Bill McCarthy was first elected Sheriff by the citizens of Polk County in November 2008. He was reelected to a third term in November 2016. Prior to becoming Sheriff, McCarthy served as Chief Deputy.
Sheriff McCarthy began his 49 year law enforcement career in 1969 at the Polk County Sheriff's Office, then in 1970 he joined the Des Moines Police Department. He held positions as an Investigator, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Captain, Assistant Chief and served as the Des Moines Police Chief until his retirement in February 2007. Sheriff McCarthy was born and raised in Des Moines; he served in the United States Marine Corps and is a Viet Nam veteran.
Sheriff McCarthy has earned an Associates Degree in Law Enforcement from DMACC 11, a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Criminal Justice and a Master of Public Administration Degree with an emphasis on state and local government from Drake University. He attended the Police Executive Research Forum's and Senior Management Institutes for Police and the FBI Law Enforcement Executive Development Program and was a certified Polygraph Examiner.
Sheriff McCarthy served five years as President of the South Des Moines Little League. He has also administered the Police Athletic League, providing over a number of years a variety of youth sporting activities for hundreds of low-income children in the Des Moines inner city and was instrumental in reopening the Westside Boxing Club and establishing the Eastside Boxing Club.
Sheriff McCarthy for 15 years represented southeast Des Moines on the Pioneer-Columbus Neighborhood Priority Board. As part of the board he contributed to the Citizen Participation Process by chairing the Housing Sub-Committee and Vice Chair of the city's Central Advisory Board. He assisted for several years in working for the Christmas Food Basket Program for the Pioneer-Columbus area, a program that eventually was adopted by the city of Des Moines.
Sheriff McCarthy has received a number of awards for his outstanding service to the citizens of Des Moines by groups such as United Way, South Des Moines Jaycees, the Optimist Club, Urban Dreams, Children and Families of Iowa, the Greater Des Moines Neighbors Association and various governmental organizations, including the Vice President's Partnership for Reinventing Government. He was also awarded the key to the city of Des Moines in recognition of his contributions to children of this community and was named as leader in the south side community by the Des Moines Register. Sheriff McCarthy was presented the prestigious Mary Louise Smith Human Rights Award by the Des Moines Human Rights Commission.
Sheriff McCarthy is recognized for his work with neighborhood and business groups. His emphasis on establishing meaningful relationships with all minority groups and respecting their diversity is well known. Early in his career with the support of their Chief of Police William H. Moulder, he developed a plan how the department should interact with the community, which he called the Municipal Approach, a forerunner of what is now called Community Policing. He has been a vocal advocate in protecting the dignity of the immigration community and ensuring fair play by the justice system.
Sheriff McCarthy drew national attention when he removed the heavy metal flashlight from the tools carried by patrol officers. This action followed a number of highly publicized use-of-force incidents. While being criticized by some, this action has resulted in broad support from many citizens and progressive members of the law enforcement community.
Sheriff McCarthy has collaborated with area Chiefs of Police to establish the first of its kind policy on police chases occurring in Polk County. He has endorsed racial profiling training provided by the Community Service branch of the U.S. Department of Justice, which resulted in that instruction being provided to every member of the Des Moines Police Department and the Polk County Sheriff's Office.
Sheriff McCarthy was a driving force behind the city of Des Moines' Homeland Security initiative, eventually funded by the County and every municipal government within Polk County.
He was a member of the Community Coalition Against Substance Abuse and has served on many community, school, state and federal task forces dealing with adolescent shelters, school dropouts, youth groups and drug violence. He has served on the Attorney General's Task Force on Juvenile Justice and was appointed by the governor to serve on various committees and councils, including the highly quoted Task Force on Disproportionate Representation. He participated in the President's White House Policy Council meetings on youth gangs and violence, helping to shape the President's initiative on federal juvenile legislation.
Sheriff McCarthy continues to be active in many civic and community organizations. He and his wife, Linda, have two adult children and three wonderful grandchildren.