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**Barry County Sheriff Posse donates invaluable service to county residents

**The Barry County Sheriff Posse, formed in 1950’s, has 21 active members, three active honorary members with membership limited to 30 members.

They are true volunteers; they get no pay; they buy their own uniforms, equipment, even the guns they carry.

In its entire history, just 81 people can say: “I was on the Barry County Sheriff Posse.”


Captain Matt Dougherty, with eight years on the posse, joined the group because, “I thought it would be exciting, which it is…I wanted to be able to help people in my community, to give back to my county and community.” 

The depth of the commitment of posse members, current and former, is shown by the donation of more than 80,000 hours of volunteering since they started keeping track of hours. Average now is around 2,500 hours a year.


The all-time leader of volunteers is the late Lloyd Shepard, with 7,720 hours. Tim Allen is next with 5,500 hours and climbing. John Townsend has 4,000 plus. The numbers are really higher than that; volunteers often don’t bother to sign in and out, Dougherty said.


The modern day posse is the same as in the Old West; whatever the sheriff’s asks of them, they do, and more. Their role has expanded from riding with the sheriff tracking down cattle thieves and other outlaws.


These days, they are more likely to be in search and rescue, guarding crime scenes, funeral traffic, parades, inmate transfers, Charlton Park and county school events, parades, bike races or ride alongs with road patrol deputies. The list of their assignments in the community includes 35 to 40 events during the year. A recent detail was filling sandbags at Crooked Lake.


With the expense of buying and maintaining a horse, the posse has morphed into a mechanized unit instead of mounted. Typically, now it’s a Gator, Mule or other all-terrain vehicle, Dougherty said.


The horses were a great draw for children and grown-ups, and built good relations with the community, but it’s expensive and you also have to own property to keep a horse.

“A quad carries two instead of one and the cost of the quad is just once. It’s load it and take it, but we still have the same mission we’ve always had. We’re there to help the sheriff.”


It’s not cheap to be a posse member, either, Dougherty said. After a successful interview and background check, applicants takes three days of training and buy equipment and clothing that can cost up to $2,000.


For example, good boots cost $150, or up; shirts, $65 each, one long sleeved, one short sleeved; pants are $75; a coat goes from $130 to $150, an empty vest, $125. The cost of a gun varies depending on the type, but a holster will go $180. Dougherty carries a 40 caliber Glock 22 he has drawn once and never fired on duty. The vest with needed equipment they wear while on duty weighs about 35 pounds.


Each member is a sworn special deputy. They have the power to arrest as long as they are in touch with a certified police officer, either by voice, radio or telephone, but most likely, they will detain a suspect and a deputy will take them into custody.


The posse as a group, not its members, is paid for some of its work details; but if a member works 30 hours of paid details and 30 hours of unpaid details during a year, they are a member in good standing and are given 5,000 rounds of ammunition they use to qualify in shooting matches and a $60 uniform allowance. The state mandates qualifying in firearms once a year, some posse members shoot up to three times a year.


Warrant Officer Brian McKinley and Sgt. Zach Drake competed in June in a Michigan Commission on Law Enforcement Standards certified qualification shoot, a shoot-don’t shoot situation, and the dim light shoot that starts so late it’s actually in the dark. Both did extremely well.


Drake won overall highest score in High Point Bullseye and McKinley took the overall highest scores in High Point Combat and High Point Combined. As a two-man team, they brought home first places in both Combat, Class A and Bullseye, Class A contests.


The posse has four elected officers; Captain Dougherty, Warrant Officer McKinley, 1st Lt. Ginger Helmus and 2nd Lt. Jack Ward. Three sergeants are appointed. Deputy Bob Fueri serves as the liaison between the posse and the sheriff’s office.


The group meets the first Thursday of the month at the sheriff’s office. The budget of the 501 c3 non-profit is roughly $8,000 for paid details and about $7,300 from a fundraising gun raffle for something under $20,000 a year.


For more information, contact Dougherty at


Photos: (upper left) Barry County Sheriff Posse members 2018.


(middle, right) Warrant Officer Brian McKinley and Sgt. Zach Drake show trophies they earned at a recent qualifying shoot.


(middle left) 2nd Lt. Jack Ward “swears in” Zander and Hadley Corson as deputies for the day (with no arrest powers) at Charlton Park Youth Day.


(right) Posse member Jason Mishler takes fingerprints of kids of all ages at Charlton Park Day.







Posse background:

The Michigan Sheriff's Posse Association was incepted in 1961. Most county mounted divisions were known as "Sheriff's Posse" but with the perception of a posse from the Old Wild West movies, being a group seeking to find a person for lynching, they changed to the current Mounted Division.


Michigan Sheriff's Posse Association met for the first time in October of 1961, in a field near Yankee Springs in Barry County. A total of 18 counties and 250-300 active members were present.

The members were from different posse groups from Michigan and Indiana. Their intent was to try and form a state-wide Posse Association. By July of 1962 they had organized and started the Michigan Sheriff's Posse Association.


With increased law enforcement training and assistance, it was decided to change the name from Michigan Sheriff's Posse Association to the Michigan Sheriff's Mounted Association.

The change in name was prompted in 1999 with the desire to reflect the professionalism of the organization. This group was formed to assist Sheriff's Departments become stronger and to help at the state level when needed.


The Michigan Sheriff's Mounted Association is currently made up of 26 counties, with about 500 active Members.

-information from the MSMA website.


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