65: Closure of Law Enforcement Stations

Since the turn of the twenty-first century, police organizations have been increasingly closing or reducing the opening hours for small police stations in rural areas. These restrictions are explained by the implementation of a ‘new public management’ agenda, which has been imposed on public services and which is characterized by a focus on profitability criteria, ratios of civil servants per inhabitant and – for the police – on the crime rate. Less densely populated areas have, therefore, seen many of these public services disappear. Amongst these, small police units that did not cover enough inhabitants according to management criteria were withdrawn in favour of more populated, often urban, areas. Several strategies were used to achieve this result; either the police stations in question were closed or – for fear of too strong of a reaction from the residents who remained in the area – these police stations remained open but with far fewer staff, drastically reduced working hours or pooled itinerant officers moving from one station to another. This feature has been prominent in countries such as France (see Maillard and Mouhanna, 2016). These cuts and closures, though, are not only the outcome of managerial imperatives. Although successful in slowing or thwarting previous reforms, few police officers and few professional unions have mobilized to fight against this phenomenon. Furthermore, it is increasingly rare to find police officers with rural backgrounds who are interested in and familiar with rural communities’ particularities. Although rural areas are reputed to be quieter, they experience unique crime problems with which many police officers are uncomfortable (see Mouhanna, 2016, in suggested readings).

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