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Can smaller communities still afford their own police departments?

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  • Can smaller communities still afford their own police departments?

    I was just reading another story about a small-town police agency that's in hot water over issues that seem to stem from not being able to afford to hire quality officers and/or provide them with appropriate training.

    Prior to becoming a cop, I served on my small (under 2500 pop.) town's police commission for about a year, at a time when we had to let 1 officer go for problematic issues and then ultimately fired the chief. The end result was that our community disbanded the PD and contracted with our local sheriff's department for police services. While I was initially against the idea, I quickly became a convert when I saw the much higher level of personnel we had protecting our community.

    Other nearby communities have done the same, while I've also seen more cases of departments merging. Between increasing training standards, higher insurance costs, liability issues, and a society that's becoming more litigious all the time, are we moving to a place where the Mayberrys of the world can't or won't be able to afford to have their own PDs?

  • #2
    I think, in the era of police reform, a small community better be well funded because anything less than a significant financial powerhouse in town will require them to contract.

    There are so many things an Agency is responsible for and it is very tough for smaller places to retain that institutional knowledge. If your small town PD averages a homicide every 10 years, what happens then? Maybe a handful of Officers know what to do. How many of them are on duty when it happens? OIS? Odds are high you would already be contracting out those functions to a Sheriff’s Office or the State Attorney General/State Police.

    Wasn't Andy the Sheriff of Mayberry? (I got your point though)
    semper destravit

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    • #3
      Wasn't Andy the Sheriff of Mayberry? (I got your point though)
      To those of us of a certain age, Mayberry = Small Town USA. Yes, Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith) was the 'sheriff' of Mayberry.

      Comment


      • #4
        Plenty of small communities still have them. Communities tend to like having their own police force, even if no one is full time and they don't provide 24/7 coverage. Having worked in small towns in the past, I agree that some of the officers don't have any business being officers, but I can say that about large department officers as well. It comes down to the ability of the department to meet state minimum training standards, and the expectation of the village council. In order to contract with the sheriff, the sheriff needs deputies who can fulfill the contract. I know of several cases in several counties where the sheriff does not want small town PDs going under because they do not want to contract out anymore coverage.

        Comment


        • #5
          There are MANY small agencies in Iowa. Some of them are one and two person departments.

          Home Rule is big here. The community wants to be in charge and have the police be responsive to the LOCAL wishes , not the wishes of the County Commissioners,(Board of Supervisors, or whatever it is called in your area.

          Small agencies THRIVE here. Sure turnover his high, they get a lot of people started in LE . Things are changing a bit and many of the towns have contracted, but it is always a big fight when the attempts are made.

          Even a lot of our Sheriff's Offices are small enough that with big cases they need help...........

          Yep, most "big" investigations get assisted by the Sheriff's Office or State DCI, but in most small towns those aren't once every 10 yrs but more like once every 50 yrs. That is what Mutual Aide pacts are for............The state DCI is required by law to assist if asked by a local or county agency

          Since some people need to be told by notes in crayon .......Don't PM me with without prior permission. If you can't discuss the situation in the open forum ----it must not be that important

          My new word for the day is FOCUS, when someone irritates you tell them to FOCUS

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          • #6
            It's a huge issue in my neck of the woods. Some townships and villages have their own PD; some contract with SOs.

            And there are some that do neither. When a 911 call comes in for an emergency, often the SO responds then just holds the scene until state police arrive (in full disclosure, these are rural communities and farmers generally take care of problems on their own...)

            Many small departments augment their ranks with reserves but now that approach is under more scrutiny than before, thanks to a handful of incidents that got recent negative press. Like the chief who had 300 reserves for a village of 800 people. Every reserve had to pay $1,500 when they started for equipment he sold at inflated prices for personal profit. They were willing to pay, as long as they got a badge....

            I'm familiar with a small town PD near me. They have a handful of full-time officers and a platoon of reserves. They're a good crew that does a decent job, and recently made a run at the contract for the surrounding township currently held by the local SO. Despite the fact that the PD undercut the current cost and committed to more coverage, the township voted to renew the agreement with the SO. I believe the rational was the SO offers more specialty units and the township was happy with the level of current coverage. But, as anyone here who has lived in a small community can attest, there probably were some undercurrents at work, such as political alliances, old grudges, and fear of change.
            One day, lad, this will all be yours.

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            • #7
              Additional full disclosure: a couple of years ago, I was considering enlisting as a reserve with the local PD after retirement. I figured it would be a good way to give back to my community and further utilize my skills and training from over the decades. Commitment would be to help out at home football games.... parades.... ride shotgun a shift a week...

