Four brothers commit to serve and protect

Marie Zimmerman

Jackson County Pilot

Coming from a lively house where Karen and the late Jerry McCarty, of Jackson, raised eight kids, it could be said disorderly conduct and disturbing the peace were nothing new for the McCarty brothers.

Brothers John with the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office (from left), Matthew, Patrick and Phillip McCarty all work in law enforcement in cities from northern Minnesota to central Iowa despite no family history in the field.
Brothers John with the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office (from left), Matthew, Patrick and Phillip McCarty all work in law enforcement in cities from northern Minnesota to central Iowa despite no family history in the field.

“I think that’s why we all got into police work; it was so chaotic. We could go into anything and take care of it,” said Patrick McCarty.

He and brothers John, Matthew and Phillip McCarty all work in law enforcement in cities from northern Minnesota to central Iowa.

Having no real history of police work in their family tree — Jerry managed co-ops for a living — it could come as a surprise that getting a badge sort of became the family business. But talk with the McCartys awhile, and it becomes evident what led them down the same path.

“I like to help people,” John said, who is a deputy for the Isanti County Sheriff’s Office.

None of the four McCarty sisters — Nancy Hanson, Brenda Wenzel, Sara Mix and Jill Cihak — went into law enforcement. They keep the guys grounded at family get-togethers.

That is, when they manage to bring everyone around the table.

“I make it to Christmas maybe once every three years,” Matthew said. “(Mom) is used to us not being at holidays and not being at family events. It’s a 24-hour job.”

For as much as she understands about their work, the four try to keep Karen more out of the loop than in.

“My mom worries about us, but a lot of times she just doesn’t want to know the stuff that we have to do because then she worries less,” Matthew said.

“You can tell she’s proud of us for sure,” Patrick said.


The only McCarty brother who didn’t graduate high school in Jackson, John earned a diploma from United South Central High School in Wells and is the only sheriff’s deputy in the bunch.

Patrick describes him as the older, wiser one.

“I’ve probably just made more mistakes and lived through them, so I know what not to do,” John said.

In all, John’s been a deputy for 10 years.

“It just sounded like a good career,” John said of why he chose law enforcement. “There’s some fun aspects of it.”

He attended Alexandria Technical College, joined the Lincoln County Sheriff’s Office, moved to Rock County then took his current position with Isanti County.

“(Police) patrol the cities; we patrol the county,” John said of his deputy status. “Anything outside the city limits is what we take care of. The job is the same; about the only thing different is the color of your uniform and who signs your paycheck.”

When John isn’t at work, his hobby of growing corn and beans also serves as a stress reliever from what can be an intense job.

“When you deal with people, very seldom is it in a good aspect. After this many years, I don’t really even think about (the risk),” John said. “That danger is always there. You’re always aware.”

If he weren’t a police officer, he figures he’d be a farmer full time or a nurse. When his kids get older, he knows they may want to go into police work, too, and that’s fine.

“That’s their choice. Everybody finds their little niche in the world and, if that’s what they want to do, that’s what they’ll do,” he said.


Matthew is a 2000 graduate of Jackson High School and has been an officer for about 10 years, most recently with the West Des Moines Police Department in Iowa.

John and Matthew entered the training process for their careers about the same time.

“It’s just what I’ve always wanted to do,” Matthew said. “Law enforcement has always interested me. … (John and I) kind of both had that path in mind.”

With an associate degree from Minnesota West Community and Technical College and a bachelor’s degree in criminology from Grand View University in Des Moines, Iowa, Matthew also owns a driver’s education business and an accident reconstruction company.


Having always looked up to his older brothers, Patrick wanted to be a police officer since he was a little kid. He graduated from Jackson County Central High School in 2005 and studied law enforcement at Minnesota West’s Worthington campus.

Patrick started out as a jailer and dispatcher for Cottonwood County and then began working for the Lakefield Police Department in 2008. His brother, Phillip, joined the Lakefield force just as Patrick was getting ready to leave for a job with the West St. Paul Police Department, his current position, and the brothers worked together a couple months.

Making the move from Lakefield to a bustling Twin Cities suburb meant more priority calls and dealing with gang members.


The final McCarty brother and youngest child of the family is Phillip. In middle school, he started thinking about becoming a police officer, changed his mind a few times and kept coming back to it.

“All my brothers were cops by the time I went to college,” Phillip said. “It always seemed like an interesting job. It seemed like a fun career I could handle for the rest of my life.”

Phillip graduated from Jackson County Central High School in 2008 and followed in Patrick’s footsteps, attending Minnesota West in Worthington and then joining the Lakefield Police Department.

“It makes it really easy to trust a guy you’re going to work with when it’s your own brother,” he said of the short time he spent on the same squad as Patrick.