Faced with crushing bills, a tiny California town that became infamous for aggressive law enforcement has eliminated its police department, reports the Los Angeles Times. “Maricopa just does not have the money to run a professional department,” said Eric Ziegler, a retired city manager who advises the City Council. “It wasn’t because of any particular feeling that there had been wrongdoing.” Officials in the town of 1,200 are considering the sale of the department’s last remnants: four patrol vehicles — all bought used years ago — and two motorcycles.
The department had two full-time employees and about 20 uniformed volunteers — mostly veterans of other departments or younger people looking to land their first law enforcement jobs. Over the last couple of years, the oil town 40 miles southwest of Bakersfield became known as a speed trap. Officers pulled drivers over for infractions such as cracked windshields and unlighted license plates. In a scathing report last June, the Kern County grand jury accused police of targeting Latino motorists in hopes of seizing vehicles from unlicensed, undocumented immigrants. The panel urged the 100-year-old city to pull the plug on its police department. Earlier this month, Maricopa decided to contract out its law enforcement responsibilities to the Kern County Sheriff’s Department.