Abstract: The system of policing in the United States is costly and ineffective, perhaps because of the government monopoly on residentially assigned police departments. A system of private or public police choice could introduce competitive pressures into the market for policing and improve overall quality levels. I discuss current and historical examples of private policing and respond to the most common criticisms of systems of police choice. These criticisms can be placed into one of the following six categories: (1) conflicts between customers of different agencies, (2) situations in which one agency prevents the rights of another company’s customer from being violated, (3) rights protection as a public good, (4) rights protection having positive externalities, (5) certain types of violations’ having costs that are spread out across several members of society, and (6) rights protection’s being too important to leave to private profit-seeking firms. I also propose possible police-choice policy options that could be used to achieve a society with stronger rights protection and fewer rights violations.
Keywords: Police choice, school choice, vouchers, savings accounts, chartered police agencies, public goods, externalities