Barnes comes out of retirement because he could not be idle

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By David Davis

Chiefland Police Officer Willie Barnes joined the Chiefland Police Department about two months ago after a career in law enforcement with the Florida Department of Corrections and the Levy County Sheriff’s Office.

After attaining the rank of sergeant in the department of corrections, he went to work as a Levy County deputy as a patrol deputy, then with the undercover drug unit and finally as a K-9 handler.

“It came out to 33 years with the department of corrections and with the sheriff’s office. It was 33 years under the state retirement system,” he said.

Barnes, 54, retired in October 2014 to his home in Chiefland to a nice, safe and comfortable life. 

“I grew up. I was young. I went into the military when I was 17. I worked all my life and I just couldn’t sit around the house and not do anything,” he said. “I have a daughter in college. I just couldn’t sit around the house.”

As dangerous as police work has become, Barnes still knew he could not be happy working in the retail industry. 

“It’s like anything else. If it’s in your blood it’s in your blood,” Barnes said. “It’s like I was saying, I worked hard all my life and I can’t just sit back and do nothing, so why not do something I like to do?

“Yes, it’s a dangerous job. You don’t know if you’re going to go home at the end of the day, but you’ve got other good officers working around you; a lot of trust among officers; and that dog right there.”

That dog is K-9 Officer Bruno, a 2 1/2-year-old Belgian malinois. He has the markings of a German shepherd, but he is smaller in the hips and not prone to hip problems like the larger police dog. 

Bruno is Barnes’ second dog. His first dog, Taz, died about three years ago.

“Taz was a jam up dog. He was a good dog,” Barnes said. “He was full patrol. He was bite, drugs and everything. He was a good dog,”

Two other reasons brought Barnes out of retirement: his desire to help cleanse the neighborhood he grew up in from the scourge of illegal drugs; and a promise made to his childhood friend.

“I promised Chief Anderson, me and him pretty much grew up together, we worked in corrections together. Then he went to the Levy County Sheriff’s Office and while I was still at the department of corrections, I used to ride with him a lot. That kind of fit in with my plans of growing up and becoming a deputy. I grew up here in Levy County,” Barnes said. “I finally crossed over from corrections to law enforcement and got hired on at the sheriff’s office.”

He was a patrol deputy for about a year before moving to the undercover drug unit where he remained about two years. Growing up in Chiefland made his undercover work somewhat difficult but people in the county didn’t know him very well.

“I grew up here in Chiefland and a lot of people out in the county didn’t really know me and any work in Chiefland was behind the scenes,” he said. 

Barnes transferred to the K-9 Unit because, “I love dogs. Being in a specialized unit was one of my goals in law enforcement.” 

After he returned from the military, the neighborhood in south Chiefland seemed to be getting progressively worse. “I grew up here, all my life, and I see things happening here in the city, drugs and stuff and I want to be a part of cleaning it up; and the chief and I, we grew up together, we worked together in corrections. We worked together in the sheriff’s office and I promised him that if he made chief that I would come onboard with K-9 and help him out.”

Barnes said there is cocaine, marijuana “a little bit of meth. You have all sorts of things going on, prescription drugs, you got that too.”