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by Peter Moskos

August 5, 2008

Rural Police

Very little is known (or has been written) about rural cops. Certainly I'm very guilty of an urban bias.

This could be the man to inform us. He's planning on writing. I'll encourage him.

More good stuff:
For the past nine months I have been pushing a sled in one of the poorest and most isolated rural counties in ****. (I also spent five months working as a reserve officer in an urban police department.) I absolutely love being a cop. It has many dull moments but wearing the badge is like having a backstage pass into people's lives.

Working as a rural deputy is often less glamorous than that of urban cops (especially in light of shows like "The Wire"). But it has its own peculiar challenges. I work in a socially, economically, and (importantly) geographically isolated county. My first fight occurred on the top of a mountain at a meth lab explosion. My cover was twenty- five minutes away. Most of my peers in urban departments have never and will likely never find themselves in that kind of situation.
[You can say that again!]

I often find myself in the position of a general practitioner. I conduct my investigations from the time I am dispatched till court, since investigators are scant and reserved only for violent felonies. As a deputy I am also a coroner. I have investigated three murders and three suicides in the past nine months.

Most of my colleagues and my favorite sergeants find the 911 dispatch system and the idea of random patrol to be policies and practices out of touch with the reality of the services we can provide. I drive two-to-three hundred miles a night In the process of covering my beats as a result of these systems (ironically high gas prices are forcing the department to think about patrol in a new light). The deputies, among themselves, discuss a response system based on that of Fire & Rescue.

I have finally come to the point where I am no longer the Fucking New Guy on the force and have become largely accepted by colleagues, especially my sergeants and some of the older cops (consisting of crusty **** cops from the 80's, former truck drivers, and an ex-high school teacher). Although still green, I am not constantly confronted by situations that leave me perplexed as to what I am to do.


Dave H. said...

Interesting stuff. I'd read his stuff! I especially liked the part about "a response system based on that of Fire & Rescue." Great thinking, Deputy. Foot patrol is not usually an option for rural agencies, but there is still room for innovation. Aside from going out to do some periodic checks, traffic, and occasional random patrols, I can see deputies working out of a network of substations (possibly based at fire protection districts or village halls, if local governments are willing to help out). You might also divide the patrol division into rapid response and community policing sections.

Incidentally, I recently thought about applying with my local sheriff's office. This is partly due to my suspicion that there would be a more "laissez-faire" approach at the S.O. than in an urban agency that is at the epicenter of the drug war. In other words, you could do real police work and, as the Deputy suggested, be a generalist. Any thoughts on this Peter?

PCM said...

In my mind, at least in the East (but also the Midwest, I think), the sheriff's office handles court and evictions. Neither is much fun. But if the sheriff is the main law enforcement agency in an area, it might be better.

I think it depends greatly on the sheriff. That last thing you'd want is be with some agency that depends on civil forfeiture laws to acquire equipment and fast cars.

Dave H. said...

In my area (Central IL.) the S.O's. are multifaceted agencies that handle corrections, court services (I agree that evictions wouldn't be much fun!) and policing in unincorporated areas and communities that contract w/ the office for police services. The Sheriff in the county I'm looking at is certainly not a radical, but I don't think they go to crazy with the forfeiture stuff (which is one of the most scandalous aspects of prohibition). Working in an agency led by an exec. directly elected by the people might be interesting, but I'm not sure if the diff. is as significant as S.O. enthusiasts might make it out to be.

Oh, another option I'm exploring at the moment is the University P.D. at a major university in my region. I have worked as a non-sworn campus officer at a large hospital, so I might be well suited for this kind of policing. I've always felt quite comfortable in a campus environment, and--with my libertarian leanings--I find the prospect of working in what might be referred to as an "intentional community" fairly appealing. Any opinions on campus policing in its current incarnation?