Hardships of a small town officer

GRAYSON COUNTY & CALERA, OK -- Texoma is home to dozens of small law enforcement agencies, and with limited resources it can be tough being a small town officer.

Don Hyde is more than just Calera's Police Chief. In his free time you might see him volunteering, or just stopping in to visit a resident -- like former police officer Gary Gillespie. Gillespie says Hyde is not your typical chief.

"It means very much that he can take his time to come up there and spend with us," Gillespie said.

"Where I would like to go down in history is that when they called I was there, both in my personal life and the police department," Hyde said.

"He's the number one leader around here. We love our chief," Gillespie said.

To Hyde being involved in the community is the most important part of his job, but he says there is a downfall. He has been first on the scene to find someone he loves hurt or dead.

"Losing good friends. In my position I've made a lot of friendships, and I've officiated a lot of funerals," Hyde said.

Tom Bean Police Chief John Hunt says his heart beats a little faster every time he hears the call of a major accident.

"Your ears perk up to listen to the tag numbers, especially in a small town like this, you know DPS gets something on the radio and you listen for the tag numbers. Is it going to be a Tom Bean resident," Hunt asked.

Down the road, in the town of about 800, Tioga's new Police Chief Steve Thomas faces the same issues. He also says it is a difficult thing when you have to arrest someone you know.

"Yes I've had to pull people over here that I've met since I've been here, you know and my view on all that is that law enforcement has to be professional, it has to be courteous, and it has to be impartial," Thomas said.

"I have had friends that have had to arrest family members and if it comes to it, it comes to it," Hunt said.

Also, when you are one of only two or three officers you are always on call.

"You know with only two full time officers people expect 24 hour coverage and that's extremely difficult to do," Thomas said.

Another hardship all three chiefs say they face is funding.

"Money is the biggest issue in a small town. Money relates to a lot of issues. Money relates to the equipment we don't have. Money equates to not being able to train the officers properly that we need," Hunt said.

"When we have a vehicle go down or a piece of equipment breaks that we haven't accounted for, it's an expense that can really hamstring a small town police department budget," Thomas said.

"If you got a car down in Calera, you got a car down," Hyde said.

These departments rely heavily on their communities for tax dollars and grant money to get through each year.

"There's a lot of money that comes out of individuals pockets just because of. When I took over this job there was things I had to do just because I wanted my officers to be safe," Hunt said.

Just last month, Hunt says his department was in need of a new vehicle, and after a resident found out the Tom Bean Police Department did not have the funds to purchase a new vehicle they donated the money to buy an F150.

Despite all the hardships of being a "small town officer" and the chief it is the connection these men share with their communities that makes their job worth while.

"Taking care of people that's what I like to do. I've been to the mountain top and this is where i want to be," Hunt said.

"I want to be part of this town, and like I said I have a position and I have a responsibility and an oath to uphold, but I'm also a human being that is concerned about what's going on in our city," Thomas said.

"There's a reason that we have the relationship with our community that we do, and it's because it was chosen" Hyde said.


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