Anyone with a shred of understanding would know that an event the size of the Olympic Games would not function without private sector involvement in a multitude of areas, including security. Many functions that would ordinarily be carried out by professional police personnel are suitable for outsourcing to the private sector, providing the people carrying out those functions have the appropriate training and credentials.
I myself was approached by a job agency I was registered with, in February, and asked if I could take on a role as a counter terrorist search co-ordinator, because I held that qualification when I was a police officer. I retired from the police but the knowledge stayed with me. All I'd need would be a brief refresher on intel and procedure and I'd be away, providing the people I was given to co-ordinate were similarly experienced. They must have been desparate because they phoned me 3 times over 3 days, but I wasn't going to cancel my planned summer holiday for 2 weeks work at a rate that wouldn't tempt me to even think about it - in a bad dream. And that, I suspect, was a major factor for poor old G4S. To recruit, train and then retain all those people, when they would only be paid once they were actually in training or working. You can hardly expect someone to do a few days training for £8 an hour and then give a guarantee that they'll wait months for 2 weeks work. I know there were other administrative factors that some have griped about publicly, but that is not the major issue here. And before we mention special police constables, remember, they are volunteers. In my experience their word was usually their bond, but you could not afford to allocate them too many crucial roles because the bottom line is, they don't have to turn up to work and most of them already have jobs they are committed to.
G4S have some very good people in their organisation which has absorbed many smaller companies with fingers in military as well as civilian pies. I'm not defending what has happened, I just knew, not too deep down inside, that this one would be one hell of a task for them to undertake with the actual carrying out of the functions at the sharp end being the least of their problems. I have always felt that certain support functions within the police could be greatly assisted by the involvement of non police personnel and could, in some cases, be fully outsourced but I've also felt that private sector involvement should be closely controlled and those outsourced functions and the powers that are exercised in carrying them out, be restricted.
I am uncomfortable when private security companies are directly involved in matters that, when we follow the paper trail, lead straight to the legislature, eg prison services. Custody procedures in police station cell blocks are an example where the bulk of processing, guarding and prisoner management can be conducted by non police staff, but by law there must always be a custody officer who is a police officer. To go beyond would require fresh and clearly defined legislation.
So I'm not one for beating up G4S. I'm not impressed by the bandwagon that Miliband has eagerly climbed on but of course he's a politician in opposition, so he would wouldn't he? But were he