Role of Law Enforcement in Small Towns

Role of Law Enforcement in Small Town

On a seven-mile island off the coast of South Jersey sits the vacation town of Stone Harbor. While it has a booming summer population, nine months out of the year, it's a ghost town. But how do you keep order in a town with two sides? How do the police handle the difficult challenges that come with protecting a vacation town? After serving a full career of 25 years as a Stone Harbor Police Officer, Judy Davies-Dunhour has a new challenge to face; how to be the mayor of this seasonal town.

Produced and edited by Morgan "Mo" Fischer. Royalty-free music from bensound.

They've Got Our Backs

By Mo Fischer

Being the only Fire Police unit for a seven mile island can be a lot to handle, especially with a thriving summer season, but the Avalon Volunteer Fire Station does their best to keep things and people under control when things get a little hot. However, as the Avalon Fire Police are all volunteers, they can sometimes find themselves in a little over their heads.

According to Kevin Scarpa, Secretary Volunteer Firefighter, there a no required qualifications for a member of the community to become a fire police officer other than the mandatory course required by the state that teaches them how to handle certain situations. Basically, any member of the community can take this crash course at the fire house and upon completing it with demonstrating these learned skills is sworn in as an official fire police officer.

They do not hold a lot of power as it turns out. They just have a lot of responsibilities that come with being part of a small force in a town that becomes mostly desolate after the month of September.

However, this year is different. Due to COVID-19 and the flexibility of working online, there is an estimated increase of 25% residency during these off-peak months. While most people are pretty good about listening to the fire police, there’s about 5% of this new population that are a bit harder to get to listen to the fire cops, some of whom are used to different procedures.

So, how do they deal with these difficult people? As I previously mentioned, these officers do not hold a lot of power. What that means is that when they get a call and go to the site what they do is fence off the area and tell the community to keep their distance while the firemen do their jobs. That’s it. It’s like when your pet does something bad and you tell them no. That’s all the power that these fire police hold. Not a lot of room for someone to go mad with power or misuse it.

However, there are things in place for if any of these sworn in fire police officers were to act dishonorably. The hardest thing about having such a small unit is the close bond between them which proves difficult when another fire police behaves in an unacceptable manner while out on the job. Luckily, the Avalon Volunteer Fire Station has thought of ways for reporting such behavior feels more like ripping off a band-aid than stabbing your friend in the back. Firstly, there is an anonymous box that the officers can put any number of things in, including reports about another officer. But that is not just the end of their volunteer fire career. From there, a higher ranking individual will work with them and try to identify where the problem lies, and from there will try to help in any way they can.

While in larger areas, they can cut officers with bad behavior a lot sooner and easier, than is not done in Avalon. They are given the chance to turn things around as every member is valued and not so easy to replace. With such a small force, every member is counted on, and more importantly is given a second chance to help the community.

Life of a Summer Police Officer

Former Stone Harbor police officer, Tom Kelly, talked about his experience on the force. From water rescues to wannabe teenage gang members to a game of flashlight tag gone wrong, there is no shortage of stories that will show a whole new side to the daily life of a beach town cop. All it takes is one moment. One moment to choose. One moment to make a decision on how to handle a situation. It doesn't matter where a cop is stationed; suburban, rural, urban, beach town, they all have to make difficult decisions at the drop of a hat.

Produced and edited by Morgan "Mo" Fischer. Royalty-free music from bensound.

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