Revolving Force; Legal Challenges

When criminals strike men and women in law enforcement put their lives on the line to keep you safe.

Unlike well populated urban areas, however, which usually have a larger tax base to  fund their departments, rural law enforcement agencies such as the Archer County Sheriff's Office aren't just fighting to keep crime off the streets, they're also fighting for funding.

"Small counties usually have a smaller tax base to go off of," said Chief Deputy Jack Curd with the Archer County Sheriff's Office, "so it hurts us when you start talking about adding deputies and equipment. Items like that."

Chief Deputy Curd has been with the Archer County Sheriff's Office  the last three years.

He said there are always things he needs, like computers for patrol cars, but in a slumping economy there's never enough money to go around.

"The commissioners court here in Archer County have done a real good job getting us funded," said Curd, "sometimes we're just having to find different ways to go about things to get it done to where it doesn't cost anything."

Further to the south in the City of Olney, Chief Barry Roberts said his department is experiencing the same sort of budget struggles.

"The economy, we're having a down swing." said Roberts, "and finances with business haven't done as well. So with our budgets, we have to be extremely careful and watch what we're doing."

And a poor economy is a two edged sword for law officers.

Statistics show when more people are out of work crime goes up.

Chief Roberts also said criminals are getting smarter.

Instead of staying in urban areas, they're expanding their operations into areas with fewer people and fewer officers.

"They're finding little farms to go and cook meth on and stuff, so it takes us a while to run all that stuff down and it's of course bringing crime into our area, " said Roberts.

Chief Roberts explained just like when a legitimate business expands and attracts new jobs to an area, when drug dealers move in new criminals follow.

"Then you start having the local break-ins and stealing stuff and then going to the local pawn shops (to sell the items) so they can buy drugs--it's just a vicious cycle," said Roberts.

Chief Deputy Curd said his deputies are facing similar problems.

"Most of the time, when you catch someone burglarizing or stealing, you're going to get a drug charge with it or they're going to have a drug history," said Curd.

In addition to thefts and drug abuse, one of the main things rural law enforcement agencies have to deal with is large coverage areas.

That's why when they are responding to a call, speed is key.

Archer County measures over 900 square miles with a population of almost 10,000 people, and since the Archer County Sheriff's Office only has eight deputies, getting to the scene of a crime fast can be tough at times.

"A lot of times when you have a situation going on in one part of the county, and you're 20 minutes away," explained Curd, "a lot of times that person does get away before you get there.

"We try to get to everybody as fast as we can as quick as we can," Curd continued, "and a lot of citizens understand that. Most of them do."

Because of the large patrol area, the working relationship between law enforcement agencies is vital.

"That's kind of been the norm in law enforcement as a whole," said Chief Roberts, "we all see ourselves on the same team. We're all fighting crime and there's always a little competition between the agencies, but I find that I've got a real good relationship, a real good rapport with [the] Young County Sheriff's Office, DPS, Texas Rangers, Archer City PD, Archer County Sheriff's, we all work real well together."

So with all the money woes, increase in meth production, and large coverage areas; How do rural  officers get the job done?

Chief Roberts said he handles the problems by promoting positive relationships within his department, treating his officers more like family instead of employees.

Because of those relationships, Roberts said keeping good people on staff is easy.

"I had one of my officers who was approached to be the Chief of Police in another city, and he said 'no'," explained Roberts,"they said, 'why?' He said, 'you don't know my boss, I love working for my boss'," chuckled Roberts.

Roberts said he also reaches out to the community as much as possible, encouraging the residents of Olney to take a proactive approach to crime.

In Archer County, Chief Deputy Jack Curd said just like necessity is the mother of invention, his deputies have to be more resourceful at their jobs because they need to do more.

"A deputy could be working a death scene one minute, and then stopping a speeder the next minute," said Curd, "and the next minute he may be going to South Texas to pick up a prisoner. So they have to do everything. So they have knowledge of all aspects of law enforcement."

Knowledge which will give them the power, to keep these rural areas safe.

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