Hard Times for Rural Law Enforcement.

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(Photo credit: Vulture)

You can count rural police departments to be among the many casualties of the recession. As NPR's Gail Banzet reports, small towns across the country are firing police officers, closing local police departments, or outsourcing policing to county and city departments:

The International Association of Chiefs of Police says what's happening in small communities is worrisome. The association's John Firman says the fabric of American policing was built on small, rural agencies, but now that's changing.

"Right now in America, police are losing officers at a rate that dips them below the threshold of being able to keep their citizens and their officers safe," Firman says.

There is some evidence to bolster the view that rural crime rates have gone up since the recession began: according to the FBI's crime report for 2008, violent crime has gone up in cities with fewer than 10,000 residents. In particular, murders are up 5.5 percent, forcible rape 1.4 percent, and robbery 3.9 percent. That said, the correlation between economic downturns and crime isn't set in stone, so the exact cause of the increase is unclear. Still, as a matter of speculation, it doesn't seem unreasonable to place some of the blame on the steady weathering of rural police departments by tough economic winds.

With that in mind, this is all the more reason to hope that the Senate pulls through with the White House-backed plan for aiding cash-strapped states. The $26.1 billion package provides funds for Medicaid and education, would give states the fiscal space necessary to save-public sector jobs, and stem the bleeding in police departments nationwide.

-- Jamelle Bouie

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