Small Town Police Departments

It’s a small red-brick building nestled between Betty Lou’s Cut ‘n Curl and Smilin’ Bob’s Hardware and Pawn Shop. The lone parking space in front is reserved. A sign reads “Chief’s Parking Only.”

Inside, the hallway to the right takes you to the water department and the office of the building inspector. There, you can also purchase dog tags and yard sale permits. A left turn leads to the town’s police department, a force comprised of five dedicated, hardworking police officers—one chief, one sergeant, two full-time officers, and one part-time guy who’s also the mayor of the next town over.

Complaints can be filed with the dispatcher at the window, or by dialing the local number. Calling 911 in Small Town works the same as calling 911 in New York City. Hmm…there is a tiny difference—when you call 911 in Small Town somebody always shows up to see what’s wrong. Not so in Big City.

Small Town dispatchers also work the computer terminals and NCIC. They know CPR and they know everyone in town and the quickest route to their houses.

Officers in Small Town attend the police academy and they receive the same training and certifications as the officers over in Big City. No, Small Town PD doesn’t have all the latest fancy equipment with the shiny, spinning dials and winking, blinking lights. They don’t have special detectives who only work homicides or white collar crime. And they don’t have divisions dedicated for traffic, vice, narcotics, and internal affairs. Budgets simply don’t allow it.

Officers in Small Town are cross-trained. They each know how to run radar, direct traffic, dust for fingerprints, interview suspects and witnesses, and they know how to investigate a murder. They work burglaries and assaults. They also arrest drunk drivers, drug dealers, people who abuse their spouses, rapists, pedophiles, and robbers. They break up fights, help kids cross the street safely, and they locate lost pets. And, if one of their officers  steps out of line they’ll straighten his butt out, too.

Of course, Small Town is totally fictional, but there are many actual small towns with small police departments. And those small departments work the same type cases as the departments in larger cities. No, not all departments are large enough to have officers who serve as detectives. But they all employ police officers who are fully capable of investigating any type of crime. And they do, from traffic offenses to murder. Sure, they do the same work as a detective. But they do it while wearing a uniform instead of some fancy-smancy suit they really couldn’t afford.

Yep, most small departments operate the same way as the large ones, just on a smaller scale.

For example:

The Yellow Springs, Ohio Police Department serves a village of slightly less than 4,000 residents. Therefore, the department is small. However, there’s a college in town and the village is located near Dayton and Springfield, which translates into the potential for a higher crime rate than would normally be found in a town that size. And, the potential for more crime means more proactive police work for the small number of officers.

The YSPD doesn’t have plainclothes detectives to investigate major crimes. Instead, as is the case with many small departments, uniformed officers investigate all crimes. So, when an officer receives a call from the dispatcher they see it all the way through—from the 911 call through court, including evidence collection, interviewing witnesses, etc.

If the officers need additional help, or resources, they call on the sheriff’s office.

Remember, not all departments operate in the same manner. Some smaller departments DO have detectives, and those investigators may or may not wear a uniform. They could dress in a coat and tie, and they could have the title of detective, or investigator. If they’re a detective who wears a uniform their rank would normally remain the same. There is no standard rule. It’s entirely up to the individual department.

One other thing to remember—a police department and a sheriff’s office are not the same. Deputy sheriffs work for sheriffs, not police chiefs. But that’s a topic for another day.

YSPD dispatcher

NCIC equipment

Felony traffic stop

Issuing a traffic summons

An arrest

Small departments may not have LiveScan fingerprint terminals. Instead, they still use the old ink and ten-print cards

Ten-print fingerprinting station

Small departments collect and preserve evidence using the same methods and materials as do larger departments

Evidence storage is on a smaller scale in smaller departments

YSPD evidence room

Evidence safe in a small department (for narcotics, etc.)

YSPD officer’s workstation/office

Small departments follow the same procedures as any other department

Interior of a YSPD patrol car

Read more
Writers and Cops: A Great Combination!

*     *     *

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is now open. You do not want to miss this one of a kind event!

Writers’ Police Academy

Guilford Technical Community College and Public Safety Training Academy

Jamestown, N.C.

September 23-25, 2011

Read more
War On Cops

Imagine going to work today, wondering if this is the day when somebody—the man in line behind you at the bank, a junior high kid, or maybe that kid’s mom—will pull a gun from their pocket and shoot you dead simply because you chose to be a police officer.

How would it feel to know that the mere clothing you wore and the fact that your life’s calling—your life-long dream to help others—was enough to spark enough rage in another human being that he’d walk into your place of business and murder everyone in sight? Unfortunately, that’s what officers across the country are learning to deal with in addition to the already high-stress nature of their work.

Recently, there’s been an alarming increase in the amount violence toward police officers. So far this year, as of January 27, 2011, fifteen police officers in the U.S. have been killed in the line of duty, ten were shot to death. Murdered. And that’s not including the large number of attempted murders and assaults on officers. What’s the cause? Why do some people feel the need to kill cops? And why are they acting on those feelings? What causes a man to look a young officer in the eye and then, without remorse, kill her as nonchalantly as they would swat a fly?

