Exploring questions of power: Peace officers and private security

  • Olaotse John Kole University of South Africa, Criminology and Security Science
Keywords: crime, crime prevention, legal powers, police, private security


There is a need for different stakeholders to work together to help the police combat crime in Gauteng, South Africa. Private security officers are usually well positioned to help combat crime because they can witness crime in areas where they are posted or are patrolling as response officers. Private security officers protect organisations (public and private) or individuals who are their paying clients. But they can only perform their duty as ordinary citizens, not as the police would. In looking at how these officers can be more effective, this article establishes to what extent private security officers need additional legal powers, and what powers would be suitable for them in helping the police combat crime.


Mixed methods were used in this study of 20 police stations and 20 private security companies in Gauteng. From top management levels in the South African Police Service (SAPS), 37 high-ranking police officers participated in the study and 30 high-ranking security officers from top management level of the private security industry (PSI). At the operational levels, 173 SAPS officers completed the questionnaires and 163 PSI officers.


The findings show that the majority of respondents see no need for private security officers to be given additional powers to help the police combat crime. However, the few respondents who supported the idea think that the power to arrest, and stop and search the public, should be given to private security personnel. At the operational level, all respondents agreed that private security officers should be given additional legal powers to help the police combat crime.



Author Biography

Olaotse John Kole, University of South Africa, Criminology and Security Science
Department of Criminology and Security Science, Senior Lecturer.


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