Private Security Guards and Militias

(This is a current page, from the Patterns of Power Edition 3 book contents.  An archived copy of this page is held at http://www.patternsofpower.org/edition03/7233.htm)

Some people choose to employ private security guards, some of whom are armed.  This reflects distrust of the police’s ability to provide security and a fear of crime.

Armed security guards are subject to the law, in the same way that the police are, but they may not have had the same level of training – so they put the public at risk.  George Zimmerman, who killed Trayvon Martin in the incident referred to earlier (7.2.3), was described as a “neighborhood watch captain” – highlighting the difference between an American armed watch and the British concept of neighbours being vigilant (

The most dangerous form of ‘self-service’ in policing is the formation of vigilante groups or militias.  Some militias, which are created by ethnic groups to protect themselves, provide a ready means of escalating tensions into more serious violence – such as that which occurred during the partition of India (


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