Small town police face unique dangers

Credit: Karl Petersen

Small town police face unique dangers

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by Wayne Havrelly

Bio | Email | Follow: @HavrellyKGW

kgw.com

Posted on January 7, 2011 at 2:31 PM

RIDGEFIELD, Wash. -- The deadly shooting of Rainier's police cheif is a tragic reminder of what can go wrong, especially for officers in smaller agencies.  

Across the Columbia River from Rainier and a few miles south sits the town of Ridgefield.   All six of the town's officers wear black tape across their badges, honoring the memory of fallen Rainier Police Chief Ralph Painter. 

"I think everyone who does this job is prepared every day for the worse case scenario," said Ridgefield officer Tracy Cook.  

In small towns,  police officers not only know each other, they know most of their neighbors as well.  That comfort can sometimes put them at heightened risk.

"Even if you know someone as having a calm and quiet demeanor, that can change instantly if they are having a bad day," said Officer Cook. "We have to constantly remind ourselves, which can be hard because we do get used to our community and it's tough to remember that people can change," said Ridgefield Police Chief Carrie Greene. 

With limited resources, small town police officers sometimes patrol their communities alone. 

Backup can be several towns away. 

"You have to be mentally prepared to take care of things by yourself, because backup might not be there for a while," said Chief Greene.

Wednesday's tragic shooting in Rainier has officers in Ridgefield rethinking how they approach every call.

"Nonchalant responses are never an option regardless of the call, said Chief Greene."

Officer Cook used to work for a large police agency in Puget Sound with hundreds of officers.  She responded to as many as 30 calls a day. 

"In a small town you have the time to help people find solutions to problems and have more of an opportunity to help the community."  

Even in small towns like Ridgfield, officers must constantly remind themselves that bad things can happen. 

"Anything can happen to any of us at anytime," said Chief Greene.

 

 

 

 

  

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