The Siren Is Calling: Economic and Ideological Trends Toward Privatization of Public Police Forces

44 Pages Posted: 16 Aug 2013 Last revised: 21 May 2014

See all articles by Karena Rahall

Karena Rahall

Seattle University School of Law

Date Written: May 2, 2014


The landmark Supreme Court ruling in Citizens United has opened the floodgates to allow unlimited corporate campaign donations, and Supreme Court doctrine is shifting back to a Lochner era economic rights focus. At the same time, there are efforts underway across the United States to privatize public services in order to alleviate what proponents claim is a shortfall in revenue due to the recession. Within those privatization efforts, public policing has become a new front, with outsourcing and wholesale privatization of the police underway. This article adds to the existing scholarship a political analysis of privatization efforts, including how lobbying and campaign financing is making wholesale privatization in the area of policing a very real possibility.

This Article looks at the example of Camden, New Jersey, where the entire police force was fired and replaced with a county-wide force in order to shed pension and wage obligations, as an incubator for future wholesale privatization of the police. Considering the trend of corporate lobbying through groups like ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) that write model legislation and deliver it to lawmakers, as well as unlimited campaign donations, this Article traces the current trend toward police privatization. It argues that without more transparency and some limitations to such expenditures, the public cannot fully and fairly participate in decisions about whether to relinquish force-protection to private corporations since they cannot anticipate the consequences for both public safety and democratic principles.

Suggested Citation

Rahall, Karena, The Siren Is Calling: Economic and Ideological Trends Toward Privatization of Public Police Forces (May 2, 2014). 68 U. Miami L. Rev. 633 (2014), Available at SSRN: or

Karena Rahall (Contact Author)

Seattle University School of Law ( email )

901 12th Avenue, Sullivan Hall
P.O. Box 222000
Seattle, WA n/a 98122-1090
United States

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