Small Town Cops

An NET News Documentary

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New officers training at the Law Enforcement Training Center

Deputy Matt Schultz of the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office

Officers with the Mitchell, Nebraska Police Department

Officers engaged in active shooter training Photos credit: NET News


360 Video: SWAT Training: Kearney, NE
SWAT teams are training with less confrontational tactics in dealing with potentially volatile situations. Get the unique point-of-view of the Kearney Police Department SWAT team.

Today’s small town cops must prepare for any situation facing a big city officer. NET, Nebraska’s PBS and NPR Stations, considers the shifting role of police work in Nebraska’s rural areas in the new documentary Small Town Cops.

Even in the safest communities where everyone knows everyone else, police must train to prepare for school shootings, encounters with drug smugglers along Interstate 80, traffic stops gone awry, high-speed pursuits and an increasing number of calls involving mental illness. It’s a changing job in a complex world, and rural law enforcement must plan and train for situations that were once unthinkable.

In Small Town Cops, experienced and newly-trained officers explain what’s different and why they still believe in serving and protecting their communities.

“It’s a scary thought to think that it’s going to happen in our town,” said Officer Regina Preston with the Mitchell, Neb., police department. The town’s police force, serving 1,600 people in Scotts Bluff County, logs less than 100 crimes each year but the department takes on a multitude of other tasks assigned by the community to help keep the community safe, clean and healthy. 

Rarely is there violence. Nonetheless, these are times when even the smallest law enforcement agencies must prepare for the unknown.

 “The ones that are on the beat are now tasked with more responsibility than has ever occurred in the history of American law enforcement,” said Mike Kerby, an instructor with the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center (NLETC) in Grand Island, where there is training for ordinary and extraordinary situations. 

In recent years the pressures come from within their own communities as shrinking populations and concerns about the increasing cost of law enforcement have caused dozens of communities to give up their local police force and enter into contracted services with the county sheriff’s office.

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