Dead Prostitutes and Private Police

Dave Killion — August 31, 2010

We are frequently told that such-and-such an activity cannot be left to the private sector on the grounds that private actors are motivated purely by profit. The insinuation is that private actors will cut any corner, tell any lie, and rip off the consumer at every opportunity as if that is the only way profit can be had. But try and replace the profit motive with some other allegedly nobler sentiment, and tragedy ensues. For evidence look no further than the murders committed by Robert Pickton.

How is it that a man can kill so many people over such a long time and not be found out? Easy. There was no profit in catching him. The government officials who investigate these matters get paid whether they bring a man to justice or not. For the wealthy this is no matter. Just as the rich buy private education, private health care, and private neighbourhoods to avoid shoddy government provisions, they also hire private policing when they need it. For the poor there is no alternative, but imagine if there were!

Imagine a transient prostitute disappears. She may have few friends, and a dysfunctional family in a different province. In the current system her case will of course find itself at the bottom of the pile. But in a private system a private actor who brings the perpetrator to justice would be able to petition the court for reimbursement for the time and effort invested. And this reimbursement would be paid by the criminal.  I know this is a big idea for a lot of people, and they will have a lot of questions about implementation, etc., but the first question should be this: Under the system I just described, how likely is it that Pickton would have murdered over two dozen women before he was stopped?


Ben H says

Private policing is a difficult idea to get your head around, but it has some benefits.

You can look at it this way: Ask folks in a poor, inner city neighbourhood if the police are working for them. It might be better if the people of the neighbourhood actually hired their own police. What police force would mistreat its customers?

— August 31, 2010

CodeSlinger says


I am deeply troubled by the idea of providing any kind of profit motive for the use of deadly force to deprive people of their life or liberty.

The “war on terror” and the “war on drugs” are the practical outcomes of combining law enforcement with profit. Not to mention the “surveillance society.”

If you want a police state, make it profitable to be a policeman.

To see how this works in practice, look at the increasingly privatized US prisons. They are slave labour sweat shops – like the old British workhouses, opposed so eloquently by Charles Dickens. Because their labour costs are essentially zero, the owners make huge profits in labour-intensive industries, drive the competition out of business, and put the competition’s employees out of work.

The only way they can expand is to put more people behind bars for longer periods. So they lobby relentlessly to criminalize an ever wider variety of increasingly trivial things, thereby increasing their supply of non-violent, easily-controlled slaves. They pay kickbacks to judges to convict the innocent and hand down harsher sentences, thereby delivering more slaves for longer terms of incarceration.

In this system, the police are transformed into press gangs. Which suits them just fine, as it is much easier to round up peaceful, victimless “offenders” than to go after violent criminals who are likely to resist arrest.

The list of abuses is endless. And getting worse.

So it’s true that more criminals will end up in prison sooner, and will stay behind bars longer, if you privatize law enforcement. But this is NOT a good thing. It’s better for a hundred Picktons to go free than for a single innocent man to be delivered into the maw of such a meat grinder.

There is a much cleaner and easier way to reduce the number of women who fall prey to scum like Pickton: just stop disarming them.

Places which respect the right to carry concealed weapons have the lowest incidence of violent crime. And places without huge corporations, with small governments and few laws have the lowest incidence of corruption.

The conclusion is obvious: big business and big government are BOTH untrustworthy, especially when they are incestuously intertwined. So there is only one thing we should want from them –

Get the hell out of our way so we can take care of ourselves.

— September 1, 2010

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