Privately hired cops spark public fears in UK

Oct. 22, 2008
Officers being used for security at special events, movie productions

POLICE forces are raking in millions of pounds every year by renting out officers to private firms.

And it has prompted fears that they will be unable to carry out their main duty of protecting the public.

Scores of officers are being taken from their normal tasks to police sporting events, festivals, shopping centres, hospitals, universities and even film productions.

In Lothian and Borders, the number of times serving officers and vehicles have been contracted out has risen from 11 in 2003-4 too more than 60 in 2007-8.

In the same period, the force's earnings from private contracts rose from GBP 140,000 to GBP 5.5million.

Officers were hired to close streets and provide security for film production companies filming in Edinburgh.

Among movie projects that hired police resources were The Da Vinci Code, The Adventures of Greyfriars Bobby, Rebus and Hallam Foe.

Strathclyde Police officers have been sent to work in hospitals, concert venues, housing associations and school campuses.

The force earned more than GBP 1million in 2007-8 from Celtic and Rangers for policing the inside of their football grounds.

Independent MSP Margo MacDonald said: "There is a real danger that the public service ethos will be corrupted.

The police is a service that should not be bought by any individual or group." Tom Halpin, acting chief constable of Lothian and Borders Police, said: "It is not about providing a better service to the elite than to our less fortunate neighbours."