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"If you call a cop, you should get a cop"
May 3, 2012 8:13 AM   Subscribe

Kellog Brown & Root are bidding for a £1.5bn contract to run key policing services in the (UK) West Midlands and Surrey.

KBR were previously part of Halliburton, and have been charged with overcharging the US government, and agreed to pay back $27.4 million.

KBR Previously on Metafilter: 1, 2, 3, and many, many more.
posted by marienbad (47 comments total) 5 users marked this as a favorite

 
Obligatory Fry & Laurie
posted by leotrotsky at 8:14 AM on May 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


I assume this would mean they'd also have access to the CCTV feed, right?

I can't see how this could possibly go wrong.
posted by delmoi at 8:18 AM on May 3, 2012


This is A. Very. Bad. Idea.!

I really hope this does not happen.
posted by Katjusa Roquette at 8:18 AM on May 3, 2012


This is good news because it will make money for a handful of massively wealthy people who are friends of the Tories
posted by East Manitoba Regional Junior Kabaddi Champion '94 at 8:19 AM on May 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Would this be on KBR's customary cost-plus terms? Because it'd make the news really exciting to watch if they can smash up all the police cars they want and pay themselves a commission for replacing them.

Seriously, the UK government seems to have a checklist titled "Worst Possible Decisions" and is working its way down, being very careful not to miss even one. Someone should point out to them that on that basis they can do even better than KBR, they should be asking for a bid from Blackwater.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:23 AM on May 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


The inclusion of mercenaries into America's military strategy resulted in the gleeful slaughter of civilians and massive fraud. Has the UK gone mad? Do they need several copies of Robocop on DVD to understand why this is a bad idea?

The police are one of the main places where the citizenry intersects with the government. The police are, by virtue of their position, also the most prone to human rights abuses. Putting police powers into the hands of private for-profit entities is incredibly, deeply stupid. And the notion that outsourcing basic governmental functions to the private sector will save money is laughable. Did selling off municipal waterworks save money? Did outsourcing the military's provisioning, fuel, and transport needs save money? It says a lot that even after all of these years of contracting, no one can say for certain that it's saved anyone any cash.
posted by 1adam12 at 8:25 AM on May 3, 2012 [15 favorites]


Why would they do this in the first place? Is it because it's meant to save the municipalities money? If so, how do the security firms effect that efficiency and what are English citizens and voters losing in that saved expense?
posted by clockzero at 8:26 AM on May 3, 2012


The police are one of the main places where the citizenry intersects with the government. The police are, by virtue of their position, also the most prone to human rights abuses. Putting police powers into the hands of private for-profit entities is incredibly, deeply stupid

Fully agree with you, but I'm fairly sure that last time this came up, it turned out that this was "only" back office functions. Still don't think it's a good idea (especially KKR!), but they're not going to have police powers as such.
posted by Infinite Jest at 8:30 AM on May 3, 2012


A KBR spokesman has confirmed to the Times its interest in the West Midlands/Surrey contract: "KBR is not involved in policing, our objective in the privatisation of the police force is to get more police doing actual police work while KBR brings operational efficiencies to the back office with the objective of achieving an overall lower cost of service while improving service levels," said a spokesman. "We are an operational support company whose capabilities are transferable to critical, uniformed, command-led environments such as the police."
So less KBR employees wearing bobby helmets and more "operational efficiencies" in administration and support.

Are UK local police forces and/or civilian staff unionized?
posted by notyou at 8:30 AM on May 3, 2012


Did outsourcing the military's provisioning, fuel, and transport needs save money? It says a lot that even after all of these years of contracting, no one can say for certain that it's saved anyone any cash.

I'm not the expert on this stuff by any means, but my general impression is that it has cost more than it would have otherwise, specifically due to cost-plus and bad accounting. But YMMV.

