Academic journal article Social Justice

Preventive Urban Discipline: Rent-a-Cops and Neoliberal Glocalization in Germany

Academic journal article Social Justice

Preventive Urban Discipline: Rent-a-Cops and Neoliberal Glocalization in Germany

Article excerpt

SINCE THE MID- 1970S, THE TREND IN PUBLIC POLICY FOR GERMAN CITIES HAS SHIFTED from more socially inclusive to more exclusive measures. Due to global competitive pressures and growing neoliberalization, German municipalities and regions have experienced growing socio-spatial polarization within and among urban areas. Over the last two decades, location competition and benchmarking between cities have become two of the main reference points for entrepreneurial city politics. With cities today confronting a more competitive (global) environment, local governments and their supporting growth machines have adopted place marketing, enterprise zones, tax abatements, public-private partnerships, and new forms of local boosterism, while also seeking new strategies of social control and workfare policies. In urban agglomerations, emerging prosperity enclaves are surrounded by islands of poverty, and both are fuelled by microeconomic logic in urban management and the (re)commodification of public spaces. The mercantile reengineering of urban spaces and of its residents by urban elites has led to intensified segregation and polarization of urban societies.

Re-regulating and restructuring the dysfunctional Fordist model in major cities has entailed new tasks for state police, as well as for rent-a-cops and "civil society" policing entities, thus underpinning the new centrality of urban (in)security. Though private policing has been in operation since 1901 in Germany, private security companies--or rent-a-cops--play a special role in popularizing the new centrality of (in)security and in reorganizing access rights to the city. The consequences of neoliberal restructuring, such as unemployment and growing poverty, are transformed into (in)security and (dis)order problems and are, therefore, integrated into the field of domestic security. In this reformulation of "social problems," commercial security companies have come to be understood as the missing link between "civil society" and the state police, as rent-a-cops are said to be able to fill security and safety gaps in contemporary societies of the global North. Readjusting state and municipal police tasks and offering security on a for-profit basis came to the fore in the early 1990s. In doing so, the state attempts to create and activate a "policing family" instead of relying solely on a lonely "Big Brother."

Since the early 1990s, the dominant trends in reorganizing state police in Germany are proactive community-oriented policing, specialization in ethnic groups and city spaces, policing patterned after the intelligence service, and a generally more preventive orientation (Busch et al., 1988; Busch and Putter, 1994). Throughout Germany, one of the most recent trends within "civil society"--the mobilization of selected residents in an attempt to activate them for self-responsibility--has led to the installation of "security partnerships" (BKA, 2005; Schreiber, 2005). (1) Additionally, community policing and crime prevention councils (Kommunale Praventionsrate) have been set up (see Kury, 1997). A pluralization of policing (Crawford and Lister, 2004; see Table 1) is at stake, as state-run, commercial, and "civil society" security policies grow in scale and scope, connect more closely with one another, and even merge. (2) Not surprisingly, such police-private partnerships create additional disadvantages for "undesirables."

This article will concentrate on rent-a-cops in Germany, using three case studies of everyday private policing in (formerly) public spaces. It will focus on rent-a-cops in social housing complexes and "migration management" of asylum-seekers, as well as draw attention to protest and resistance by the respective "target groups." The article sheds light on the neoliberalization of policing as the rolling-back and even vanishing of state police, especially in neglected areas, which German governmental bodies and scholars alike have constantly denied (see BMI, 2001; Kirsch, 2003; Stober and Olschok, 2004). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.