Tuesday, December 27, 2005
Cousins run one-cop towns
By Joe Eaton
In 11 localities in Virginia, including two Giles County towns, "police" is a singular word.
RICH CREEK -- Earlier this year, a man stormed into Steve Buckland's Glen Lyn home looking for a cop. Instead he ran into Buckland's wife, Susan, who gave him a hard time for barging in.
Not that the man had come to the wrong place. Steve Buckland is chief of police and the only officer in this Giles County town of about 200 on the West Virginia border.
But his home, as Susan Buckland would like everyone to know, is not the police department.
Two miles down U.S. 460, Steve Buckland's distant cousin Kevin Buckland is in the same predicament. He is a one-man police force in Rich Creek, population 665.
Once common in rural towns, one-man police forces are now as rare as police-issue .38-caliber revolvers. In Virginia, "police" is a singular word in 11 localities. Two are in Giles County.
Kevin Buckland has kept order in Rich Creek since 2003. Steve Buckland has patrolled Glen Lyn since 2000.
Locals seem happy enough with the arrangement.
"There needs to be a law here. There needs to be an Andy Griffith in every town," said Terry Fleeman, a 44-year-old cattleman who was warming up on a recent afternoon at the Corner Market in Rich Creek.
Andy. Barney. Wyatt Earp. The Bucklands have heard all the names. Giles County sheriff's deputies call them "The Buckshot Brothers."
"When things are slow, we are known for stirring things up," said Kevin Buckland, whose off-duty vehicle is a black Chevy pickup with the license tag DUI GTR.
But there is not much trouble to stir up in the two square miles of Rich Creek or the mile-and-a-half stretch of Glen Lyn.
So between the smattering of arrests for illegal drugs, domestic violence, fights and vandalism, most of the Bucklands' time is spent simply being a presence.
"The citizens pay me to do a job, and they expect me to be there if they need me," Steve Buckland said.
Often they need him at odd hours.
Both Bucklands are always on call, which makes scheduling family time difficult.
Then, there are the people who show up at their homes. Last summer, Kevin Buckland was mowing his yard when a woman pulled into his driveway and said her husband was going to kill her.
Sure enough, the husband showed up right behind her.
"My wife brought out iced-tea, and we worked it out," Kevin Buckland said.
Despite the Mayberry feel of the two towns, bad things sometimes happen.
Last year, a robber with a can of mace hit the Corner Market in Rich Creek. J. Howard Spencer, who was Glen Lyn's mayor for 25 years and is now town manager, said he can remember police -- though not a Buckland -- shooting suspects twice.
On Kevin Buckland's first day, a pregnant woman and a young girl died when a drunken driver's Winnebago ran into the woman's car. The woman and girl were Kevin Buckland's second and third cousins. He worked the wreck.
He once sent a first cousin to prison.
"If he stopped his mom, he would give her a ticket," said Darlene French, the mayor of Rich Creek.
In the absence of big-city crime, the job of small-town lawman has its challenges.
It's not tough to beat a one-man department. If the police car passes by, odds are it won't pass the same spot again soon. If the car is parked in the officer's driveway, the police department is closed.
Bad guys take note of that, Kevin Buckland said.
So the Bucklands mix up their schedules and drive odd routes through their towns. They sometimes park away from home to throw people off.
Both men are deputized in each other's towns and have backup from Giles County deputies. When one takes a vacation, the other Buckland fills in and covers both towns.
There are other struggles in working a country beat, the Bucklands say.
This fall, Steve Buckland investigated an attempted breaking and entering. The perpetrator, who chewed clean through a door handle, ended up being a bear.
"Somebody must be a good cook in that house or something," Steve Buckland said.
Both Bucklands grew up in Giles County -- Kevin Buckland in Rich Creek, Steve Buckland in nearby Narrows. Kevin Buckland has been a police officer since 1992, with stints in the Giles County Sheriff's Office, the Narrows Police Department and the Radford Police Department. Before coming to Glen Lyn in 2000, Steve Buckland worked for the New River Valley Regional Jail for 18 months.
On a recent evening, Kevin Buckland sat in one of his favorite spots on Federal Street running radar. Before long, a white Dodge pickup passed going 45 in a 25. Kevin Buckland hit the lights and gave chase.
As he walked up to the truck, the officer touched the tailgate to leave a fingerprint for safety. Then he pumped himself into a broad police stance and approached the driver. He smiled.
Back at in his cruiser, Kevin Buckland sat with the man's license in hand. In high school he had dated the man's daughter. He let him off with a warning.
Even with all the warnings, Kevin Buckland brings in quite a stack of money for the town in tickets and other fines. In November, he brought in $650, French said.
But running even a one-man force isn't cheap for a small town. Spencer, the town manager in Glen Lyn, said it costs about $45,000 a year to keep Steve Buckland on the road. The Rick Creek Police Department has a yearly budget of $30,225.
Neither town has plans to add a second officer. That's fine with the Bucklands, though it would make some things easier.
Steve Buckland said he rarely travels far from Glen Lyn because he is afraid something will happen while he is gone.
As it is, people know where to find him.
To gain a bit of space for his family life, Steve Buckland hung a sign outside his home announcing it is not the police department.
The sign hasn't worked.
People still stop by looking for him. Sometimes they knock.
(C)2005 The Roanoke Times
Alot of places in Alaska are one cop towns
Many are one cop towns with an unarmed cop (Village Public Safety Officer)
There are several places in ND that are one-cop-shops. Decent arrangement when it's quiet. Sucko when something goes bad. I like having back-up handy thank you.
good story. Sound like a couple of cool guys.
I noticed a lot of references to "cousins" in that article.
On a serious note I'm glad they love their job. I would want backup though!
Can you ever have a day off when you are a one man band? Gotta hand it to them, that would be a tough gig.
I will also add that Giles County is mostly National Forest, and their sheriff's office has about ten deputies IIRC. Good bunch of people, I go hunting and hking up there several times a year.