or drugs, small thefts and domestic violence, Stout said.
He said his department shares information and backup with Wright and Fairview police as well as Newport, Hanover, Butler and other local forces and the state police barracks in Hazleton.
One of the Rice force’s strengths, Stout said, is its level of training. All officers take annual training classes in case law and current trends like opioid addiction, plus recertifying in CPR, first aid and the use of firearms and Tasers. But Stout said Chief Bob Franks also encourages officers to get additional training in their individual areas of interest or expertise. Stout serves as the department’s firearms and Taser instructor as well as being the Rice police liaison for the Luzerne County Drug Task Force.
Franks began his policing career in Rice 37 years ago and said the changes over the years have been numerous. When he was hired in 1980, all records were kept by hand, and officers during traffic stops had to call the dispatcher to run license plates; now everything in the office and in the patrol cars is computerized. When he started in Rice, there were only two full-time officers, and the township population was only about a third of its current figure of about 3,800, Franks said.
Stout said the population growth is one of the issues police must think through.
“There are a lot of people moving to the area, and you don’t have that real close neighborhood feeling” –so it’s up to the police force to keep getting to know the new residents, Stout said. He also thinks the growth in opioid addiction is a rising concern both locally and nationally.
Despite policing a relatively quiet community, Stout said he comes to work on guard every day.
“If you become complacent, you’re looking to put yourself or other officers or the community in a dangerous situation,” he said.
Most of the police forces in Pennsylvania have 10 or fewer officers, Stout said, but the large police forces aren’t the only ones dealing with major issues. He cited a recent news story in which a small-town police chief was shot and killed while responding to a domestic incident.
“Just because we’re in a small town, it doesn’t mean we aren’t faced with the same danger levels” as other police, he said.
He appreciates working in Rice because “we have a lot of good guys who are here for the right reasons. There’s not a single guy who would hesitate to lay down their own life if they needed to.”