Rural policing is in a world all to itself. Overshadowed by major metropolitan areas that spend the entire shift with calls stacked. Officers move from one call to the next with almost no break and no time for proactive policing. When people think of rural policing, they think of Mayberry and the Dukes of Hazzard. I know I did before I got involved with a rural agency. I did not expect pursuits, counter-drug enforcement, interdiction, and leadership that support a proactive mindset. Move over Barney, the modern rural deputies, and officers of 2022 are out there making a difference. In a big way. I moved to South Dakota thinking I’d be Deputy Fife, boy howdy was I wrong.
Being a rural deputy in the Midwest has changed a lot over the past 10 years. With more and more law enforcement concentrating on interstates, major highways near populated areas, and urban expanses, criminals are adapting. Drug and weapon traffickers are taking to the back roads and rural highways to avoid detection. Human traffickers as well are finding their way off the main roads and into these smaller communities. The same reasons people are leaving the cities to find a more quiet and less expensive life are the same reasons criminals are following.
Now, that is not to say that rural law enforcement is dealing with more and more calls. On the contrary, the call volume for most agencies by comparison is very low. Some agencies can go weeks without more than a couple of calls. This plays right into the stigma that rural cops have it easy and don’t put in a lot of work. There may be some truth to that, but the narrative is changing. Having fewer reactive calls means more opportunities for proactive policing. Rural interdiction is going to be the way forward going into the next decade.
This is where a lot of gaps can be bridged as far as training and experience with rural and metro policing. Rural agencies have the time and resources, but most lack the training. In the not-to-distant past interdiction training is centered around cities and populated areas. This is starting to change. We are now starting to see a large uptick in rural agencies taking proactive steps for better training. More grants exist now than ever before. There is a lot of opportunities to get involved. Some of these agencies have less than 5 law enforcement officers working in an area that spans thousands of square miles. These agencies are making quality stops that lead to major shipments being seized.
With these seizures, more and more money is being allocated for training, equipment, and technology. This attracts a different kind of officer to seek employment in these areas. The cost of living is low, the wages are high, and the community support is astounding. The people love seeing law enforcement putting vehicles on the shoulder and taking money and resources from criminals. In a time when our profession is seen to be a stain on society, the people here love what we do. That is a benefit that cannot be put into monetary terms.
I moved to North-Central South Dakota to be Barney. I thought it would be laid back, easy, and not much of a challenge. I thought it would be a good way to see if being a cop was something I wanted to do. I am now part of a Multi-jurisdictional Criminal Enforcement team. I have constant opportunities to learn and train in interdiction and proactive policing. My leadership supports the mission of proactive policing. They go out of their way to ensure we have the tools, time, and training to make it happen. Our courts and the community support what we are doing.
Rural policing is the future and the future is bright.
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