Dale McFarland brings a 35-year career in law enforcement to a close and will be honored with a retirement reception from 10 a.m. to noon Friday, Sept. 14 on the third floor of the Pratt County Courthouse. The public is invited to attend.
He brought a background as a private investigator, sheriff and under-sheriff to the job of court service officer for the 30th Judicial District, beginning in 1991.
He worked as an investigator for Equifax credit monitoring, was elected sheriff of Thomas County in 1977 and served one term. In 1981 he moved to Pratt and worked as under-sheriff for the late Ray McGuire for 10 years. As McGuire was contemplating retirement, McFarland said he knew he would either have to run for office or find a new line of work. The job of court service officer became available, and McFarland accepted that opportunity.
His primary job has been to supervise people on probation, whether adult or juvenile, or convicted of a misdemeanor or felony, help them restructure their lives and comply with court orders. When they fail to do that, he has an obligation to inform the court and the county attorney, and they will be put in jail.
Another duty is to compile a pre-sentencing report for every felony case, obtaining information about all the defendant's prior criminal history.
Working with people, on both sides of the law, has been the best part of the job.
"Most people want to succeed," he said. "Those of us in the supervision business, if we get a success, we're so thankful.
"One of the real good things is working with attorneys, judges and staff. In a very general sense, we're all a family. I feel we work well together to make the system as good as it can be."
The worst thing?
Having to put people in jail and dealing with victims who have suffered tremendous losses and injuries and families who have lost loved ones because of an offender's actions, he said, without hesitation.
On a more philosophical note, "seeing people who have the ability but can't overcome their problems. You feel like you've failed them."
Colleagues say that McFarland's knowledge and professionalism have earned him the respect of law enforcement officers, court service officers across the state of Kansas, attorneys and judges.
McFarland and wife Marilyn, an employee of Skaggs Ace Hardware, have four children and several grandchildren. He's ready for retirement, but admitted, "I have no idea" what that will look like.
"I've worked since I was 15, I'm not used to not having obligations to do," he said, but added, "I'm not one to set."