Moon Over Parma


Will Truman

Will Truman is the Editor-in-Chief of Ordinary Times. He is also on Twitter.

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59 Responses

  1. Avatar LeeEsq says:

    I didn’t consider the corruption angle when I learned of this story via Saul. Its an interesting and probably correct interpretation. Many of the officials who quit probably enjoyed comfortable sinecures under the old Mayor. A town with 700 people doesn’t really need six police officers or several others.Report

    • Avatar Glyph says:

      Is six officers really all that many though? I assumed you want to have at least one on-duty officer at all times, at least one officer available for backup, and then you also have to cover days off/sick days/vacations/emergencies.

      Policework isn’t like the 7-11 (I’d wager the average 7-11 employs more than six people to cover all shifts), where in a worst-case staffing scenario you can just close the store for a couple hours. Six almost seems like a reasonable minimum number to me, assuming the community is large enough to need police at all (and maybe 700 people isn’t large enough, I dunno). Does anyone know?Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        700 is small enough that State Police would handle it in PA, often enough. And they have a 3 hour “get to your door” time. (if you EVER wonder why I’m pro-gun… that’s too long).

        I’d say you could have two, plus a parttimer for emergencies.Report

      • Avatar LeeEsq says:

        It depends on what police officers need to do though. If there isn’t much crime or other public safety issues like traffic control than a lot of times, the police are just going to be sitting there. In a small town with seemingly little public safety problems, six seems excessive. With cars, you can have one police force for the entire county and do things reasonably well.Report

        • Avatar Glyph says:

          Yeah, it’s not even “distance” or “crime” I am thinking of, just “24/7, close to 100% area, coverage”.

          My wife’s store is small and isn’t open 24/7, and I am pretty sure they have around six employees on payroll – not all are full-time, but there’s always going to be someone who needs a day off or calls in or whatever, and they have to have a deep-enough bench that the store can still stay open for its scheduled hours. And if they HAD to close the store for a few hours, it’s just lost revenue and not the end of the world; but if the police department “closes” for a couple hours and something happens to go down, that’s a real problem.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        In cases like this, you ordinarily subcontract with the county or some other department for help. Honestly, in cases like this you should probably just sign a contract with the county, which is probably what the new mayor is going to do (assuming that their state is like our state). There are also options for being “on call” and volunteer deputies (though that can get trickier).

        Small town departments are not typically expected to do what big city departments are. They can’t turn off the lights at the 7-11, exactly, but nor are they actually chained to patrol car.Report

      • Avatar Kolohe says:

        This story from Sunday’s front page of the Washington post (a tale of race and policing in small town America), states that it has/had a force of 11 officers for a town of about 8,000.Report

        • Avatar Chris says:

          11 for 8000 is really small, though I imagine they’re using county cops for most of the police work (I’d be surprised if those 11 weren’t doing primarily traffic enforcement).Report

          • Avatar Kolohe says:

            Per the WaPo article (and wikipedia), they only have the police force they have because of Seattle ex-urban sprawl that saw their town nearly double in size since 2000 (3,700 – 7000, not 8000), after also nearly doubling in size between 1990 and 2000, (2100 to 3700), and this growth brought in an undesirable element that never went to the Elks lodge. Also, per the article, the town is basically on a nearly dead end to the slopes of Mt Ranier, on a route to one of the National Park entrances that doesn’t allow private owned vehicles to pass, so doesn’t get much through traffic.Report

        • Avatar Will Truman says:

          The little townlet where I was raised had about 4,000 people, and next to it was a town of another 4,000 people, and they shared a police department. Each town had to have a patrollman on duty at all times. There were a total of 8 officers.

          Callie, Arapaho (pop 4000) had 5-7 officers and most of those were part-time. However, they could have been considered a supplement of the Sheriff’s office. The sheriff’s office has (according to the county website) seven professional deputies and three reserve. Less than 10,000 people in the county, though it’s the size of Delaware and cut up by mountains.Report

          • Avatar Glyph says:

            Thanks. So just based on those numbers, it seems like there’s usually roughly a 1 to 1000 ratio?Report

            • Avatar Will Truman says:

              Closer to 1000 than 100, but Chris says that’s (1/1000) on the small side and he has more experience in ruralia than I do. I think the size is partly a function of how they use county departments.

