Public servants are more important than ever in the current coronavirus pandemic, yet, the Prince William County Police Department is losing its guiding member: Chief Barry Barnard.
Barnard, who has served Prince William County police for 44 years, with four of those years as chief, announced his retirement on May 13. He is the fourth chief of police to lead the department since its creation 50 years ago.
Barnard replaced outgoing chief Stephan Hudson who retired in June 2016. His final day as chief will be July 1, the 50th anniversary of the founding of the police force. Then, the department contained merely 42 people, now it contains hundreds of employees, including 673 officers.
His replacement has not yet been selected, but Deputy Chief Jarad Phelps will serve in the position until a new chief is found, according to a press release from the Prince William County Government.
Barnard, a Miami native who came to Virginia after receiving a degree in criminology from Florida State University, began his policing career in Alexandria. He then ventured to Prince William County for its opportunities, beginning what would be forty-four years of community service in 1976.
“[I became a police officer] to make a positive difference in the community,” said Barnard.
He was named Assistant Chief of Police in 2000 and then appointed Deputy Chief of Police in 2009 under former Chief Charlie T. Deane. Before formally becoming chief, Barnard led the department as acting chief of police in 2012 and 2016 after the retirements of former chiefs Deane and Hudson, respectively.
Once becoming chief, Barnard worked to increase diversity in the police department. Under his guidance, the department increased efforts to recruit from historically black colleges and universities.
During a community forum he hosted in 2016, Barnard acknowledged that ‘having a police department that mirrors the community is important’ as it improves cultural understanding.
His tenure, along with the tenures of many other police chiefs around the country, was confronted with a tougher challenge than increasing diversity: the tragic deaths of police officers. During his first year as chief, officer Ashley Guindon was shot and killed during her first day on the job after being called to a domestic situation in Dale City.
“Losing officers has a tremendous impact of course on the officer’s family, department, and community. It is a very sober time for any police department,” said Barnard.
Now at the end of his policing career, Barnard reflected on his time with the department. He described the thing he will miss most.
“[I will miss] the people and our mission: working to help and make some sort of contribution, using teamwork to keep the community safe, managing resources, working with people, and just meeting the challenges,” said Barnard.
Barnard has no plan to leave Prince William on his last day as chief, instead, he plans to spend time with his family.
“I want to thank PWC and the community for the opportunities that have been provided to me and my family. We are very grateful to live here and work at the department for many years. I give my heartfelt thanks to anyone who has supported the police department,” said Barnard.