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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 Kjøbenhavn Frederiksberg Nattevagt in Denmark
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.
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.
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.
New reports from Britain appear to show G4S employees preventing media coverage of preparation for the Olympics has been in the news.
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.
They also help protect West Bank settlements, viewed by many countries (including the UK) as illegal.
1,6000 Palestinian prisoners recently went on a hunger strike to protest their imprisonment and the actions of G4S.
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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