So, um, I am curious how large a town has to be to have its own police department.
If by ‘Police Department’ you mean an sworn law enforcement official, paid by the municipality, on duty at last part time…then any incorporated town, no matter how small, may have one.
At least one person (seriously).
St. Louis County, Missouri is known for having a bunch of tiny little towns (some of only 1,000 or less) with their own police departments.
We call those towns “speed traps.”
Occoquan, Viginia, which seems like it could easily be just a housing development in the rest of Prince William county has its own police force. I’d be surprised if there are more than 300 residents.
The town of James Island was recently incorporated, with a population of 12,000. It had failed three previous attempts at incorporation because the SC SC deemed them invalid based on defects brought by the City of Charleston (which wanted to annex the entire island). Many object to the incorporation because it does not have its own police department, which means other county municipalities would have to bear the expense; however, the county sheriff said that his dept. will contine to patrol the area, whether it’s incorporated or not. So, a corollary question might be how large can a town be before it must have a police department.
Growing up one of my uncles was the police department for the town they lived in. The town had about 20 houses. As there wasn’t really enough for him to do full time, he also worked for the nearby city. Twice a day he would drive through his town the rest of the time was spent in the city.
In northern NH a few towns have done away with their police departments and the state police are forced to fill in the void. These towns were large enough to have their own police force they have chosen not to have one because of budgetary reasons.
I’d be curious to know what the largest town without it’s own police force is.
I don’t know if it’s required that a town have its own police department, as I know of several places that contract with a neighboring town, the county sheriff or the state police to patrol it.
Do you mean “town” in its legal sense (a subdivision of a county) or in the general sense (a built up area with businesses)?
Of course, the question has the unspoken assumption that the town is in the United States, where incorporated cities and towns generally have a police department. In Australia, for example, no city has a police department, no matter how large it is. (Police services are provided by the state police force.)
Fairly large municipalities can contract out their police service. For instance, Cupertino, CA (pop 58,000) contracts with Santa Clara County for police and fire services. The Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office also covers Los Altos Hills and Saratoga as well as the unincorporated parts of the county.
Plenty of incorporated cities and towns in the US don’t have their own police; they pay the county they’re in to enforce the law with their police.
Police departments are expensive to maintain, and not a lot of towns want the additional tax burden. And for those that do, major crimes (murder, rape, arson, for example) are often as not handled by the county, which has better resources to do investigations.
The Woodlands, Texas , though technically not a city, has a population of almost 100,000. Policing is done by the Montgomery County Sheriff’s office
That’s just self-control. I say a minimum of two.
There are always outsiders coming in town to deal with. There is no minimum population requirement for an incorporated town in many if not most states. One person can serve as Sheriff, Postmaster, store owner and everything else. I have never heard of a town that just got down to one person but there are plenty in double digits and sometimes singles digits scattered around in isolated areas.
There is nothing to stop the last person remaining from being the sole voter and remain incorporated as a town if the state laws allow it. That would allow a single person or a tiny group to establish a police department if they could afford it but town police powers are always jurisdiction of the state so they would have to meet the applicable requirements.
In Canada, the default police force is federal (the famous Mounties).
Provinces may have their own police forces to handle provincial policing; otherwise, they contract with the federal police to provide provincial policing. In turn, cities and regions may have their own police forces; otherwise they contract with the provincial or federal police. I don’t know whether a city could contract with the federal police for local duties in a province with provincial police.
So the Mounties are somewhat unusual in having divisions that handle everything from currency fraud and patrolling federally-regulated installations like airports, to performing provincial police duties like highway patrol, to performing local policing in some towns and cities. Formerly it also handled intelligence and counterintelligence!
So there is nothing at all in Canada that requires a city to have its own police force. If it doesn’t, there will be a larger police force available.
Ah, Marlboro…about a quarter mile’s worth of Watson Rd (Old route 66). Also Rock Hill. And Glendale. And all those little towns on the way up to the airport…
I know of one town with 200 residents and a police department, and another town with 200 residents that does not have a police department. That doesn’t mean the second town has no law enforcement agency; that town contracts with the county sheriff’s office for LE services.
AFAIK there are no towns, townships, or villages in my state that don’t have coverage by some arm of law enforcement to investigate, for instance, tree or plant thefts. In addition, there are multiple agencies patrolling the unincorporated areas to look for poachers, deer shiners, pot farmers and people who overfish ;).
The new town of James Island, SC will have the services of the Charleston County sheriff’s deputies, as it had had before the area was incorporated. No charge to the town. The state, of course, has jurisdiction over the entire state, and the county has jurisdiction of its county, but neither takes an active role in those municipalities that have their own police departments. Most municipalities in SC have their own police departments, even those smaller than James Island. I don’t know if James Island will be the only incorporated municipality without a police department, and, if so, the only one not to pay for the county services.
I believe Mayberry had a population of 2,000, and a police department of 2.