Networking, training key to rural police departments
Jan 19, 2013 (The Pantagraph - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
Police chiefs, full-time departments help keep rural communities safe
ELLSWORTH -- The village of Ellsworth may have only about 200 people, but it still faces many of the challenges of bigger communities: abandone... Read more
CHENOA -- Networking and training play key roles for all police departments, including those serving smaller communities.
Much of the networking comes via monthly meetings of the McLean County Rural Police Chiefs Association.
"We try to help each other," said Mike Scott, president of the association and Colfax police chief. "We all find ourselves in a similar situation."
Besides rural police chiefs, the group usually attracts representatives from state police, the McLean County Sheriff's Department, and Bloomington and Normal police departments.
"It's important for us to get together as a group," said Bill Colbrook, commander of state police districts 6 and 8 serving much of Central Illinois. "We all have the same mission."
McLean Police Chief Rick Davis said the networking also can lead to much-needed equipment for the rural departments.
McLean County Sheriff Mike Emery said his department replaces squad car computers every five years and offers the old ones to rural departments.
"They have no market value," he said, "but if they are still operational, it saves that agency or municipality money."
Davis said Bloomington and Normal police departments also have passed on equipment. Ellsworth was able to get a used McLean County car for its police chief.
Mark Kotte, director of the Law & Justice Commission Mobile Team 8 and mayor of Hudson, said another key to a successful rural department is training.
"It's an expensive proposition, but you have to keep up on training," he said.
Kotte said the perception that small town or part-time police officers are "less than" a full-time, bigger city officer is far from accurate. A 1996 law changed that, he said.
"They all have to meet the same standard," he said, adding police officers serving rural McLean County communities "are at that level; very professional."
Bill Colbrook, commander of state police Districts 6 and 8, agreed.
"The chiefs here are as professional of a group as I've seen in the state," he said.
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