Chin up, Blighty! What could possibly go wrong?
posted by mwhybark at 8:31 AM on May 3, 2012


No doubt somebody will come and reassure us that it's only "backroom" work that they're bidding for, and say how wonderful it is that private money can bring "efficiencies" to the service. Any questions over whether this is really necessary or if it is likely to ending costing more for a worse service will be brushed aside. Likewise, any suggestions that information processed by a US company might be "shared" with the US state will be denied.

The UK is a sad, pathetic place nowadays.
posted by Jehan at 8:32 AM on May 3, 2012


Life imitates Snowcrash.
posted by dortmunder at 8:32 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I hope they can bring the world-class law enforcement techniques to the UK that they brought to Iraq.
posted by empath at 8:34 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


our objective in the privatisation of the police force is to get more police doing actual police work while KBR brings operational efficiencies to the back office

So it's a bit like all those taxpayer trained skilled military personnel in Iraq who were replaced by KBR consultants getting paid four to six times as much, freeing the former to get killed at checkpoints and so forth.
posted by George_Spiggott at 8:35 AM on May 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The UK is a sad, pathetic place nowadays.

You really think backroom dealing by well-placed public schoolers and other Torries is more rampant in the UK now as opposed to, say, 100 years ago?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 8:37 AM on May 3, 2012


Fully agree with you, but I'm fairly sure that last time this came up, it turned out that this was "only" back office functions. Still don't think it's a good idea (especially KKR!), but they're not going to have police powers as such.

And I'm fairly sure last time THAT came up, 'back office' functions turned out to be defined in so broad a manner as to exclude essentially none of the duties the police perform.
posted by Dysk at 8:41 AM on May 3, 2012


MAYBE this is a roundabout way of creating a common enemy and unifying struggle in order to bring Britians back together and united in shared resistance.
posted by The Whelk at 8:41 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Yes I agreed, this would be the reason behind all of this.
posted by raheelnajmi at 8:43 AM on May 3, 2012


You really think backroom dealing by well-placed public schoolers and other Torries is more rampant in the UK now as opposed to, say, 100 years ago?

100 years ago there was more than one political party. Now all three are stuffed with private school elites and backroom dealing. It's not a choice between neoliberalism and socialism, but how fast you want neoliberalism to happen, and how openly corrupt you want your politicians to be. I suppose the Tories are at least honest with their hate for anybody but themselves.
posted by Jehan at 8:47 AM on May 3, 2012 [8 favorites]


You really think backroom dealing by well-placed public schoolers and other Torries is more rampant in the UK now as opposed to, say, 100 years ago?

The thing is, backroom dealing by the Tories is more rampant than it was between, say, 1920 and 1995. I know I always say this in these threads, but it truly breaks my heart to see the UK go this way. I used to want to emigrate, what with the culture and being more liberal than the US and the NHS and so on; now I wouldn't even think of it. It's the fact that y'all are trashing the hard work of a century of labor agitators, artists, writers, just amazing, amazing people from George Orwell to Flora Thompson to Tariq Ali to, to, to...half the people whose work or biographies are on my bookshelves, oh it makes me sad. We here didn't have an NHS to lose, or a labor party to eviscerate.

This is just awful. Cheering about outsourcing government jobs is like cheering when the Wal-mart moves in, or cheering for shoe event horizon.

More and more I am reminded that 1. expropriation is the first principle of capitalism, and as soon as the common people have anything good the rich folks will come and take it away, whether that's land or water rights or good jobs with benefits; and that the state is just a machine for whoever is most powerful to take things and move money around, it has no moral legitimacy.
posted by Frowner at 8:48 AM on May 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


(Oh, and I don't want to compare the current awful political situation to every other awful time in human history and then go "eh, at least we aren't being put to the sword"!! There was a better time, there have been better times, and that's what we should be aiming for.
posted by Frowner at 8:50 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


dortmunder: "Life imitates Snowcrash"

Life imitates Robocop
posted by narcoleptic at 8:52 AM on May 3, 2012


Would like to see the service level agreements and key performance indicators for this outsourcing deal.
posted by punkfloyd at 9:01 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


100 years ago there was more than one political party.