              TBH, I’m sort of suspicious of the existence of a municipal police department for any location with fewer than 5,000 people.Report

            • Avatar Chris says:

              It’s going to depend on the specifics of the area. City parks, for example, require local policing (either city or county cops), residents always freak out about through highways and speeding, so you need speed traps on those, and wealthier towns frequently have higher cop-to-resident ratios. Large employers in small towns will also influence how many cops the towns have (GM moves into a small town, it’s going to want some safety assurances both for its property and its employees, e.g.).

              Like I said above, 11 for 8k is a pretty small force, but if it’s a mostly residential town with no large employers and a sufficient county police force, it’s probably sufficient. My hometown spent most of the 80s, pre-Saturn plant, at around 8k, and we had a force of 30-odd cops.

              The town immediately to our north, which was significantly wealthier back then (home to a lot of wealthy Nashville big wigs and some major country music stars), had about 6k residents for most of that time, and about the same number of cops as my hometown. It was known for its speed traps, and because the cops seemed to be everywhere, people frequently joked that there were two of them for every Brentwood resident. (To see how absurd their department was, they bought and extensively used an ultralight. An ultralight.)Report

              • Avatar Chris says:

                I’ll add that because the two largest towns in the county, Franklin and Brentwood, had self-sufficient police forces, the county police force was smaller and focused mostly on policing the smaller incorporated and unincorporated towns.

                Looking at one of those towns, which has grown up to around 7,500 residents over the last few years, it now has a police department with 15 paid and 4 reserve officers, relying extensively on county emergency services:


                It’s able to have a force that small because Franklin and Brentwood (about 100k residents combined now) have built a large county emergency response system, and Fairview is close enough that if there are real problems, they can call in Franklin cops as well.

                By the way, when reading that, you have to pronounce “Fairview” properly, that is, “Far-view.”Report

      • Avatar Troublesome Frog says:

        It’s almost as though every itty-bitty postage stamp sized town doesn’t need it’s own complete police department and infrastructure.Report

      • Avatar Oscar Gordon says:

        Town I grew up in had 650 people and two sworn officers (& one patrol car, it was green, we called it Pickles). They patrolled in rotating shifts and were on call if off shift.Report

    • Avatar Kazzy says:

      My town doesn’t have cops. The incorporated Village does but we rely on the State police. Fortunately, they have a barracks nearby (very close to my part of town but still a decent drive for other parts). We have very little crime, but still… not only is the response time high but the Staties seem to have very little interest in dealing with small time crap. They get very angry about responding to false burglar alarms.Report

  2. Avatar Murali says:

    Dude, there’s a town named after ham?Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Clearly you’re not a Stendhal fan, and don’t follow Serie A (though Parma is going to be relegated to Serie B after this season).Report

    • Avatar Burt Likko says:

      I’ve eaten in Parma (the one in Italy) and I can attest to the fact that there is more than ham available there.

      For instance, there is a cheese you may have heard of named for the region. Also note that a neighboring community is Modena, from which a particular style of vinegar is rather famous (try a few drops of it on strawberries or slices of pear, and thank me later).

      As for Parma, Missouri, I’ve not been there myself but it sure looks to me like the resignations were personal to such an extent that the fact that the new mayor is black and female, while maybe not irrelevant, is probably overpowered by the dislike of her as an individual. Personally I might not be as worried about the police quitting given that it’s a small town with likely very little crime, as much as the water treatment plant operator quitting as this is about as essential as infrastructure gets. That was a really shitty thing to do to the town.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        Ha; I phantsied @burt-likko would make this comment a couple hours ago! I nearly did, but recalling he’s actually been to parma, I waited for more authentic voice. Rewarded,too. Thanks, Burt.Report

      • Avatar Chris says:

        I’ve never been to Parma, but I would love to go because of the novel, which is one of my favorites.

