Salute the Badge: Deputy 'fights' for families of fallen first responders

TOPEKA, Kan. (WIBW) — Deputy Sheriff Rich Qualls strives to be a champion in his community - and in the ring.

At first, though, a job in law enforcement wasn’t exactly his calling.

“I was 22 and wanted to get married. I had no idea what I was doing,” he said.

What was once just a job for Qualls, quickly became a way of life. The now-Douglas County Sheriff's Deputy began his career with the Joplin Police Department after graduating from college. Several years later, he moved to his position with the Douglas County Sheriff Department.

There, he was exposed to new opportunities, including the chance to participate in the 'Guns and Hoses' boxing charity event, a fundraiser that benefits the families of fallen first responders. Deputy Qualls was one of the six Douglas County Sheriff officers who were chosen to participate in the event, and says that the skills learned may help him in the future.

“For me personally, it is getting out of my comfort zone and trying something new learning a new skill set," he said. "Hopefully I will never need to use it but I may someday need to use it.”

Qualls says the support of his employer helped his decision to put on his boxing gloves.

“An employer could say that this isn’t something that you need to be focused on because it's outside, they are helping people that aren’t necessarily us, so you need to be focused on your duties and your performances,” he said. “But that hasn’t been the case, they have been very supportive.”

Qualls trained for the event for several months, and although Qualls didn’t win the boxing match, he says that highlighting law enforcement officers in a relatable light was the real win.

“We might seem aggressive to people who aren’t used to those certain circumstances so that can be abrasive and put a bad taste in people’s mouths...so in these scenarios, they are able to see that we genuinely want to help and we are doing it the best way we can," he said.