After 30 years of service, Cmdr. Larry Ward will be retiring next week.
Ward began his career at the Sedalia Police Department on Sept. 19, 1989, after getting out of the Air Force where he was stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base. He originally went home to West Virginia, but decided to come to Sedalia. After working some jobs in Sedalia, a friend suggested that he test for the Sedalia Police Department. During his interview he made an unusual promise for a time when most people trained at SPD and then moved on to larger departments elsewhere.
“She (the interviewer) said in my interview, ‘You’re not from here. You don’t have your roots here. Why should we hire you?’ I told her, I said, ‘M’am if you hire me tonight I’ll sign the contract that says I’ll stay here for 30 years.’ They didn’t require that, I did get the job,” Ward said.
Although it was not required, Ward has kept that promise. His last day will be Sept. 19, 2019, 30 years after his first day. Ward began his career as a patrol officer and then moved up to sergeant and eventually commander in 1999. After 9/11 he was called back into active duty for the Air Force and deployed twice to Iraq. He said the department kept his job open for him while he was gone.
Ward currently serves as the patrol commander at SPD. His favorite parts of the job were the early years he got to spend on the street, being involved in the hiring processes, the relationships he has made, and getting involved coaching in the Special Olympics, which he still does.
“I’ve really enjoyed getting new men and women to come into this profession…Bringing new people into the profession and seeing them get excited about it and on fire about it for all the right reasons…” he said.
“Obviously, I remember literally in 30 years here I’ve worked with well over 100 police officers, probably 150,” he continued. “Great relationships, life long friendships with them, and the bonds that you have with those then and those that are still here now are lifelong bonds. I’ll leave this place but it will be with me forever.”
Ward’s advice to people looking into becoming a police officer is to do the homework and make sure it’s what they want to do. He also said to make sure that you always treat everyone with respect.
“There’s been people that I've arrested over the years and I still have relationships with them today because you treated them with respect and they remember that,” he said.
“It’s benefited me if I was in a bad situation in my career, and I’ll tell you a couple circumstances where that paid off and they were in the right place at the wrong time and stepped up in my defense, physically,” he continued. “I think it has to do with how you treat people. I always try to pass that on to the new folks.”
The transition to retirement is going to be an adjustment for Ward after being in structured environments since he was 18 when he joined the military. There are things he is looking forward to though.
“Just to have the opportunity to, for a lack of a better word, let my hair down a little bit…Just to relax and see things possibly from a different viewpoint, from the outside looking in, I guess,” he said.
“I played softball last night and in the middle of softball I got called off the field to come and help with a disturbance…Having folks see me as Larry as opposed to Officer Ward,” he added. “It will be tough for me but it’s a change that I have to make.”
SPD Chief Matthew Wirt has worked with Ward during the 20 years Wirt has been at SPD. Wirt said Ward’s positivity and love for the job are a couple of his biggest strengths.
“He’s always been upbeat and positive about things…He’s always had a very, just kind of that way of integrity about him and encouraging folks to do the right thing,” Wirt said. “Encouraging new officers to do the right thing. (He’s) always had a love of law enforcement, a love for police, a love for the occupation. There’s never been a doubt that this isn't what he has wanted to do and that this has been his life being a police officer.”
Wirt said he will miss Ward’s positivity the most, and the support he always provides other officers.
“Especially here in the last five years at least, or longer, he's had that kind of senior officer mentor thing, being that figure,” Wirt noted. “He always had an ability to talk to people about rough things, or tough things to talk about. Whether that was the public or internally.
“He has the ability to say some pretty tough things sometimes that needs to be said to people in a way that people can understand and not be offended by it,” Wirt continued. “He has that ability and that’s something that you don't just develop overnight. We’ll definitely miss Commander Ward and of course we wish him well.”
While Ward will miss the job and the people, he is looking forward to retirement and hopes the city continues to support the police department.
“It’s a great community, I’ve enjoyed my ride, I certainly have. I’m sure it’s going to stay safe without me,” Ward said. “These folks they have a heart for service and I have the utmost respect for them.”