As a young man, Robert Barrett listened eagerly as his uncle told stories about police work. He decided that’s what he wanted to do, too.
“I wanted to get in and get the bad guys off the streets,” Barrett said.
His commitment and enthusiasm for the job has paid off. This year, his fellow Dunwoody police officers voted Barrett, now a detective, the department’s “Officer of the Year” award for the second time. He won the award both in 2010 and 2014.
Deputy Chief David Sides says that in a fairly small department such as Dunwoody, everybody knows everybody, and the officers know who’s doing a good job. “When you stand out to such a degree that you get noticed by your peers, that’s saying quite a bit,” he said.
Barrett said he believes his peers recognized his dedication to the job when they voted for him. He regularly chooses to work nights and volunteers for extra duty. And he loves the job.
“It’s the chase,” Barrett said. “You have the crime and then you have the chase to catch the bad guy.”
Barrett said he’s only worked two years on day shift during his nearly 20 years as an officer.
“Your serious criminals will come out at night,” he said. “Normal working people have a job and they have to be asleep to get up at a certain time. They’re not going to be out bumming around at midnight, 2, 3 or 4 in the morning.”
He said he preferred working at night because night-shift officers have a little more leeway to pursue what they feel most passionately about.
Barrett worked with Cobb County Police and transferred from a DUI Task Force to a gang unit, where he really started enjoying investigative police work, he said.
When he came to Dunwoody, Barrett said he continued to work on identifying gang members and trying to help the detectives as much as possible. Working at night gave Barrett time to pursue self-initiated opportunities, he said.
“It’s kind of the thrill, the chase of it,” Barrett said.
He said he started working on the east side of the city, where it seemed like a majority of the problems were reported. He got to know the detectives while he worked the area as a patrol officer.
Barrett made detective himself in July.
Barrett started studying criminal justice in college. At that time, he said, local police departments usually wouldn’t consider hiring officers who didn’t have military experience, so he joined the U.S. Army in 1993.
He trained as an infantry soldier. While in the army, Barrett found the woman he would marry. He said one of the men in his squad introduced Barrett to his sister, Maria Garrett. They started dating.
“She only had to change one letter in her name,” Barrett said, smiling.
Sgt. Patrick Krieg said Barrett volunteered to cover multiple weeks of on-call duty to allow his fellow detectives the time off with their families during the holidays. That was all in addition to his regular workload.
“I took three weeks of on-call for December,” Barrett said. “Two of those I volunteered for and one I had because I swapped with another officer.”
At that time, Dunwoody had a rash of armed robberies and had a series of taxicab robberies, in which one robbery resulted in a shot being fired at a victim. “We were able to solve that and take an adult and a juvenile into custody,” he said.
Krieg said that though Barrett’s caseload has been exceptionally high, the quality of his work hasn’t suffered. “I appreciate this effort and if it was not for such dedicated hardworking detectives like Barrett, I truly believe our unit would not be able to function at such a high level,” Krieg said.
“I love my job and when you love it, it’s not really work,” Barrett said. “It’s fun. I’m always here early and I’m always leaving late.”