Because guys like Billy Gladstone (you know the guy that signed the Public Schools Act granting independence to his alma mater) were self-made men educated on the streets?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:01 AM on May 3, 2012


Because guys like Billy Gladstone (you know the guy that signed the Public Schools Act granting independence to his alma mater) were self-made men educated on the streets?

Because guys like Keir Hardie had a grandfather murdered for unionizing, and knew what it was to be poor.

What the fuck is your point anyway?
posted by Jehan at 9:06 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


The thing is, backroom dealing by the Tories is more rampant than it was between, say, 1920 and 1995.

Ah, and you've found the key! That is precisely the era that there existed a thing known as the Labour Party, which has now become what the Liberals were in the days of their formation. At least in Britain your progrssives managed to largely hold out until the 90s before being overrun by the better interests of business!
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:07 AM on May 3, 2012


Because guys like Billy Gladstone (you know the guy that signed the Public Schools Act granting independence to his alma mater) were self-made men educated on the streets?

An awful lot of important political figures and writers of the late 19th and early 20th centuries actually were self-made [mostly] men. The Intellectual Life of the British Working Classes makes this clear. Honestly, I'd have to have the book in front of me to cite names and specifics since I'm from the US and any number of towering UK political figures are unknown to me, but that was what really jumped out at me from the book. I think it's true to say that the organizing struggles of the late 18th and early 19th centuries, coupled with education reform, really did transform working class life and make possible the rise of major, educated political figures who themselves kept the Labor Party in line and created further reforms. Since Thatcher, there's been a serious Tory/right assault on the mechanisms (unions, education, benefits) by which working class people organize themselves and gain political power. This is intentional and strategic, just as the efforts to limit voting in the US are.

Honestly, if you doubt that aristocracy is bad for politics, or you doubt that working class people can really, meaningfully participate in government, I strongly recommend this book.
posted by Frowner at 9:09 AM on May 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Meanwhile in the US:
At first glance, the Brightwood neighborhood in this central New England city would seem to have little in common with war-torn villages in Iraq or Afghanistan. But when two Massachusetts state troopers, Michael Cutone and Thomas Sarrouf, returned to their jobs here after deployments with a Green Beret unit in Iraq, they noticed troubling parallels.... So in 2009, when gang violence spiked and community leaders and the city police were eager to develop new tactics, the troopers proposed trying the counterinsurgency strategies they had been trained to use in Iraq.
posted by ennui.bz at 9:12 AM on May 3, 2012


...had a grandfather murdered for unionizing,...

My mistake, it was for taking up arms against the police state.

posted by Jehan at 9:12 AM on May 3, 2012


I'll never understand cost-reduction argument for assigning a public job to a private entity that has to make a profit. Why isn't that immediately laughed off as preposterous? It seems to always be taken seriously.
posted by odinsdream at 9:15 AM on May 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


What the fuck is your point anyway?

We seem to continuously hear the moans of folks saying that the dark ages are upon us, that we've lost all to the conspiring elites. Things have been worse, a lot worse. It took an actual effort to change them. I don't really see much effort these days to do anything other than moan about the conspiring elites.
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:16 AM on May 3, 2012


We seem to continuously hear the moans of folks saying that the dark ages are upon us, that we've lost all to the conspiring elites. Things have been worse, a lot worse. It took an actual effort to change them. I don't really see much effort these days to do anything other than moan about the conspiring elites.

Is that it? Thanks for the lesson Blanqui, I'll join you on the barricades straight away.
posted by Jehan at 9:18 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Great, will you be joining us for drinks to celebrate Boris Johnson's reelection too?
posted by The 10th Regiment of Foot at 9:25 AM on May 3, 2012


OCP KBR RUNS THE COPS!
posted by FatherDagon at 9:27 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'm just planning to leave. New Zealand seems like it's still small enough to be sane, and the law's close enough that it wouldn't take much adaptation.
posted by jaduncan at 9:28 AM on May 3, 2012


And I'm fairly sure last time THAT came up, 'back office' functions turned out to be defined in so broad a manner as to exclude essentially none of the duties the police perform.