              But now that I am in the twilight days of my real job, my current mental state is when I'm done, I'm done, and perhaps the wiser move is to let others take the helm for awhile....
              One day, lad, this will all be yours.

              Comment


              • #8
                After studying for several months for our sergeants exam, I truly appreciated the fact that my agency has a full time staff of lawyers to pump out guidance on all kinds of legal updates. Unfortunately NY is in the midst of sweeping changes to our justice system and everyone is going to be affected by it.

                So I was thinking of this very question. What are the handful of small agencies in this area doing about it? Honestly I don’t think much.

                As a cop, I don’t work there so it doesn’t affect me. But as a taxpayer it is going to cost when the minimum state training standards aren’t quite cutting it.

                I’m not a fan of ineffective government of any kind. If an agency of any kind, be it cops, highway department, or anything else for that matter, cannot provide adequate services why keep it?
                I make my living on Irish welfare.

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by Iowa #1603 View Post
                  There are MANY small agencies in Iowa. Some of them are one and two person departments.

                  Home Rule is big here. The community wants to be in charge and have the police be responsive to the LOCAL wishes , not the wishes of the County Commissioners,(Board of Supervisors, or whatever it is called in your area.

                  Yep, most "big" investigations get assisted by the Sheriff's Office or State DCI, but in most small towns those aren't once every 10 yrs but more like once every 50 yrs. That is what Mutual Aide pacts are for............The state DCI is required by law to assist if asked by a local or county agency
                  "The community wants to be in charge and have the police be responsive to the LOCAL wishes ,..."

                  This one hits home and usually leaves me-us in a cold fury. Always the same same. They want law enforcement according to their whims. Ignore the rolling stops. The local eccentrics. The local quirks and habits from burning trash in the back yard to a -harmless- 5150 that strolls the night with a shotgun.
                  Then a real incident comes down and it's mutual aid every time. Little or no proactive policing then screaming for help when the feces comes down and the SO has to come in cold turkey and sort the ignores from the criminals.
                  These local communities, typically city councils, write the job description and rules of the road without taking into account they are clueless and their manpower pool is not 24/7 and they have no local back up.
                  Last edited by BetteNoireX; 04-09-2019, 06:45 PM.

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                  • Ratatatat
                    Ratatatat commented
                    Editing a comment
                    ^This 100%

                  • Iowa #1603
                    Iowa #1603 commented
                    Editing a comment
                    Our system works in Iowa....It wouldn't in California

                    small town policing is a whole different thing.

                • #10
                  There are trade offs. A large agency might have more resources, funding, cheaper due to economies of scale, etc. But usually it's going to rotate through officers often (might see a different cop every day), you lose control over budgeting increases (the larger POA gets a raise and the contract goes up), you lose a lot of local control, you lose some community pride and identity, and sometimes the service drops drastically because so many cuts are made and the cop comes from a different town.

                  A good contract can negate some of these issues. But I think at some point a city should have their own PD. Some of the cities out here have 200k populations and are sheriff contracts. The sheriffs can't staff beats, and the city is really subsidizing the county at that point because the unincorporated areas use more than their share of the "bonus special services."

                  I think there is a better case for regionalizing some special services, which is successfully done some places. Regional shared air support, swat teams, specialized investigative task forces, etc, are all good options to have your cake and eat it too.
                  Last edited by nobodyjr; 04-11-2019, 09:42 PM.

                  Comment


                  • #11
                    The small Village that I work for has had a Police Dept off and on since the Village was created. They have had problems getting deputies to patrol here, as does other small municipalities in our county. The deputies prefer to stay close or in the largest city in the county because that's where all the "action" is. The Mayor approached me about 12 years ago and asked me to come work part-time for them, even said the County Sheriff and his Chief Deputy had suggested that he contact me. Well I accepted and formulated a viable, well organized , small department that anyone can step into and work. It's been done when I was battling cancer. Contracts with Sheriff's departments do not always workout, especially if the deputies do not honor or want to patrol those smaller municipalities. Oh, they'll go there to serve papers, or answer a 911 call, but then they're gone. Like I said I've been here 12 years and just a few months ago retired from my full-time department after 38 years there and yes we rely a lot on mutual aid. However, that mutual aide is usually me answering calls for the short-handed, under funded, county sheriff's department. There's good and bad to all the points of view that have been posted, however it comes down to the finances, commitment, and the officers the municipalities hire.

                    Comment


                    • #12
                      Coming from Australia, I've always found it strange how a small town of 1000 people can run its own police department in the USA. Or how you can have multiple departments working in the same metro area. I always wondered how small communities manage to cover the costs too.

                      In Australia, municipal councils don't operate their own police forces.

