidentiality, integrity, and availability (CIA).

About the Author:

Miki Calero is the Chief Information Security Officer (CISO) for the State of Ohio Public Safety. He was selected a Top 100 City Innovator Worldwide -- UBM Future Cities (2013), for his vision of enterprise risk management through unified physical and cybersecurity. As Chief Security Officer, he established an Enterprise Security Risk Management program that received a CSO40 award for groundbreaking business value and innovative application of risk and security concepts at the 15th largest city in the US.

Miki will be a featured speaker at this year’s Secured Cities event on November 4-6 in Baltimore. For more information on the Secured Cities program go to