A Small Town Police Department Handles More Than Crime

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ASHLAND - Lyn Woolford has what it takes to be a small town police chief in Ashland, Mo. He took the position in August and has made a noticeable effort to get out of the office and get to know the community members.

Woolford lives in the small town of under 5,000 residents, so the transition wasn't hard to make. He gets up every morning and directs traffic at a busy four way intersection in town where buses and cars get bottlenecked dropping kids off at school. He does the same when school lets out in the afternoon.

"If I couldn't make it, then I try to assign another officer to be here. At least for the buses, that's probably the biggest congestion with 15 buses coming out at once," Woolford said. "Depending on a law enforcement volume, that's not always possible, so I certainly don't guarantee that an officer will be here. But we make our best effort."

Even with only six officers on staff and 10 reserve officers standing by, the Ashland police work around the clock to make sure the town and the people that live there are safe.

Officer David Nicolaescu starts his night shift at six p.m. and works through the night until six in the morning.

"When you have 24 hour coverage, people can call this phone at any time," Nicolaescu said. "They'll know that they don't have to call dispatch and speak with a dispatcher. They can call this phone and somebody will pick up and answer."

Even in the late hours of the night, Officer Nicolaescu says he still feels like he's protecting the Ashland community on more than one level.

"People know that they're safe for 24 hours. And they know that an Ashland police officer is on every hour of the day."

While this type of service doesn't show up on official statistics, it is the type of service he says the community values.

"Say we do a traffic stop, it's not always something that deserves a ticket and you give a warning for it. It builds up the community and police relationship," Nicolaescu said. "Towns like this, they'll actually say that's my police officer."

At the same time, the small departments have to maintain the same professional standards as other big cities and deal with the same kinds of crime.

"If you're driving drunk you're going to get arrested, if you doing anything stupid you're going to get arrested. That's as simple as it gets. And we're just trying to be as civil as possible," Nicolaescu said.

One concern of the Ashland Police Department is when someone needs to be taken to jail. It takes a good 20 minutes to drive up to the Boone County jail and another 20 minutes back. During that time, Ashland relies on the Boone County sheriff's deputies to patrol the town until the officer returns.

"I would prefer and anticipate in the future that we would have more than one officer on duty, not only for the officer's safety, but again for the safety of the community," Woolford said.

Until then, the six officers will continue pulling their weight while leaving their mark on the community.

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