CLAYTON — Raised in a rough area of Rocky Mount, Saddarius Barnes said it was easier to see the negative street life surrounding him than it was to see the path out of it.
“I didn’t have the right guidance or the right father figure,” said Barnes. But he always wanted to be a police officer.
At 22, he was recently sworn in as Clayton’s newest and youngest police officer.
He said there were a lot of gangs in his neighborhood, and a lot of drugs. When he took courses to be an officer, it meant cutting ties with some of the people who he grew up with, who couldn’t relate.
“I always wanted to do something in law enforcement that would make a difference so I could help people,” said Barnes.
Barnes works the much-envied 4:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m. shift. He is starting out at the bottom of the ladder, but he said he feels blessed to be on the team. As he laughed, he even said the officers have already been initiating him, pulling some friendly pranks.
Barnes’ background makes him stand out from that of other officers who may have had family members serve as law enforcement officers. He credits a pivotal person in his life with helping him to rise out of the situation he was born into.
The role of a mentor
“I had a role model who showed me there was another side to life that I didn’t see,” said Barnes. He said his role model, who was his mother’s boyfriend, and now is his godfather, gave him opportunities that he didn’t have before. He came into his life at a crucial time, when he was 17 years old.
“He even paid for the prom,” said Barnes. “I didn’t have the money to afford it.”
He says he hopes to be a mentor now that he is an officer. He wants to show young people there is a lot more to life than just a street life.
As the older brother to a 12-year-old sister, he’s already had some practice being a role model. And, he has a whole team of officers to learn from.
“I’m the youngest so I learn from everyone,” said Barnes.
For now, Barnes responds to car accidents and domestic calls. He says he is anticipating his first arrest.
“I don’t really know what that will be like,” said Barnes.
Barnes is a graduate of the Wake Technical Community College’s Basic Law Enforcement Training Program. He worked for a time with the State Capitol Police in Raleigh doing security in the downtown Raleigh area prior to coming to Clayton.
There are now 42 officers in the Clayton police department.