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Stinkin’ Badges

Most places I have lived have had three flavors of police: 1) State Police, paid by the state, 2) County Sheriff, paid by the county, and local police, paid by the local municipality.  If there were no municipality, or they did not have police, then the Sheriff’s office covered the area.  Naturally, the three levels of police specialized in enforcing the laws of their employer – that is, the state police enforced state laws – but they were all peace officers and all responded to emergencies.  These were mostly good people, doing a tough job fairly well.

Not saying there were never any others.  Park rangers, federal and state, are fairly common.  Certainly, the feds have created de-facto federal police out of agencies that started out with administrative tasks, like the ATF, now all carrying guns and badges.

But when it comes to police diversity, New York is probably king.  To start off with, New York, like just a couple of other northeastern states, has townships.  No, these are not another name for city or village – townships are subsections of counties.  Suffolk County, where I live, is divided into ten townships, each one with their own police force.

Yes, there is something called Suffolk County Police, differentiated from the sheriff, but that is actually the five western townships pitching in together and they have no jurisdiction outside those five townships.  Then there is something else called Suffolk County Police that is actually paid by the county, but these are centralized functions, such as detectives and the academy.

My village – actually, an unincorporated hamlet – has no police of its own, though it did for decades, ending in the early 1970s, so the Town Police watch over us.  But, go just two villages to the west and you have, for example, the Village of Quogue.  If you live in Quogue, you are covered by:

Quogue Village Police

Southampton Town Police

Suffolk County Sheriff (rarely showing up, admittedly).

New York State Police.

Did I mention that Quogue is a bit of a speed trap?  But that isn’t all.  Further “helping” out are:

Bay Constables, sort of fish an game wardens.

Transit Police, who watch over the Long Island Railroad.  They specialize in watching for pedestrians running for the train and who duck under the sidewalk gates, while the train is stopped.

Coast Guard, obviously in charge of drunken boat pilots, but the town has police boats as well.

DEC, environmental police, I guess, with cars similar to the State Police and, apparently, guns and badges.

Park Police.  I think they belong to the county.

Which is sort of my question with all this: do we really need all these layers?  Could not the sheriff’s office be the highway police for county highways AND watch over the parks?  And maybe the trains, if someone really thinks it that important?  Or the county could contract with the towns to provide these “services” within their jurisdictions.

You see, the more police agencies and agencies with police powers we have, the more they cost, and the more those agencies will find reasons to ticket us, fine us, and stick their noses into our business, in order to help pay their budget and justify their existence.  Then the various benevolent associations, unions, and administrators start calling for more laws for their members to enforce, to help keep them employed and justify expansion.

Sure, you can argue the merits of any single law or police agency.  But it is the total mass of laws and police agencies that are indefensible, that cost far more than any benefit they may be providing and, what is more, I know I have left some out.  There are even more individuals out there authorized to point a gun at me and accuse me of a crime and cost me tons of money to defend myself, even if I am eventually exonerated.  I forget about these people until I pass yet one more emergency vehicle out on the road.

All this, mind you, on the less populated end of Long Island.  How many different flavors of cop patrol the streets of Manhattan?

 

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