Jessica Dirks is the first female deputy to work with the McPherson County Sheriff’s Office, but law enforcement is not new to her.
Over the years, Dirks has served as a Phillips County sheriff’s deputy, a Barton County Detention Officer, Lyons Police Department officer and a Department of Children and Families special investigator.
“I wanted to help people. When you get a call for a domestic battery or something like that, that’s the most traumatic incident of that person’s life and whatever you do at that time affects them,” Dirks explained. “There’s always that chance that you change somebody’s life for the better. I try to think about that on every call I go to. I want to make sure everyone’s OK and that they know we’re here to help them.”
Dirks ended her six month probation period with the McPherson County Sheriff’s Office this week. Though her career with McPherson County is just beginning, law enforcement has played a long-term role in her life.
“My dad was a police officer before I was born so I was raised around it. I liked what my dad did and I got started when I worked as a detention officer in Barton County,” Dirks explained. “You have to start somewhere and I really liked the jail and I learned a lot. My ultimate goal was to be on the road and that’s where I wanted to be.”
On the job, Dirks employs a series of skills picked up along her career in law enforcement and related jobs.
“Before I was able to work at the Phillips County Sheriff’s Office, I worked at Larned State Hospital for 3 and a half years and got a lot of training with schizophrenia and other mental health disorders out there. It helps a lot with what we do,” Dirks said. “I learned a lot about mental health and how to talk to people, especially when they’re in manic mode or very high in one of the diagnoses they have. I can talk to them and hopefully help them calm down enough to where they can process what’s happening and know that we’re there to help them.”
As McPherson County’s first female deputy, Dirks hopes to demonstrate the value of having female officers on a call.
“This is an achievement to myself and I want to show them the benefits of having a female deputy,” Dirks explained. “Females and children tend to want to talk to other females when we respond to a call, in my experience. I can also talk to children pretty well because they look at you as a mother-type. Sometimes men can intimidate them. Even some guys prefer to talk to a female, depending on the guy.”
Now, Dirks’ top challenges are getting back into the swing of things after a year investigating with DCF.
“I worked a lot of sex crimes and child abuse, so now I’m relearning a lot of stuff because you forget it. At DCF, we had a specific focus, so we didn’t do anything with narcotics or traffic violations so you forget a lot of those things when you’re not doing it on a regular basis,” Dirks said. “I’m very lucky to have a great group of guys to work with who are willing to train me to refresh my memory. They’re a great group and they accept that I have a lot of re-learning to do.”
Also for Dirks, third time’s the charm when it comes to McPherson County applications.
“It very much so was,” Dirks laughed. “This was my third time applying.”
But the effort is worth it. Dirks is glad to serve an area like McPherson County and hopes to stay a while.
“I’ve lived here off and on and I think its a great community. My family is here,” Dirks said. “This is the place I plan to retire from — that’s how much I love this community.”