The global trend of development of private security is not adequately followed in our country

The paradoxes of Bosnian Private Security Sector

Prepared by: Senad Omerasevic and Becky Higgins

We could argue that nowadays security is the most common subject in global discourse. Security system, with its various sub-systems, aim to ensure an environment that will enable a good quality of life and the development of individual and social goods on both local and global levels. In recent years one such sub-system- private security- has come to play a particularly important role.


Private security – the fastest growing industry

Today, the private sector security market is valued at a staggering US$ 85 billion; with an annual growth rate of 6-8% (Abrahamsen & Williams, 2005). The roots of its development can be traced back to the earliest historical periods, however it was not until the late nineteenth century that the sector was institutionalised, with the establishment of the first private agency set up by Allan Pinkerton in the U.S in 1850.

Since the end of the 1990’s the global private security industry has experienced a boom with many states choosing to outsource functions, which were traditionally undertaken by military or police, to private contractors. In many European countries (UK, Poland, Germany, Ireland, Estonia, Luxembourg, Hungary, etc.) the number of employees in the field of private security actually exceeds the number of employees in the police force. According to Jasmin Ahic, author of the book Private Security Systems, the average number of employees in the private sector in relation to its population is 1:450 in Europe (in BiH the ratio is 1:1000).  The countries of South Eastern Europe (SEE) in particular, have witnessed a dramatic change in the private security industry, which has moved from “a total absence to the point where the industry represents a major employer and security provider”.

In most modern democratic states, public and private securities are complementary and together they achieve effective protection of people and property. In our country, relations between private security companies and the public security sector have been still described as more “rivalry than partnership”. This is largely due to competition for contracts, but the rivalry also occurs when both private and public companies are present in the same area or at the same event. In some states private agencies for protection of people and property are seen to carry out their functions more successfully than the traditional public safety sector. Specialized training for personnel of private security agencies in bodyguard jobs, money transfer, and technical protection have ensured that they have precedence over public security mechanisms, despite of the growing concerns over their accountability and legal responsibility.

The global trend of rapid development of the private security sector also brings out the old debate of security versus privacy. Privacy “has become one of the most important human rights issues of the modern age”. However, as a number of recent high profile cases have shown, this basic right is being infringed upon on a daily basis. In recent years, the use of video surveillance cameras (also called Closed Circuit Television, or CCTV) throughout the world has grown to unprecedented levels. Nowhere is this trend more in evidence than in the UK- the country with the highest number of cameras per person in the world (some even assume that is goes as high as 1 camera per 14 people).


The discrepancies between laws

Bosnia has a long history of involvement with the private sector in matters of security. To a greater or lesser extent it has been consistent feature in Bosnia and Herzegovina, from the 12th Century Charter of Kulin Ban right up until the present day.

In seeking a “compromise”, however, the domestic political elite failed to adequately regulate the legislation surrounding the private security sector. It was decided that private security was not the jurisdiction of the state, and that it should be organized at the entity level and in Brcko District instead. The inevitable outcome of this decision has been the numerous discrepancies between the existing laws.

The private security in BiH entails two main areas, namely the protection of persons and property both physically and technically (Vejnović, Šikman, 2004).  The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina passed a law on the regulation of the private security sector in 2002, but failed to regulate private detective activity- a key component of the sector. There is a great need for detective activity in the Federation (BiH) market, as it would also ensure a complete picture of private security sector. However, the parliamentarians –plagued by the fear that they themselves would become a subject of detective investigation- kept their hands firmly under the table during voting on the law on detective agencies, and as a consequence no law was passed.

By comparison, the laws of the Republika Srpska (RS) (2002) and Brčko District law (2004 – which is basically a copied version of the one from RS) do cover detective agencies and allow private security companies to take over detective tasks or criminal investigation. However, these laws are not without their flaws.

According to the article 18, it seems that every second employee (maximum 50% of all employees) of the security agency in RS can be armed. This is the law’s greatest flaw because on the one hand, there is no real need for so many armed men, and on the other hand- as experts in the field claim- there is a potential threat of creating paramilitary groups and militias. Unfortunately, the private security sector often arms large groups of individuals – that might be untrained or with a dubious background- who are often left to their own devices unsupervised. Critics have also highlighted the fact that workers in the sector are often poorly paid and are therefore more likely to be open to corruption and bribery.

Paradoxically, whilst BiH still struggles to provide uniform legislation for the entire country, there have been calls from a number of institutions for a harmonization of regulation at a European level. It has been shown that there is currently “a great disparity in the regulation of private security companies (PSCs) in Europe.” According to the Global Faciliation Network for Security Sector Reform “national regulation of private security companies (PSCs) and their activities is often weak or entirely absent” resulting in “low levels of professionalism and service delivery, and can ultimately have a negative impact on access to justice and security”. It is for this reason that institutions wish to standardize regulation throughout the EU. However, the necessity to harmonize the situation in the private security sector is not only important to EU member countries; it is of particular importance to candidate countries so that they avoid possible political, economical and social difficulties, which they could encounter upon admission to EU due to having different regulatory environments (CoESS, 1999).

The three previously mentioned laws in BiH – which are inconsistent and at times incompatible with one another – all regulate private security within such a small territory. Such regulation causes a vast number of problems for the daily work of private agencies. To illustrate the paradox of this legislation once more, lets give an example of transferring money from Brcko to Tuzla through Doboj- a distance of only a few hundred kilometers- which in our case means crossing three territories each with different legislation.

The solution to Bosnia’s problems can be found in creation of a common law at the state level or in the harmonization of the existing laws, all in accordance with EU trends, with mandatory control over legality of the work of private security agencies.