The citizens of Blandford, Massachusetts, a small town in Hampden County, are in complete disarray after the entire police department resigned Monday night, citing faulty equipment and hazardous working conditions.
Interim Police Chief Roberta Sarnacki and three officers submitted resignations in a letter to Blandford officials on Monday, effective immediately.
“We refuse to put our lives on the line anymore for a town that seemingly cares so little about us,” read a statement signed by Sarnacki, the interim police chief, and the three officers. Immediately after resigning, the officers shut down the police station and said they were never coming back.
Around 8:53 pm on Sunday, the Blandford Police Department’ s Facebook page announced: “Attention Blandford residents: If you have a police, fire or medical emergency, please continue to call 911 as you normally would. Until further notice, please call the Russell State Police Barracks at 413-862-3312 if you need any other police services. The entire Blandford Police Department resigned this evening, effective immediately.”
According to The New York Times, Sarnacki alerted local officials on Sunday about how the job has become too dangerous for her and the town’s three part-time officers. The email cited failing brakes and inadequate air conditioning in the police cruisers, ill-fitting and expired bulletproof vests, and, of course, low wages that barely paid a living wage.
As many media outlets descended on the police station Tuesday, Ciara Speller, a morning reporter for WWLP-22 News, was one of those journalists who documented how the town of Blanford is now without a police department.
ON 22NEWS AT 6: Blandford residents are reacting to the resignation of their police department and want to know what's next for the town. I spoke with the town selectmen this morning and will have that answer for you coming up. pic.twitter.com/aYcYMC5ARC— Ciara Speller (@CiaraSpeller) July 31, 2018
Speller captures a photo of the closed police station with one cruiser parked in front.
The town of Blanford is now without a police department. I’m live in town this morning and will have another update coming up in the next few minutes, with what led to this outcome. pic.twitter.com/6vDXD3ylyg— Ciara Speller (@CiaraSpeller) July 31, 2018
However, as news of the resignations disseminated through town, officials like Mr. Levakis told the NYT other forces had played a significant part. For example, town officials had been examining a possible merger of law enforcement services in Blandford with the neighboring town of Chester as a way to streamline costs.
The merger, Mr. Levakis said, had frightened and angered Blandford’s officers, who, he said, never before complained about their safety and or the police equipment.
“You’ve got to move with the future,” Mr. Levakis said. “We’re just trying to find better ways to use our money.”
Glancing at Blandford’s crime statistics for 2012, well, not much has happened in the town of 1,233 (at the 2010 census).
“Around the country, towns with shrinking tax bases and rising costs have been forced to make hard choices. In some cases, that has meant merging local police departments or cutting them altogether. Earlier this year, Brooksville, Fla., shuttered its 30-person police department and handed law enforcement duties over to the local sheriff. Other departments have disbanded after problems; Galesburg, Mich., for instance, closed its police department in January after firing the chief,” said the NYT.
“Small towns are having this discussion around maintaining the most basic functions of local government, police services being one of them,” said Josh Garcia, the acting town administrator for Blandford.
It seems as the NYT has discovered the next emerging trend: The Collapse of police departments in rural America.