How do police officers protect themselves against an enemy who hides in plain sight? How do officers guard against future attacks?

Are there too many guns on the street? Not enough gun laws? Too many gun laws? Are we not putting enough people in prison? Do we need more alternatives to prison? Death penalty or no death penalty? Does it work?

And I’ll ask this one out loud. I’m not shy. Have police department budget cuts contributed to the murder of our police officers? Have municipalities cut police training, manpower, and equipment so drastically that the very lives of the men and women who protect us are in jeopardy?

Well, I asked three law enforcement officials for their take on the recent increase in violence against police officers. And here’s what they had to say.

ATF Special Agent Richard McMahan

“What can law enforcement do to stop more of our ranks from falling?

The best way we can honor our fallen comrades is to make sure they didn’t lose their lives in vain. We need to make sure we not only remember they died Holding the Blue Line, but we also remember how they died.

I am not faulting any of the officers who died. For all I know, they did everything right and fate was against them. But, I do know cops are humans. We fall into routines. And ruts. Some become lax in routine. We do think of a traffic stop as “routine.” (THERE ARE NO ROUTINE TRAFFIC STOPS!). We do think of taking a complaint as something we’ve done a thousand times before and nothings happened, so it’s no big deal. We’ve served warrants on people and arrested them and they’ve complied with our commands.

The way we stop this tide of line of duty deaths is to remember—

I want the next patrol officer who does a traffic stop to have the memory of the Indianapolis cop in his mind. When he flips that lightbar on and pulls that car over, I want him or her to think of that Indianapolis cop who did the same thing and took two bullets in the face last Sunday. Now, that officer will pause and maybe they’ll remember to hug the car close and stay out of the driver’s line of sight. Maybe they’ll make extra sure to see the occupants’ hands at all times. With that dead cop’s spirit on their shoulder and in their mind, they’ll stay extra sharp.

Maybe the next time an arrest team goes to pick up someone they’ve arrested before, they’ll not think, “He’s going to comply because he has in the past.”

Maybe the next time a group of cops are taking coffee together they’ll keep an extra vigilant look on the door, so that when some Sierra Hotel pulls a gun as he’s walking in that the cops will stop the assault.

As for me, I know that the next time we’re doing a warrant on a house, I’ll be paying extra close attention to the attic and crawl spaces. I’ll think of those 2 St Petersburg cops who were ambushed by a thug laying in wait.

Cops can’t ensure our budget or manning will improve. We can’t do anything about the state budget crises that are opening the door and kicking prisoners out the door of prison in floods. We can’t determine why a small segment of our society thinks it’s a badge of honor to hunt us.

But what we can do is be prepared. We make sure we’re thinking of the task at hand. We make sure we damn well know that there are people who want to kill us. And we make sure we do everything we can—we follow our training, we follow our instincts, and we go into a situation remembering our fallen brothers and sisters and saying, ‘No more.’”

Jerry Cooper, a law enforcement trainer who has been a continuously sworn law enforcement officer for more than 36 years.

“One thing appears to be obvious: the bad guys do not fear the police. Most of the people shooting law enforcement officers have already been in the criminal justice and/or mental health systems. If I were to do any quick finger pointing, I would have to start with lenient judges, parole boards, probation & parole systems, and mental health system. We are living in a society that nurtures psychopathy. According to Dr. Robert Hare, who is probably the world’s leading authority on psychopathy, only about 20% of psychopaths are institutionalized (prison or in-patient mental health facilities).

Also, as a law enforcement use-of-force trainer, I have to ask the unpopular questions regarding how prepared are officers for these situations. There is certainly a lot of argument here in favor of scenario-based training.”

Lt. David Swords, a thirty year veteran of the Springfield, Ohio Police Department.

“In recent days, most of us have heard comments and news stories about an alarming rise in shootings and/or felonious deaths of police officers in the U.S. Today, I heard that yesterday’s death of an Indianapolis officer recently shot brought the nationwide number of officers killed this month to 15. Multiply that number by twelve and you’re looking at 2011 as being a year when 180 officers could be killed by felonious assault. That is a frightening number.

Is that what we have in store for the coming year? Hopefully, prayerfully, this month will prove to be a fluke, albeit a tragic and deadly one.

I’ve heard questions raised by news reporters asking if this is a sign of a “war of cops.” I don’t think so. At least it’s not an organized effort to kill officers. If anything, it is more of a symptom of a growing unrest in the country, a growing anger. An anger at what? An anger at them, those people, the other side.

That’s right, we’ve all noticed it. We’ve all seen in recent years the general decline of civility and a growing rudeness in the culture. I’m not going to spend any time laying it all out because we have all seen examples of it throughout the culture. And, please, let’s not turn this into a discussion of “Who’s at fault?” When it comes right down to it, we are all at fault. If you wish to point a finger, get in front of a mirror and point away.

