LOTT, TX – Big cities like Houston and Chicago are facing police staffing problems, and now smaller cities say their suffering is much worse.
The national police shortage has caused many small cities across the United States to abandon their police departments and rely on other offices miles away. Sue Thacker is the mayor of Lott, Texas, and she says that like many other small towns, they don’t have the money to run a police department.
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“Nobody (really knows) how much money it takes to run a police department. Insurance, cars, etc., it adds up,” Thacker said. “It’s something we looked at as a city council. We looked and saw what we could avoid going bankrupt and that was the only thing we thought we could do.”
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According to Rice University, Lott is one of nearly 40 small cities in the United States that have disbanded their police forces since 2019; now relying on local sheriffs and larger police departments.
Fulton County Sheriff in upstate New York, Richard Giardino, says his office faces similar problems.
“We were down to 10 deputies for 20 road locations to cover 500 square miles per shift,” Sheriff Giardino said.
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But a new contract with higher salaries saved their office.
“We have turnover all the time because people could go out and make $10 to $12,000 more. We have 25-year retirement plans, and other law enforcement agencies offer retirement plans. retirement over 20 years. In our area, we were the lowest paid county sheriff’s office until today,” Sheriff Giardino said.
Sergeant Betsy Smith of the National Police Association says the closure of small police departments is the result of a much larger problem: a national shortage of police officers.
“Most departments in this country have fewer than 10 officers,” said SGT Smith.
In the past, the size of the staff was much larger. As departments struggle to recruit, retain and pay, the association says we’ll likely see longer response times and more officer safety risks in rural areas.
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“As a small town cop, chances are you don’t have any backup. You’re kind of on your own, left to fend for yourself and fend for yourself. So we have to thinking about what we are willing to pay for as citizens of these small communities,” said SGT Smith.
Lott’s mayor says the city is getting by without its police department and likely won’t reinstate it unless there is a significant increase in crime.