Friday marked the end of an era with the dissolution of the Finney County Sheriff’s Posse, which was started in 1972.
Finney County Sheriff Kevin Bascue addressed about 50 people, both members of the posses and others, at the Carol Brown Conference Room in the Finney County Administration Building to recount fond memories of the posse, the contribution the organization made to the community, and to recognize the group’s longest-standing member, Commander Vyrl Warren, whose tenure on the posse surpasses, to Bascue’s knowledge, anyone else on the posse or even in the sheriff’s office.
The posse was largely intended, Bascue said, to alleviate the pressure on the sheriff’s office. Members helped deputies track down criminals, patrol the community, take reports, conduct traffic stops and write tickets.
Posse members even have conducted crime scene security when deputies had to cordon off a homicide scene so that other deputies would be freed up for patrol. Bascue said posse members probably at times have even secured the morgue when a body was present.
“There was just a lot of assistance and support the posse provided us,” Bascue said, noting that he was 11 when it was founded under the office of Sheriff Grover Craig, who started the organization two years after his election in 1970.
Craig started the posse at a time when deputies did not patrol the county 24 hours a day, which meant, Bascue said, they played a “very important” role in law enforcement for Finney County on a volunteer basis.
Bascue said law enforcement has changed in recent years, and the posse, as a volunteer force, has changed with it. Training exercises have changed, numbers in the posse have dwindled, while staffing at the sheriff’s office has reached nearly 100 employees.
“The things that they used to be involved with have been reduced just because it’s a whole different world for us out there in law enforcement from what it used to be like,” he said.
It was under the changing law enforcement landscape and the diminished need for posse support that Bascue and Warren had a conversation, during which they both agreed to disband the organization.
“Awhile back, me and Vyrl had a conversation about the future of the posse, and we both kind of came to the same conclusion but for different reasons,” Bascue said. “I think what we both decided was it was probably time, because of the role of law enforcement today and the liability and the risk involved with part-time and volunteer officers, that it was probably time to retire the posse.”
Current members of the posse included Warren, Lt. Jerry Lappin, Secretary Kayra Owing, Stan Jackson, Jeff Forrest, Roy Cessna, Jason Bennett, Scott St. Clair, Ken Seirer, Vince Casanova, Levi Sterling, and potentially others, Bascue said.
Bascue noted that the posse was also useful as a recruitment tool for the sheriff’s office, adding that volunteers joined the sheriff’s office as full-time employees and that some already have retired.
Noting the photographs displayed on a table to the side of the assembly, Bascue drew attention to a picture of Undersheriff John Andrews during his days in the posse. Andrews has been undersheriff for 21 years and has worked with the sheriff’s office for 34 years, following a two-year tenure with the posse.
“When I looked at the picture, I was like, ‘Who is that hippy?’” Bascue quipped. “He has longer, darker hair than what he has now, but the baby fox grew up into the silver fox.”
Warren, too, was honored specifically at the event. Bascue presented him with a plaque and announced plans to give him an honorary badge typically reserved for retired deputies. He told Warren and those assembled that the conference room at the sheriff’s office would be known henceforth as the Vyrl Warren Conference room in honor of his service.
“So every day, as people walk by, family included, they’ll see your name, and everybody that comes after us will know of your contribution to this community,” Bascue said.
Warren, 74, simply said, “Thank you everybody.”
“It was a pretty great honor,” Warren said after closing remarks as guests ventured on for cake and punch.
When asked what his plans are going forward, he said, “I like riding motorcycles, so I’ll probably ride as much as I can now. It’s been a great life so far.”