McPherson Police Chief Robert McClarty will retire on June 25 after serving the city for eight years.
"Since day one — Oct. 31, 2011 — my goal was to make us be a leading professional agency within the region and I believe we've accomplished that," McClarty said.
Before coming to McPherson, McClarty spent 20 years with the Hutchinson Police Department.
"I was able to bring my training and knowledge from there and guide this department to where it is today," McClarty said.
The support of the city commission allowed McClarty to implement several changes in the department to enhance officer safety.
"When I started here, there were very few bulletproof vests that were still within warranty," McClarty said.
Other updates under McClarty included outfitting the Emergency Response Team with tactical equipment for high-risk incidents and the addition of body cameras.
McClarty also recognized the efforts of the officers under his command who underwent additional training for their roles.
McPherson police officers have also been able to save multiple lives with their training in tactical first aid and CPR, along with the donation of AED defibrillators for every patrol vehicle.
"Anytime you can actually save lives, which is what we're sworn to do, that's a great day," McClarty said.
Under McClarty's leadership, the McPherson Police Department has revamped its hiring process and now has a select group of officers who attend recruiting events.
"They look sharp, they have the right equipment — everything's there so we look like a place that people would want to come," McClarty said.
McClarty also prioritized forming a Critical Incident Stress Management team and an expanded police chaplaincy program.
"The police chaplains we have are highly trained, very proficient and they understand dealing with cops," McClarty said. "That's a big deal. I'm very proud of that."
McClarty aided the formation of a mental health partners working group and made sure all his officers were trained in mental first aid. Many officers are now certified in Crisis Intervention Team strategies for dealing with those with mental illness.
"I think it is vital to continue to address the mental health needs of our community and expeditiously get people help when they need it in a safe manner," McClarty said.
Providing training for members of the department in areas ranging from leadership to hostage negotiation to interview techniques was a goal for McClarty, who noted McPherson was able to host several regional and national workshops for law enforcement over the past few years.
The addition of a street crimes team has proved particularly effective over the past year, according to McClarty.
"They do an outstanding job. They focus on working narcotics cases along with their regular duties and have been very successful over the past months," McClarty said.
McClarty put together an opioid round table discussion and began participation in the drug take back program to further combat illegal drug use.
The McPherson Police Department also added a school resource officer to work with USD 418.
"It has been a huge benefit to the students, the parents, the school and the police department," McClarty said.
One controversial change recently made was going to an outside managing company to hire school crossing guards.
"Although it may not have been well received by the public to start with, I think the presence and professionalism of the guards we have today has been well received," McClarty said.
Another addition was the formation of a color guard whose members wear kilts in representation of the Scottish heritage of McPherson and the police profession.
"We've actually gone to events outside the city of McPherson where we've been requested to present the colors," McClarty said.
One of the most visible community outreach endeavors was the initiation of the Blue Santa program.
"I think it's a way for our officers to interact with the public in a positive (way), give back to the community and provide some really essential items for people who are in dire need," McClarty said.
McClarty also added a public information officer and increased the department's social media presence on platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.
"Whatever's trending and whatever the issue is, we as the police department are going to focus on that," McClarty said. "...If we can mitigate (crime) and keep our community safer, that's the primary goal. We use social media as a tool to interact with our community and to highlight what we're doing, but also to educate the community as well."
Fridays often saw a popcorn machine set up outside McClarty's office, providing a time for officers to stop by and chat with him.
"Generally speaking, I have loved to come to work every single day that I have been a police chief — some days just for the challenge and some days knowing it was going to be a bad day," McClarty said. "...Not everything I've done has been fun, but it's been worth it."
"He's done a great deal for the city of McPherson; we have raised the standard," said McPherson Mayor Tom Brown. "He's a tremendous organizer; he's worked extremely hard and well. I would rather keep him."
Brown also said an announcement to name an interim chief of police will be coming soon.
"We have outstanding people at the helm who can take over," McClarty said.
In his time as police chief, McClarty has testified in front of both the Kansas Senate and House of Representatives as well as in federal court, attended the FBI National Academy,earned a degree from Central Christian College of Kansas and completed a certified public manager's course from the University of Kansas.
McClarty said he has no set plans for the future, though he hopes to stay in McPherson.
"I've had a great run. I've had the opportunity to do more in my career than most police officers ever get the chance to do," McClarty said, "...None of it would have been possible without the professionalism, dedication, drive and desire of those I have around me. I'm proud of every one of them."
Contact Patricia Middleton by email at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow her stories on Twitter at @MiddleSentinel.