The recent events in Ferguson have shed some light on policing practices in small- to medium-size communities. What we learned about Ferguson is when they are not playing GI Joe they are harassing the populace and writing chickenshit citations to boost revenues.
It is easy to be facile, as I just was, about some out-town-department of which I know little but the larger question, which does require some examination, is whether or not we are over-policed and is there some kind cost-benefit analysis that can be applied to police departments, especially those in small municipalities.
I am a retired reporter and covered the police and crime beat in several communities, big and small.
As you are aware counties in Wisconsin are statutorily required to provide law enforcement for their respective counties as well as providing a jail to house prisoners. However, local municipalities have the option of creating their own police agencies, and many do, despite the fact the local taxpayers will continue to pay taxes to the county to support the sheriff's department. Now they get to "pay twice" for a local police department as well.