                      Each State has its own State Police force, which will do all your typical policing functions such as patrol, responding to calls for service, traffic enforcement and investigations. State Police will cover the whole state, from the downtown area of a major city to a small rural community with a single-officer station.

                      If something major happens in a small community, whatever specialist services are needed can be deployed there, but they are coming from the same agency as the local cops.

                      We do have Sheriffs (in some states) but they don't respond to calls for service or do normal police work like a Sheriff's Dept in the USA; the Sheriff mostly enforces court judgements, serving warrants, and related functions.

                      Local city councils have basically no control over how the police force operates, the laws are set by the State Government and policies/procedures are pretty much the same across the State. So we don't really have issues with people trying to use "I know the mayor" to get out of trouble, or disputes over who has jurisdiction over what.

                      Comment


                      • #13
                        ^Funny, I find it strange whenever I am in a country with a singular national police force and no local agencies (Thailand, South Africa, etc), I always wonder how communities feel about being policed by a large organization managed by people far away....

                        There is historical context to why things are the way they are in the United States. The founding fathers were so wary of concentration of power they addressed the issue in the 10th amendment of the U.S. constitution, specifically remanding power to the states. And to this day, U.S. federal law enforcement is intentionally fragmented (over sixty separate agencies), reflecting the continuing wish to keep empires and emperors in check. How else do you explain the inefficiency of having law enforcement in agencies like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation or National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration? It would be much simpler, would it not, to have one single national police force? Our fathers feared such an entity would be too similar to British rule....

                        So, to a large degree, our system is a complete rebuke of the colonial history your system was created under. Our thousands of towns and villages and cities and tribes enjoy the controls they have over their own departments. Our 3,000 counties enjoy voting for their own sheriffs. Our 50 states enjoy the freedom to enact laws independently of each other, when it comes to gambling, the death penalty, abortion, legalized marijuana, and countless other public policy issues.


                        It's all about our love of local control and fear of overreaching power. That's as American as Chevy trucks, apple pie, and fireworks on the Fourth of July.
                        One day, lad, this will all be yours.

                        Comment


                        • #14
                          In Canada, we have Federal (Fed Gov), Provincial (10 Provinces) and Territorial (3, in the Arctic region), Aboriginal / First Nations / Idigenous (A/FN/I), and Municipal (varying titles and sizes, including stand-alone / regionalized / shared-services (SA/R/SS) Government.

                          The Criminal Code of Canada (CC) is the basic criminal legislation (assault, theft, fraud, impaired driving, etc) and it applies Canada-wide. While the CC is enacted by the Federal Government, it is enforced by all the levels of Government, and administered (Courts) by the Federal (Appeals and Supreme) and Provincial and Territorial Governments (3 levels, going by various names, dependent on the Province or Territory).

                          The Fed Gov also enacts, administers, and enforces other Federal Statutes (Fed Stats), such as immigration, customs, copyright, drugs, migratory birds, National Parks, and other legislation, some of which is criminal offences, non-criminal offences, and other non-offence stipulations.

                          While the CC legislates the officer of Peace Officer (includes Police Officers (PO), but also other Law Enforcement Officers, and even political positions that have VERY restricted authority), it is the Provinces and Territories that are responsible for enacting Provincial, or Territorial, Statutes (for simplicity, I will refer to them both as Prov Stats) in which the appointment of Peace Officers is legislated, and their powers further defined.

                          Provinces and Territories are further empowered to enact Prov Stats covering non-criminal offences (traffic, hunting / fishing / parks, liquor), and to empower Municipalities to enact Municipal By-Laws (Mun B-L) covering non-Prov Stat non-criminal offences (parking, traffic, noise, animal control), as well as when a Municipality is REQUIRED to pay for a PS (SA/R/SS). The PO Prov Stats also authorize a PO member of a Municipal PS (Mun PS) the powers of a PO throughout that Province, but only within that Province.

                          Some Provinces, as Ontario (ON) (OPP), Quebec (QC) (the Surete du Quebec - SQ; roughly translated, the National Police, but please don't ask, too politically long to get into, and I am NOT a political expert!) and Newfoundland Labrador (NL) (Royal Newfoundland Constabulary - RNC) have their own Provincial Police, who work in rural / unincorporated areas, and on A/FN/I communities without their own Police Services (PS), although some A/FN/I communities DO have their own SA/R/SS PS.

                          Pursuant to The Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) Act, PO members of the RCMP are PO for the purposes of enforcing the CC and Fed Stats Canada-wide. Since the 1920s, every Province, other than ON and QC, has provisions within their PO Prov Stats authorizing PO members of the RCMP to enforce their Prov Stats. This comes from times when those Provinces were struggling financially, and the Fed Gov signed contracts with them for the RCMP to provide Provincial Policing Services. Within those Provinces, many Municipalities, required to pay for a PS, have contracts with the Fed Gov for the RCMP to provide Municipal Policing Services to them.

