Some People Are Furious About The Security Company Heading The London Olympics

G4S

Photo: Youtube Screenshot

Chances are you might not have heard of G4S. But you should have.The company is the largest private security company in the world and this summer in London, more than 10,000 of its personnel will be providing surveillance and security for the Olympic Games.

But don’t let the numbers fool you though. G4S certainly has more than its fair share of critics and controversies.

G4S can trace its origins back to 1901, when Marius Hogrefe started the guarding company KjĂžbenhavn Frederiksberg Nattevagt in Denmark

Source: G4S

It's now based in the UK and has operations in over 125 countries on six continents.

Source: G4S

With 657,000 employees, it's one of the largest private employers in the entire world.

A planned acquisition of Dutch cleaning firm ISS -- which would have meant the firm employed some 1.2 million people, second only to Walmart -- failed after a lack of shareholder support.

Source: G4S

Key roles fulfilled by G4S include security at prisons, nuclear facilities, airports and embassies.

Generally, times are good right now at G4S, with profits up 39% in 2011

Source: G4S

The company won a $355 million contract for services at the London Olympics this year.

Source: The Guardian

However, it's plans in the UK go even further. It was recently awarded $250 million to take over half of the Lincolnshire Police Department's civilian duties.

That move is part of a wider series of privatizations in the UK police force, with a potential value of £1.5 billion ($2.4 billion) over seven years, possibly increasing to £3.5 billion ($5.5 billion) if more forces jump on the bandwagon.

However, despite the company's size and apparent prestige, security lapses are known. For example, a notorious helicopter robbery of a G4S cash service depot in Sweden.

More worrying to detractors, however, are human rights lapses.

In 2008, an Aboriginal man in Australia died of dehydration and heat stroke while being transported in the back of a van by G4S employees.

Jimmy Mubenga, an Angolan immigrant living in the UK, was killed by three G4S employees while being restrained on a British Airways aeroplane in 2010.

Corporate manslaughter charges have been considered against G4S and the guards on duty for the incident, the Guardian reports.

The method involves rubbing a victim's face onto the ground.

Since the Mubenga death, nearly 800 formal complaints have been filed about the firm's poor handling of deportation.

However, under current laws, the Independent Police Complaints Commission, responsible for investigating any wrong doing by police forces, is unable to investigate privately contracted officers.

Source: The Guardian UK

New reports from Britain appear to show G4S employees preventing media coverage of preparation for the Olympics has been in the news.

Some accounts describe G4S guards as forcibly grabbing and placing their hands over cameras to prevent footage while reporters were on public grounds.

Here's a video of the incident >

Similar tactics have also been alleged in the Gulf of Mexico during the BP oil spill, with reports of G4S employees refusing to allow reporters access.

In the Middle East, G4S is currently under contract with Israeli prisons that hold Palestinian political prisoners.

Source: Our Kingdom

They also help protect West Bank settlements, viewed by many countries (including the UK) as illegal.

Source: The Independent

1,6000 Palestinian prisoners recently went on a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment and the actions of G4S.

The Arabic text reads 'The prisoner Khader Adnan continue an open hunger strike.' At the time of this picture, the 33 year old Adnan had been on hunger strike for 55 days.

Source: AP

British journalist Laurie Penny writes:

What difference does it make if the men and women in uniform patrolling the world's streets and prison corridors are employed by nation states or private firms? It makes every difference. A for-profit company is not subject to the same processes of accountability and investigation as an army or police force which is meant, at least in theory, to serve the public. Impartial legality is still worth something as an assumed role of the state -- and the notion of a private, for-profit police and security force poisons the very idea.

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