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Retired Police Chief Todd Walls Looks at the Pros and Cons of Working in Law Enforcement in Small Town America

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Retired Police Chief Todd Walls Looks at the Pros and Cons of Working in Law Enforcement in Small Town America

There is much to be said about living in small-town America – it’s a slower pace of life, fewer crowds, cleaner air, just to name a few. But what can be said about law enforcement in small-town USA? Former police chief of the West Buechel Police Department, Todd Walls, states there are several benefits to law enforcement in small town USA, which led him to make the shift to small town policing. Todd Walls started his career as a patrol officer with the Louisville Police Department, serving as a sergeant with the Taylorsville Police Department, and served his community as Police Chief of the West Buechel Police Department before retiring in early 2019. Todd Walls has graciously shared some of the many significant benefits of small-town law enforcement.

PROS:

Autonomy and Independence

Officers in smaller cities typically have more autonomy, flexibility and independence than their big city counterparts — not because they are neglected by supervisors, but because resources need to be maximized. Todd Walls explains that instead of holding the scene for speciality groups to arrive, officers are often assigned to cases and see them through to the very end.

Training Opportunities

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It may come as a surprise to big city officers to learn that their counterparts in smaller cities typically have much more — and much easier — access to training opportunities. Adds Todd Walls: “Some officers in large police forces must wait years before a training request is approved, whereas in smaller forces the request is often approved within a few months or weeks.”

Community Connection

Officers in a small city are typically on a first-name basis with hundreds (and some, with thousands) of local residents; the majority of whom are supportive, respectful and law abiding. Throughout his 25 years of service, Todd Walls, has noticed that officers in larger cities – particularly those in major urban centers – often complain that they feel disconnected from the local community. Over time, this can lead to disengagement and burnout.

Family-Like Vibe

A family-like vibe is high on the list of benefits for many officers in small-town policing. The connection that officers feel with their communities is unparalleled and cannot be found in larger cities. Adds Todd Walls: “Small town officers who are fortunate enough to be part of a caring, supportive and inclusive police force enjoy an incredible work experience, and many wouldn’t dream of being anywhere else. However, officers who are part of a dysfunctional group can find that each day is tougher than the last — until they put in for a transfer, or sometimes exit the law enforcement field altogether. Of course, big city police forces can have their problems as well. But the impact usually isn’t as direct and personal, simply because there are more people and more levels of bureaucracy to mitigate the impact.”

CONS:

For Todd Walls, there are very few negatives that stand out for small-town law enforcement officers. He states: “the “negatives” do not need to be viewed as such, because these “negatives” are offset by many of the positives of living in a smaller community. For example, lowered pay should not be a deterrent as the cost of living is also cheaper.”

Traditionally, officers of larger police forces would critique small-town departments based on lowered pay and a lack of upward mobility. While these may be true in some cases, they are not in all cases. This superficial view of the negatives fails to address the positive counterparts of these truths.

Some officers in small city police forces find that their career momentum is stifled — or outright stopped — because there simply aren’t enough opportunities for advancement. Adds Todd Walls: “This is changing somewhat as many detectives, lieutenants and police chiefs around the country are nearing retirement age. However, it is still a challenge, and many great officers with a promising future move laterally to big city forces — not because they necessarily prefer the work experience, but because they want the chance to climb the ladder without uprooting their family.”

Todd Walls’ Final Thoughts

The benefits and negatives listed above are not the only factors that should determine where you pursue a career in policing. As Todd Walls eloquently put it: “Policing in small-town USA is an admirable position, that may not be for everyone. Consider the factors that matter most to you. For me, these factors were independence, training opportunities, a family-like community and force, and the unparalleled connection to the community. To me, policing is about the community, and there is no better to do that than small-town USA.”

 

 

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