Carbondale Police Department Patrolman Barry Bayles remembers first being sworn in as a police officer. As a new recruit in the Jefferson County, Kentucky, police force, a training officer shared advice which Bayles continues to carry with him.
“He told me that you need to approach law enforcement like a religious vocation,” Bayles said. “He said it’s not just a job, it is not employment; it is something you have to be willing to give your life to.”
Since then, Bayles has approached law enforcement that way. First, for 10 years in Louisville and for the past eight years as an officer in Carbondale. In some ways, that approach — law enforcement as a religious vocation — is ironic because this summer Bayles will be hanging up his uniform to pursue another religious vocation.
Bayles, who, with his family, served as missionaries in Zambia beginning in 2003 and served as a pastor in Kentucky before entering police work, is putting down his badge to start a church in the metropolitan St. Louis area.
“Probably in about the last year and a half, my wife and I had begun talking about maybe going overseas again, but a friend of mine is a pastor in the Ferguson-Florissant, Missouri, area near St Louis and we’ve recently gone over there to help him build up his church,” Bayles said. “Somewhere along the way, in just the course of prayer and being open to God, I’ve felt a stirring toward St. Louis that has grown more and more.”
Bayles believes the stirring is a calling to move with his family to Maryland Heights, Missouri, and begin steps to start a new church, first by making acquaintances and friends, holding Bible studies and small groups, with an eye toward opportunities to witness and share faith, leading up to the creation of a new congregation. Initial efforts will be under the guidance and support of The Door Christian Church in Carbondale, where Bayles and his family currently attend services.
While he said he is excited about the transition, he called the move bittersweet, especially when it comes to leaving the CPD and his current role as the School Resource Officer at Carbondale Community High School. In this position, Bayles spends his days in uniform in the halls of the schools.
“Being a resource is the main function and motivation of what I do at the school,” he said, explaining that he helps the school’s social worker, answers policing and drivers’ license questions for students and even lectures classes on police work and constitutional law. Bayles added that he understands his current position also involves relationship building.
“To a great deal, I see my role as sort of public relations, something that builds a relationship between students and the police department. I want to establish a relationship with kids so that when they meet a police officer out on the street — one that is not me, one that they do not know — that there already is a maybe a comfort level or a trust factor involved in that to where they feel that their previous experience with an officer has been good and so the next one will be too,” he said.
Carbondale Community High School Principal Daniel Booth said Bayles has been an asset to the school and will be missed.
“Officer Bayles is one of the most amazing people that I have ever met, and as a result of this he is one of the best things that has ever happened to CCHS,” Booth said. "He is much more than a police officer, he is a father figure to students, a friend to faculty, and a protector of all.”
Bayles said his family’s move to Maryland Heights likely will happen this summer. His first order of business once he is settled is finding work.
“There are lots of job opportunities. I’m not really looking to get into law enforcement in the St. Louis area," he said. "Initially I’ll be working at a job just for the support of my family, our “mother” church is going to support the work and the transition with resources and backing, but I’ll get on the ground and work. One of the things we believe very strongly is to be like Paul in the New Testament. He’s preaching, but he was a tentmaker by trade and he would find a place and involve himself. That’s one of the great opportunities of witnessing is your place of work, to be a testimony and a witness."
Bayles added that simply by announcing his plans to return to ministry, he has had the opportunity to share his faith.
“Even people who don’t have a walk with God recognize something about this,” he said. “A lot of people who don’t understand the spiritual side of it, do seem to understand the sacrificial aspect of it. They grasp giving yourself to something greater than what you can see or is tangible. I have been able to share with a couple of coworkers, who are asking questions both here and at the police department. I try to develop an analogy about the commitment. I say I have a marriage to Christ, not just a dating relationship where it’s fun and enjoyable, but instead one that is life-long. I took the commitment, made the vow and my life is tied up in that.”
He adds that he, his wife Dora and family are ready for the new life.
“This position, in 18 years of law enforcement, is the single most rewarding and enjoyable thing I’ve done. This has been unique and a great opportunity,” he said. “I have even said to myself I wasn’t ready to leave this job, but I realize that for me personally, it could be a dangerous thing if God puts something on my heart that I should do, but I wasn’t willing to do it. I have come to be willing to walk away from this — as hard as it will be — and do what God is calling me to do.”