                          Some PO members of the RCMP, when seconded to Joint Forces Operation (JFO),or similar Units, where they work side-by-side with OPP or SQ members and may have reason to enforce ON or QC Prov Stats, will be appointed under the PO Prov Stats of those Provinces to be able to do such enforcement. Similarly, when a Fed Stat does not specifically authorize a PO member of the OPP, SQ, A/FN/I PS, or Mun PS, to enforce any, or some, portion of it, but those PO are working in a JFO with the RCMP, or another Fed LE Agency (mainly Canadian Border Services Agency (CBSA)), then that non-RCMP or non-CBSA PO would be specially temporarily appointed pursuant to that Fed Stat (not that I have ever worked on one!)

                          I have only ever worked in Saskatchewan (SK) (34.5+ years after completion of training, other than ~ 2 weeks at the 2010 Toronto G20), so I am going by what SK law is. In SK, the RCMP has contracts with some towns (pop. > 500) and cities (pop. > 5000). I have lived in Weyburn (famous for Kiefer SUTHERLAND's grandfather, Tommy DOUGLAS, father of Canada's public access medical system, being a Baptist Minister here before becoming a Federal politician), pop. ~ 11000, since late August 1993, and worked in the area until my retirement in late December 2010. Weyburn has its own SA PS (WPS ~ 22 PO + support staff), as well as an RCMP General Duty (GD) Detachment (which I was on until late Aug 2001) plus an autonomous Region Traffic Service (RTS) Unit (until I pulled the pin), which is part of Combined TS SK (CTSS).

                          SK RTS does not handle Mun PS or GD files, but will swoop in on calls where GD, or Mun PS, need a hand on potentially-of violent calls-for-service). GD and RTS can "poach" in a Mun PS' area to deal with CC (impaired driving), Fed Stats (drugs), and Prov Stats (traffic and liquor) offences, but will leave routine calls for the Mun PS to deal with; similarly, SK Mun PS can, and often do, go outside of the city, either to back-up GD and RTS, or "poach", but also leave the routine stuff to GD (you catch 'em, you clean 'em, but also know where the border is!). All of the SK Mun PS, as well as SK Highway Patrol (SK HP - CVE branch of the Highways Department), have members seconded to the RCMP CTSS as a JFO, with several CTSS groups throughout SK.

                          Due to SK' vast size and sparse population (~1.3 million), and RCMP GD staffing issues, SK RCMP ("F" Division, or "F" Div) has formed a Crime Reduction Unit (CRU), which is a uniformed roving team that "targets" areas of concern. In addition to "F" Div's efforts, SK itself has formed the Protection Response Team (PRT), which is a program under which SK HP was re-named and better trained / equipped (i.e.: never previously allowed to carry sidearms nor long arms), and, along with the Provincial Conservation Officers (hunting / fishing - they only got sidearms about 25 years ago, though!), were granted PO CC authority, so they can be summoned via "F" Div Operational CommCentre (F DOCC - central dispatch for all RCMP Units in SK) or SK911 to respond to potentially-violent calls-for-service, either as first-on-scene-to-do-whatever-is-needed-then-turn-it-over-to, or to back-up, the GD or Mun PS.

                          The Fed Gov, "F" Div, and SK, have recently set-up a combined national / provincial / local natural disaster / infrastructure issue / Amber Alert / recent criminal activity community warning system, so civilians can receive texts and eMails with warnings and details.

                          TL; DR: RCMP is awesome, as is living in Canada, particularly SK!
                          #32936 - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 1975-10-27 / 2010-12-29
                          Proud Dad of #54266 - RCMP - 2007-02-12 to date
                          RCMP Veterans Association - Regina Division member
                          Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada - Associate (Retired) member
                          "Smile" - no!

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                          • #15
                            We DO have a few small non-24/7/365 staffed and patrolling Mun PS, some 24/7/365 staffed and patrolling larger Mun PS, some non-24/7/365 staffed and patrolling HP and CO Units, some 24/7/365 staffed and patrolling RCMP Mun Detachments, and a lot of non-24/7/365 staffed and patrolling RCMP GD Detachments, located in SK.
                            #32936 - Royal Canadian Mounted Police - 1975-10-27 / 2010-12-29
                            Proud Dad of #54266 - RCMP - 2007-02-12 to date
                            RCMP Veterans Association - Regina Division member
                            Mounted Police Professional Association of Canada - Associate (Retired) member
                            "Smile" - no!

                            Comment

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