Jeff Dorris

Deliberations from Dorris

Jeff Dorris is the Editor of the Delta Dunklin Democrat


Policing in small communities: hybrid departments

Saturday, May 15, 2021

I back the Blue, so this is no way a bashing of our local police departments.

This is just a column on what some small rural police departments have implemented to become more efficient with rural policing issues.

Most small town police departments will tell you the trifecta of problems they face are recruiting, retention, and budgets.

A tiny community in Wisconsin has tackled those problems, and it appears they’ve been successful at it.

Chief James Small heads the Palmyra Public Safety Department in a small Wisconsin village with fewer than 2,000 residents.

The department has 6.5 positions, all of them cross-trained as police, firefighters, and EMS providers. They also have another 18 volunteers who are on call trained in fire, EMS, or both.

Small admits his biggest challenge to date was dealing with the internal culture of the department and rebuilding trust in the community.

He designed and implemented a new hiring process. He weeded the badge-heavy punishers out and hired problem solvers.

Since the onset of that hiring process turnover has slowed to nearly a stop. Pay and benefits, routinely cited as reasons for turnover doesn’t seem to play a role. The average wage for a Palmyra officer is 30 percent below the rate paid by a nearby metro department. Nevertheless, his department’s retention is up.

It appears how the department is run does indeed make a difference.

Small states for him, it’s all about his officers, and the community.

The combined services model may not be the fit for every small town, but it is an option.

Thinking outside the box is a definite plus.

A law enforcement agency needs two things to run efficiently: good people and an excellent leader.

Choose the best you can find and train them well.

Small stated, “I hired ADULTS, smart people. I expect that they work together to accomplish goals. I expect team work.”

Small concluded, “Hire smart people, explain your expectations and then leave them alone to do their job.”


See you out there.

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