        Did you visit the charterhouse?Report

        • Avatar Burt Likko says:

          No, although I regret that now. My wife and I took a diversion from the autostrada for lunch, on our way from a microscopically small town in the mountains about halfway between Pisa and La Spezia where my cousin has a B&B, to our evening’s hotel reservation in Ravenna. It happened that we drove near Parma at about mid-day so, WTH, let’s go have lunch in Parma, both to actually get really good food and to make all of our foodie-friends jealous that we could so easily just drop by and visit in Gustatory Mecca.Report

  3. Avatar Kazzy says:

    Here is the race/gender angle NOT being explored…

    What are the races and genders of those involved in this potential corruption? Because, ya know, we should avoid THOSE types of people in government if they prove to be so untrustworthy…Report

  4. Avatar Will H. says:

    It’s a given that the computers were wiped to hide incriminating materials.
    Those hard drives should be secured.Report

    • Avatar Richard Hershberger says:

      “Those hard drives should be secured.”

      This. Odds are excellent that they weren’t so tech savvy as to actually wipe the hard drives so that the data couldn’t be retrieved by an expert.Report

  5. Avatar zic says:

    Here’s a paper on the topic (PDF)
    OK, I tried to link, but it’s the download link on my computer; this is from a paper, “An analysis of police department staffing: How many officers do you really need?” published by ICMA. You’ll have to google it yourself; or perhaps someone can explain to me how to link it?

    What it says on per-capita staffing:

    Equally popular is the per-capita approach to staffing. Departments across the country look to officer-to-population ratios as an easy method to determine appropriate staffing. Although the International Association of Chiefs of Police does not recommend this method, IACP nonetheless published a directorate on just this very topic. A recent IACP “Perspectives” article presents Bureau of Justice Statistics data on local police department officer-to-population ratios. The source is a 2003 BJS study that reports the average ratio of full time officers per 1,000 residents. Departments are categorized by size of population served, ranging from 250,000 or more, to communities of 1,000 to 2,499 residents. According to the article the ratio of full-time officers per 1,000 residents ranges from 2.6 per 1,000 to 1.8 per 1,000, with an average ratio of 2.5 full-time officers per 1,000 residents. Many communities rely on this model to make staffing decisions. As easy as it is to comprehend and apply, this model is equally inefficient and unreliable.


    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      That’s just fantastic, @zic , thanks for passing it along.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Yeah, that’s great. Interesting that 2.6 is the upper limit, but the average is 2.5.

      It suggests that the towns around where I grew up were over-policed, but anyone who lived there would not find that surprising. (Again, a friggin’ ultralight.)Report

    • Avatar dragonfrog says:


      I looked up the ratios for Edmonton, where I live now (1.9 officers per 1,000); Saskatoon, where I grew up (2.29 per 1,000); and Munich Germany, the city where I felt the most ridiculously over-policed (somewhere between 2.7 and 5.0 per 1,000 – I’m not sure whether the Munich police also cover the suburbs or if they have their own PDs)

      Parma MO having 8.5 officers per 1,000 seems just insane – unless the police are all very much part part-time there,.Report

  6. Avatar North says:

    So basically the town elected a new mayor and pretty much emptied itself of corruption? I would call that a productive little election.Report

  7. Avatar Will H. says:

    I just took a look at where Parma is on the map. Not very appealing. That’s the New Madrid area, below Sikeston and just above the Boot Heel. Creepy place. Think “Deliverance.”
    I don’t know if any of you have ever been to this neck of the woods, but this is what I call “the creepy part” of Missouri. And being Missouri, that’s really saying something.
    That is active Klan country there.Report

    • Avatar Will Truman says:

      In Parma’s defense, a town that’s 2/3 white did elect a black mayor. Which doesn’t prove anything, but does warrant some slack given maybe for the town.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Parma is closer (really close) to Arkansas, Tennessee, and Kentucky than it is to any major Missouri city. It’s probably pretty culturally distinct, in addition to being beyond BFE.Report

      • Avatar Will Truman says:

        It’s actually located right next to the new US capital in an RPG I used to play.

        As y’all know, I (not-entirely-earnestly) favor moving the US capital to Nebraska. The idea actually occurred to me because of the RPG. An idiot character managed to destroy Washington DC. Rather than rebuild, I had it relocated to Mississippi County, Missouri. The idea kind of took off in my mind, after that, except Nebraska instead of Missouri.