Having said that, let us recognize the fact that, as always, the police are going to be the ones to bear the brunt of social anger. Remember the 1960’s? Well I do. I remember hearing things like “off the pigs” or “kill the pigs.” And while I was unable on short notice to find stats of officer killings in the 60’s and 70’s, I do remember an alarming number that seemed to correspond with the growing social discord of the time.

So what’s the answer? I can tell you what I think the answer is for the men and women on the street. It is the same that it has always been. In a simple phrase, “watch your ass and expect the worst.” It is a very simplistic answer to what seems to be a very complex problem, but that is what I would tell the young folks on the street. Let the “experts” try to figure it out. Let them spend their money and have their committees to come up with some report that will gather dust on a darkened storage shelf. You don’t have time to wait for the answer, so in the meantime, you do what you need to do to get home to your family tonight.

And may God bless those who don’t make it.”

*     *     *

Friday’s Heroes: Remembering The Fallen

The Graveyard Shift extends our condolences to the families of these brave officers.

Corporal Charles Richard (Chuck) Nesbitt Jr., 39

Sumter South Carolina Police Department

January 21, 2011

Corporal Chuck Nesbitt, Jr. was killed in an automobile crash after transporting a prisoner to the South Carolina Department of Juvenile Justice.

Officer Tom Hayes, 61

Columbus Ohio Division of Police

January 20, 2011

Officer Tom Hayes succumbed to a gunshot wound he sustained 31 years earlier while attempting to arrest two teens.

Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz, 39

St. Petersburg Florida Police Department

January 24, 2011

Sergeant Tom Baitinger, 48

St. Petersburg Florida Police Department

January 24, 2011

Sergeant Tom Baitinger and Officer Jeffrey Yaslowitz were shot and killed while attempting to serve a warrant on a wanted suspect.

Sergeant Baitinger is survived by his wife.

Officer Yaslowitz is survived by his wife and three children.

Officer David S. Moore, 29

Indianapolis Indiana Metropolitan Police Department

January 26, 2011

On January 23, 2011, Officer David Moore was shot several times by the driver of a stolen vehicle. He succumbed to his wounds three days later. He is survived by his parents. Officer Moore’s mother is a sergeant with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department, and his father retired as a lieutenant with the department.

Read more
Deputy Sheriffs: They’re Just Cops, Right?

Most of us had our first real look at a sheriff’s office back in 1960 when Andy Taylor and his fearless deputy, Barney Fife, patrolled the roads in and around Mayberry, N.C.

Television took us inside the Mayberry jail, the courthouse, and it even allowed us to ride in the county patrol car. And for many people, Andy Taylor’s Sheriff’s Office was the standard. The things Andy did, well, that’s what a sheriff was supposed to do—fight crime, run the jail, provide security for the court, and serve the people of the community.

So let’s take a look at a real-life, modern day sheriff and his office to see how things differ from the fictional Mayberry department. First, like Andy, a sheriff is only one person, which means they’ll need help to fulfill their duties. So deputies are appointed, not hired, to help with the workload. For example, the Clark County, Ohio sheriff’s office is comprised of the Sheriff (Gene Kelly – pictured above), one Chief Deputy, one Major, four Lieutenants, seventeen Sergeants, one-hundred-nine Deputies and thirty four civilian support staff.

When we see a sheriff’s car rolling along the highways and streets, most people assume the driver is a cop just like any other cop—an officer who wears a gun and answers calls doled out by a 911 dispatcher. Well, that’s partly true. They do answer calls. BUT, a deputy’s job is much more than just arresting people and putting them in jail.

Sure, we know that sheriff’s are in charge of the county jails. And we’re well aware that they serve civil process, such as jury summons, lien notices, foreclosures, and evictions. We also know that a sheriff assigns deputies to protect the courts, judges, and to supervise prisoners. But did you know that the duties of sheriffs and deputies may also include…

In the above photo, Sheriff Kelly is presiding over a sheriff’s sale. A sheriff’s sale is basically an auction to dispose of/liquidate property in which a mortgage owner has defaulted.

Operating mobile crime labs and investigative services.

Investigation of major crime scenes.

Community services, such as safety programs for citizens with special needs. One such program includes the ability to locate missing and/or lost persons through the use of tracking devices.

A person with special needs wears a wrist band with a built-in transmitter. Deputies equipped with specially designed receivers and antennas can then quickly track the person and return them to safety.

Housing prisoners from other jurisdictions whose facilities are overcrowded.

And, some locales may not have jail facilities at all and must rely on nearby sheriff’s offices for the safekeeping of their prisoners until trial.

Not all deputy sheriffs are police officers. Some are certified to work in the jail. Some are court security officers, and others have the sole duty of serving civil process.

Some deputies still unlock car doors for the unfortunate people who somehow manage to lock the keys inside their vehicles.

Deputies often organize and supervise search and rescue teams.

Some deputy sheriffs are cross-trained to work a variety of jobs within the department, such as patrol, jail, inmate transport, court security, etc.

*     *     *

Registration for the 2011 Writers’ Police Academy is now open.

Join us for a weekend of training at a real police academy with real police academy instructors and equipment.

It’s a blast!

Read more