Martin County (Ky.) Sheriff John Kirk advised residents in his jurisdiction earlier this month to “… lock your doors, load your guns and get a barking, biting dog” on his personal Facebook page after he announced his department was suspending law enforcement activities due to budget. The department’s bookkeeper has already been laid off, office hours limited to 20 and the evening deputy now performs the less-lifesaving daytime duties of serving papers and working as bailiff, among others. “We have always provided police protection, but without funding we can no longer do this,” he told the Associated Press news wire service.
Nearly 13,000 people live in Martin County, which encompasses 231 square miles of eastern Kentucky. The coal-producing area reaps the benefits of taxes collected by the state from mining, funds redistributed to local governments, but that revenue stream that has shrunk by 80 percent since 2012.
Emergency calls will be fielded by the Kentucky State Police until there’s an end to the financial impasse—if one is reached. The Associated Press story warns, however, it “… sometimes has just one officer patrolling multiple counties.”
A late December outage of 9-1-1 service in a widespread area of the United States indicates major metropolitan areas—even those with well-funded tax bases—can also face challenges when summoning first responders. In December, residents in part of at least three states were unable to call into the emergency number due to an outage at CenturyLink. Efforts were made to inform the public to use alternate numbers, but by Dec. 28 Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai announced an investigation was being launched.
“The CenturyLink service outage is … completely unacceptable, and its breadth and duration are particularly troubling,” Pai said in a statement reported by the Washington Post. “This inquiry will include an examination of the effect that CenturyLink’s outage appears to have had on other providers’ 9-1-1 services.”