Beyond the Badge: Challenges of night shift; how one Sergeant's fight for his life didn't stop him from serving

Beyond the Badge: Challenges of night shift; how one Sergeant’s fight for his life didn’t stop him from serving

MARSHALL COUNTY, Ind. --- ABC57’s Beyond the Badge series continues with the Marshall County Sheriff’s Department to show Michiana what the night shift is all about. Michiana will meet the Detective First Sergeant who has dedicated 27 years to serving others. With help from his community and family in blue, he didn’t let a recent battle with cancer stop him from serving Marshall County.

“It's about serving,” Detective First Sergeant Les McFarland said. “It's about service to the people. And I was grateful enough that God gave me that to come back to help people. I'm in my 27th year at the Marshall County Sheriff's Department.”

Detective First Sergeant McFarland has worked in all sorts of positions for the county, even spending 14 years undercover. Last year, things took a turn.

“I was diagnosed with throat cancer, had a tumor in my neck,” McFarland said. “For three months, I went through chemotherapy and radiation and lost a lot of weight. My first chemotherapy appointment a year ago was here in town. When I showed up there was approximately 60 officers there who walked in with me. The first 30 days the community rallied around and they would just come in and make food and drop it off at my kitchen table. I never drove myself to any doctor's appointment within three months. A police officer would pick me up and take me to my appointment and take me home.”

McFarland said the brotherhood is strong and it’s about caring and protecting one another.

“When you fight cancer, it's not just you beat it, you have to continue to fight it,” he said. “And I think that I tried to fight it gracefully. And I did it with the support from not only my brothers in blue, but my family in the community.”

On the rebound now, Les is back to doing what he loves—serving the Marshall County community. He’s working as a drone pilot and doing crash technician work for the department, even serving on the Bourbon Town Council. He also has time for one of his favorite hobbies.

“I’m a pilot,” he said. “I fly a lot off duty.”

McFarland still has small battles he’s fighting that the radiation has caused, but he hasn’t let that stop him from serving every day.

“I'm still able to come out and get up and help people,” he said. “So, I just have to fight the battle and keep fighting every day just like I am and keep moving forward.” 

McFarland said there’s a lot of differences working at night, with added stress and difficulty.

“You have low light levels, you can't see, you have to wear a flashlight so you're, you're carrying a flashlight; you're taking one hand away carrying that limited visibility to responding to these calls.” 

With 450 sq. miles of ground to cover in the county and only 3 officers on at a time, the closest backup could be 20 to 30 minutes away,

“You have to learn grace, humility. It doesn't seem long, but when you're trying to fight full force physically, and your next backup is 20 minutes to half an hour you learn to talk with people and you try to de-escalate it.” 

McFarland said there’s a lot of challenging parts to the job and you never know what’s going to happen.

“One moment you could be saving someone's life or and then the next moment you'd be trying to protect officers that you work with, the public. So, you have to gear and change your mind set on each call. It's human nature that we have to take care of one another. I mean, we're all in it to the end and we have to take care of one another, whether I'm a police officer or not.” 

“Someday, I'm not going to be in this position. And when I'm done, I just want my community to know that I did the best I could. And when I'm not in this position, I just want people to realize that I was there for the people, I wasn't there for the position or the titles.” 

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