Fulltime enMasse Member
Joined: 22 Aug 2006
Location: Central USA, Earth
|Posted: Tue Mar 18, 2008 6:23 am Post subject: Private Security Blankets
|Excerpts (from a subscription only article) that I imagined might warrant consideration: If nothing else, these bring out the creeping return of a Hobbesean way of life.
Surveillance, the law and the rules
France established a national security alert system, Plan Vigipirate, in 1978 to mobilise police if a foreign power tried to provoke domestic destabilisation. After 9/11 the legislation was extended to counter terrorism. Private enterprise took advantage of the new climate of fear and now, thanks to the surveillance industry, order reigns without a police presence
According to the industry, a guard’s work “mainly consists of greeting visitors and controlling access, patrolling premises, overseeing safety procedures, responding to emergencies, alerting and guiding emergency teams, and writing reports on events” (2). But this definition entails an imperceptible slippage from investigation to prevention and thence to intervention and even repression. In most cases the public have little idea of the extent of a guard’s powers. There are certain uniform constants – epaulettes, badge, earpiece, walkie-talkie – the main purpose of which is to establish an asymmetrical relationship, based upon authority and power, that has no legal standing.
Just ordinary citizens
It is extraordinary that the media never make the crucial point that security guards are just ordinary citizens with no more powers, privileges or authority than the rest of us. Most of the time they exceed their authority, but they are as subject to the law as we are (6). Like anyone, a security guard can make a citizen’s arrest, as defined by article 73 of the French criminal code, but only if the offender is caught in the act of committing an offence punishable by imprisonment. Every citizen has powers that security guards are reluctant to concede. In reality such offences, along with the fires and illnesses that guards are supposed to look out for, remain infrequent. (Perhaps they’re just very efficient at preventing them.) The problem is that, unlike the official fire, police and ambulance services, who are called only after an incident, guards must wait patiently for a problem to arise. And if it does not they may be tempted to counter boredom or justify their presence by latching on to more trivial events.
The function of guards is purely preventive. They have the right to be present and to advise the public of the establishment’s internal regulations. But if those regulations are infringed, they have no power to deal with the offence themselves. All they can do is point out the rules, record the incident and, if appropriate, summon the police.
The effect of the presence of security guards in public places, or places to which the public is admitted, is to overlay the social field with the logic of what Foucault called the carceral world, giving legal endorsement to disciplinary mechanisms and the decisions and punishments that they imply. “Carceral continuity and the diffusion of the prison-form make it possible to legalise, or in any case to legitimate disciplinary power, which thus avoids any element of excess or abuse it may entail... By operating at every level of the social body and by mingling ceaselessly the art of rectifying and the right to punish, the universality of the carceral lowers the level from which it becomes natural and acceptable to be punished” (10).
Surveillance, the law and the rules
‘If we’re living in a police state, could they tell us?’
A statement by a lecturer at the University Lyon-II
By Martin Mongin
“I didn’t realise we lived in a police state. If we do, maybe somebody could tell us, because that means the rules have changed. I thought we had the right to strike in this country.
“All the fire exits have been blocked off to help the police, soldiers and security guards do their work.
“Some lecturers and students are keeping classes going in a poisonous and dangerous atmosphere. If a fire did break out, they would be burned alive.”
12 December 2007