Publication Title

Policing and Society

Document Type


Department or Program


Publication Date



Mexico, Police, Private Security, United Kingdom


Recent scholarship has observed how private security actors often draw upon the cultural and symbolic capital of the police in their everyday operations. This practice can range from issuing frontline private security officers with police-like uniforms and patrol cars to recruiting former senior police officers into highly visible corporate positions. Geographical variations in this dynamic are little understood, however. In this article, we identify and shed light upon one emergent pattern. In those countries where the police enjoy high levels of public trust and confidence, private security actors can be found openly and directly borrowing from the cultural and symbolic capital of this key state institution to enhance their status. By contrast, in those countries where the police are plagued by a poor reputation, these actors commonly display a far more ambiguous relationship with these forms of capital, working both through and against them, often at the same time. Focusing on the UK and Mexican cases, and drawing upon a combination of Bourdieusian frameworks, we argue that the key to understanding this pattern is the distinction between the objectified (non-human) cultural capital of the police (uniforms, vehicles, etc) and the embodied (human) cultural capital of the police (police officers themselves). While the former enjoys a symbolic value in the market for security which transcends variations in public trust and confidence in the police, the latter is far more intimtately connected to localised police traditions and practices, good or bad. This in turn leads to novel patterns in the global plural policing landscape.

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