LINCOLN — Today’s small town cops must prepare for any situation facing a big city officer. NET considers the shifting role of police work in Nebraska’s rural areas in the new documentary “Small Town Cops,” premiering at 8 p.m. Thursday.

Even in the safest communities where everyone knows everyone else, police must train to prepare for school shootings, encounters with drug smugglers along Interstate 80, traffic stops gone awry, high-speed pursuits and an increasing number of calls involving mental illness. It’s a changing job in a complex world, and rural law enforcement must plan and train for situations that were once unthinkable.

“It’s a scary thought to think that it’s going to happen in our town,” said officer Regina Preston with the Mitchell Police Department. The small city of 1,600 people in Scotts Bluff County experiences fewer than 100 crimes each year and the last murder in Mitchell was in 2011 — but law enforcement still prepares for the unknown.

In “Small Town Cops,” experienced and newly-trained officers explain what’s different and why they still believe in serving their communities and keeping them safe.

“The ones that are on the beat are now tasked with more responsibility than has ever occurred in the history of American law enforcement,” said Mike Kerby, an instructor with the Nebraska Law Enforcement Training Center in Grand Island, where there is training for ordinary and extraordinary situations.

“Small Town Cops” explores how officers analyze risk and approach dangerous scenes during active shooter training at the NLETC. Plus, see how shrinking populations and budgetary concerns have pushed communities such as David City and Fairbury to replace their local police forces with a county sheriff.

“Small Town Cops” repeats at 1 p.m. Sundayon NET; 1 p.m. July 15 on NET World; 8 p.m. July 16 on NET World; and 9 p.m. July 19 on NET.

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