By Jordan Fischer
Current in Fishers
There was no shortage of praise last Tuesday night for Fishers Police Sergeant Randy McFarland.
McFarland was being honored by the Fishers Optimist Club for his work with children in the FPD “Books and Badges” program, which brings officers into schools to read to elementary children.
He was also praised for the creation of the “Catch and Release,” a hybrid weekly fishing trip/student mentoring program McFarland began eight years ago as a student resource officer.
“I was having a particularly busy day running from school to school,” McFarland remembered. “There was one particular student who the principal felt was heading down a bad path. So I came in and talked to him and spent the time I needed to, but not as much as I wanted to. Then I had to move on to the next call.”
After a stressful day at work, McFarland said he likes to unwind by fishing, which he did after that particularly busy day.
“I was sitting there thinking, ‘I wish I had more time with these kids,’ and it occurred to me that could be right then,” he said.
After discussing it with his superiors and school administrators, and talking it over with the parents of prospective students, McFarland got his first group of students for what would become an annual summer program. The students begin by learning to fish for bluegill, and eventually progress to bass and catfish.
On top of being an opportunity to talk one on one about any issues they may be having, McFarland also incentivizes students by offering a pole and tackle box to all who are able to maintain a clean record for the duration of the summer. And, of course, there’s the annual fishing tournament at the end of the program to look forward to.
Vince Sivertsen, 13, was the winner of one year’s fishing tournament, earning him a fishing trip on a bass boat on Geist Reservoir. McFarland also presented Sivertsen with a unique lure he’d made from an empty .40 bullet case and a Fishers Police Department shield.
“He’s a great guy,” Sivertsen said. “He’s always been there for me.”
Though he’s now the public information officer for the department, McFarland continues the “Catch and Release” program, which he said may have gotten its earliest beginnings in childhood fishing trips with his own father.
“He was a working man, and he didn’t get to go out fishing as much as I wanted to, but when we did, that was just the greatest thing,” McFarland said.
McFarland left the club with some words of wisdom his father had drilled into him years before.
“Dad always used to say, ‘Do the right thing, at the right time, for the right reason,’” McFarland said. “Working with these kids… it’s the right thing.”