No-one wants to be a small-town cop anymore

Some small towns are disbanding their police forces, reports the Associated Press. They're unable to pay the salaries that potential officers expect, goes the reportage, with the implicit suggestion that municipalities should be turning over yet more of their budgets to law enforcement. But reality bites.

At least 521 U.S. towns and cities with populations of 1,000 to 200,000 disbanded policing between 1972 and 2017, according to a peer-reviewed 2022 paper by Rice University Professor of Economics Richard T. Boylan.

In the past two years, at least 12 small towns have dissolved their departments.

Goodhue County is now under contract for law enforcement duties in the town of Goodhue, even as Sheriff Marty Kelly tries to fill four vacancies in his own department. He said he has around 10 applicants for those jobs. By comparison, one open position in 2019 drew 35 applicants, he said.

How about it's fine if a town with 1,000 people in it and a crime a week only has the Sheriff's Department.

After a decades of police being trained to treat civilians as enemy combatants, it's inevitable that the job would end up being regarded as nasty work, no matter how much glassy-eyed cheerleading goes on in politics or how dependent media is on them for content. Even the authoritarian right wing types talk of cops as goons: that's just the whole point of having cops, as far as they're concerned. Some people do want to be goons, it's true—but goons are well-paid in the private sector, so here we are.

And good on the Associated Press for reporting this, even if it buried it 15 paragraphs down: "Generally, crime rates were unchanged in towns that dropped their departments, the Rice University study found. Leaders of several towns said they've been happy with the change."

Crime doesn't go up, you don't have to spend half your city budget on Crown Vics, and there's less risk of being taken to the cleaners when your bored patrolmen get filmed committing federal crimes. Win-win for everyone!

Correction: up, not down.