For those who are interested, here's the article I was thinking of. Which says (on the one hand) "[the services being bid for] do not include those that involve the power of arrest and the other duties of a sworn constable", but OTOH "under [the contract] private firms may investigate crime and detain suspects". [but then, anyone can arrest suspects under certain situations]. I'll admit to being confused.
posted by Infinite Jest at 9:34 AM on May 3, 2012


How much do non-outsourced forces buy from vendors currently?
posted by michaelh at 9:41 AM on May 3, 2012


Oh, and in a few years PCSOs will be private contractors. You heard it here (possibly) first.
posted by jaduncan at 9:43 AM on May 3, 2012


From the link Infinte Jest posted, about the arrest powers of private citizens in the UK:

"In addition to the above, a private person may be authorised to execute an arrest warrant, if the court issuing the warrant has given them the authority to do so."

So even if they aren't being given the arresting privileges of sworn officers, that hardly means they can't do some front-line policing...
posted by Dysk at 9:49 AM on May 3, 2012


This is playbook stuff, thoroughly documented by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. In this case, the top economic tier creates the crisis, then exploits it. Repeat.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:23 AM on May 3, 2012


100 years ago there was more than one political party. Now all three are stuffed with private school elites and backroom dealing. It's not a choice between neoliberalism and socialism, but how fast you want neoliberalism to happen, and how openly corrupt you want your politicians to be. I suppose the Tories are at least honest with their hate for anybody but themselves.
As someone who doesn't live in the UK, it seems like the place does still retain a sense of being run by and for (to a certain extent) the "nobility" Obviously in the past, that's how it worked. You still have not just the king, but also lords and ladies, including hereditary ones. Even though it's technically a democracy, those people (as well as new money) have a lot of say in how the country is run.

People talk about the same thing happening in the U.S, but over history there's a give and take. Income inequality skyrockets in the 20s, then you have the new deal, the 60s and 70s where the middle class thrive. There's no sense that "this is how things should be" among the rest of the population.

The interesting thing is that if people do become successful on their own, they get knighted and become a 'formal' part of the elite. By knighting famous actors and actresses (as well as business people - such as that banker who got his knighthood revoked) they essentially co-opt people who could potentially influence others to oppose the system.

At least that's my impression, anyway.
posted by delmoi at 10:33 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


This is playbook stuff, thoroughly documented by Naomi Klein in The Shock Doctrine. In this case, the top economic tier creates the crisis, then exploits it. Repeat.
I wouldn't really say that's exactly true in this case. The conservative party was out of power in the UK, and I don't think they really had that much of a connection with wall-street in the U.S as it was selling fubar'd mortgage derivatives.

The other thing, if you look at the general crisis in europe, the U.K has been the main outlier in terms of joining the suicide pact to destroy the european economy through harsh austerity measures. They are doing there own, but it's nowhere near as bad as whats being imposed on greece, portugul, spain and so on - mainly by the Germans along with the French.
posted by delmoi at 10:48 AM on May 3, 2012


KBR is bidding on doing police work?
Is OCP bidding on it too - OCP has the robocop program, and that really worked for Detriot.
posted by Flood at 11:05 AM on May 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


“I'm just planning to leave. New Zealand seems like it's still small enough to be sane, and the law's close enough that it wouldn't take much adaptation.”

I hate to tell you, New Zealand PM John Key and his cronies have been making noise about to privatization for awhile now. Sadly, it will likely happen there and everywhere else soon.
posted by remo at 12:09 PM on May 3, 2012


So am I the only one who has a huge soft spot for Kuffs?
posted by ODiV at 3:13 PM on May 3, 2012


KEEP CALM
AND
AVOID THE ED-209
posted by Ghidorah at 7:08 PM on May 3, 2012


This'll Wendell.
posted by arcticseal at 8:39 PM on May 3, 2012


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