Retired SA turned hometown sheriff reflects on OSI career

  • Published
  • By Thomas Brading
  • OSI Public Affairs

Ken Furlong was six-years-old and standing outside of his family’s home in Carson City, Nev., when he realized his life’s purpose.

“I remember that day, everything about it,” Furlong said, during a recent OSI podcast interview. “I was standing in front of [my] house when I met the Sheriff of Carson City. I knew right then [being a sheriff] was what I wanted to be in life.”

In 2003, Furlong became the 26th Sheriff of Carson City, and nearly two decades and six elections later, it remains a job he holds today.

Before that, he served two decades in the Air Force as a special agent with the Office of Special Investigations, which he said provided him with the education, training, and experience to become the sheriff he is today.

“I entered the Air Force at 20, obviously too young to be a police officer in the civilian community,” he said, adding he hoped to use the Air Force as a stepping stone to begin his civilian career.

It turned into a 20-year investment, which paid off with the experience and education he hoped for. In 1978, Furlong initially enlisted and shortly after, his destiny was forever shaped by an unlikely encounter.

Furlong and a friend made lunch plans one day at March Air Force Base, Calif., now a reserve base.

“He had to drop off some paperwork at OSI and, of course, I went in with him and sat in the lobby,” he said. “The commander came out and he just struck up a casual conversation. The education and training and experience I had seemed to attract him. He invited me to another meeting after that.”

Because of their impromptu meeting, Furlong redirected the course of his career by becoming an OSI Special Agent. From there, it was off to the races.

First, he attended the Air Force Special Investigations Academy in Washington, D.C., which is now on the grounds of the Federal Law Enforcement Training Center in Glynco, Ga. Shortly after graduation, Furlong left California and moved to Seymour Johnson AFB, N.C., home of OSI Detachment 216. In North Carolina, Furlong “hit the ground running,” he said. He never looked back.

One memorable assignment was with the Operations Group at Kapaun Air Base, Germany, where Furlong helped assist other detachments, mostly in cases involving major crimes and narcotics investigations.

Overall, he described it as an “eye-opening experience,” which helped prepare him for the decades to come. While there, Furlong learned skillsets like forensic science, computer investigations and counterintelligence operations. Everything clicked, he said.

“It [also] provided for an awful lot of travel,” he said. “I loved traveling around Europe meeting and helping people.”

Even though he gained skills in multiple OSI missions, Furlong said his forte was major crimes.

“I love going into the interview room [and] interviewing suspects,” he said. “It is the most fulfilling challenge [to go] one-on-one with somebody, getting them to expose themselves to something they know is going to cause them harm.”

Another rewarding aspect of Furlong’s job was working with others.

“At OSI the leadership was just unbelievable,” Furlong said. “I recall a particular homicide case that I worked on. The leadership of the installation of OSI was all there. They were supportive, but they knew exactly how to support me.”

In his years as an OSI Special Agent, Furlong confidently believes he was “the most fortunate person in the Air Force,” he said. “I worked with tremendous leaders. I worked around skilled teams; we became super friends, always there for one another.

“OSI provided me with a wealth of experiences that were just amazing,” he added. “There is nothing I would change, it just fulfilled me so much that getting out was not an option. This was a fantastic organization,” he said.

Furlong retired from OSI in 1998, but had no intention of leaving law enforcement. After seeing the world in the Air Force, he returned to his hometown of Carson City and, as stated in his biography, worked as an investigator for the Department of Public Safety and an offender supervisor in the Parole and Probation Office.

“I’ve looked back at my career, and one would say it’s been successful,” he said. “I’ve achieved my lifelong goals. I intend on being the sheriff again [in 2022] and surpassing the one gentleman who was in the position a little longer than me by only three years.”*

“I look back at my career, and consider myself to be a very fortunate young man,” he said.

Click: to listen to the full podcast interview with Sheriff Furlong on OSI Today: My OSI Journey.

*Editor’s Note: Ken Furlong is the second longest serving Sheriff in Carson City, Nev., and Ormsby County (Jan. 6, 2003 to present). The longest serving is Joseph H. Stern, (Jan. 6, 1913 to Jan. 6, 1935). The Sheriff of Carson City has been an office since November 1861.