        (If you’re wondering why I put it in Missouri instead of trying to put it in the center at the time, I was raised near water and my thought at the time was that you can’t really have important cities away from water. Also, I wanted it in a multistate area.)Report

  8. Avatar Tod Kelly says:

    Oops! Wish I’d seen this before I did my OTC post on it.Report

  9. Avatar Sam says:

    I get the idea that we probably shouldn’t jump to race – the tidbit about the wiped computers basically screams corruption – but it is worth noting that the former mayor (who had spent 37 years on the job) mentioned that those leaving were fearful for their safety. That seems like it is almost certainly a dog whistle, except without the dog part, so instead, just a regular whistle being blown very loudly by a man who lost list control on a seat that had been his for amounts to forever.

    Presumably, more will come out, and along the way, the mayor’s people will insist that we shouldn’t focus on the past.Report

    • Avatar Trumwill says:

      I agree about the whistle. I just find myself in the odd position of thinking that they may be using racism as an excuse.

      Bring racist won’t land them in jail. Corruption could (though, as I said in Tod’s post, I don’t think it will) .Report

  10. Avatar zic says:

    Somewhat of a tangent, but: I’m wondering if there’s a consistent pattern of PD over-staffing and the kind of problems revealed by the Ferguson report in general.

    I’ve been trying to google it, not coming up with much except some stuff in Canada:

    If anyone knows of research or other tidbits, feel free to share.Report

    • Avatar zic says:

      And I found this, but it will take me a good bit of time to understand if it’s even meaningful to my question.

      Anyone have a plain-English elevator speech for this study?Report

  11. Avatar clawback says:

    The Post-Dispatch has a good article about it this morning. Unsurprisingly, it’s about race.Report

    • Avatar Chris says:

      Sounds like race was one of several factors, including the sort of pettiness that can plague small towns where everyone knows everyone.Report

      • Avatar Trumwill says:

        That’s my current takeaway.Report

      • Avatar Kim says:

        Yes. I know a guy who got elected to be mayor of his town, as some sort of elaborate practical joke. I think his parents still don’t know about it, he had so much fun quickly getting out of the job.Report

      • Avatar zic says:

        I’m about to go read it, but before I do, my guess is that the former officials needed reason to hide their corruption and actions, and race was the plausible explanation, at least in their minds. I think they thought people would accept their actions if they explained it as fear of racism (because conservative white Christians are being prosecuted!) and not dig deeper.

        So I’m dropping this here before I read, and I re-evaluate the question suspicion after.

        Just because it’s raining and I’ve got nothing better do do that I want to do right now.

        • Avatar Chris says:

          It doesn’t look like there was any real corruption. I mean, the police and city officials were assholes, ’cause they were entrenched and they were police, so they’re gonna be assholes. And there was some borrowing from the city treasury for personal purchases, but I don’t have any problem with that when those people were likely paid less than shit, and they had a system for paying the city back promptly (take it out of their paychecks). Oh, and the place was run pretty inefficiently, as the article shows when talking about where the records are kept, but we’ve learned from Tulsa that even big cities can be bad about that.Report

          • Avatar zic says:

            Oh, and the place was run pretty inefficiently, as the article shows when talking about where the records are kept, but we’ve learned from Tulsa that even big cities can be bad about that.

            Actually, this was really common. My mother served as town clerk when I was a kid, and all the town records were in our living room, which she used as an office. My Step-grandmother the same for her town. We owned land in Easton, NH until 2007, and all the town’s records there were, at that time, in the Clerk’s home, too.

            These are all similar towns; populations of less then 1,000; and it’s probably cheaper to let the clerk work out of her home then to keep a town office open all day.

            After reading this, I suspect that there wasn’t much ‘corruption’ of the direct, feathering-my-pocket, kind. Probably a pattern of police harassment to earn fine money. I’d guess the biggest problem was nepotism; awarding town contracts to buddies, and probably a whole lot of taking the TP home type stuff. I don’t think the town had a big-enough budget for massive theft.

            But I do think they’re hiding something, and I still think assumption of some kind of social-media-sparked revenge/shamestorm/harassment suggests it’s probably related to cop’s behavior. I’m a bettin’ those officers read the Ferguson report, and recognized themselves.Report

  12. This is a racial issue in that the kind of predatory corruption we’re all presuming is overwhelmingly associated with whites. Whether that’s for cultural reasons or because whites are genetically more likely to be corrupt remains an open question.Report

  13. Avatar Notme says:

    Where did my comments go?Report