RICHLAND -- For a quarter-century, Richland police Capt. Randy Barnes has been "on-call" and ready to respond to an emergency if his phone, pager or cell sounded.
But soon, the 50-year-old will be enjoying the quiet solitude of the wilderness in Idaho where there's no cell service and getting ready to start a new full-time job.
After nearly 28 years on the force, Barnes turned in his gun and badge Friday and will spend the next two months enjoying free time with his wife, Shelly, and 21-year-old son, Logan.
As Barnes worked his way up in the department, taking on special assignments, leadership and training roles, he constantly had a "backpack full of responsibilities that you carry every day and don't even think about."
"It's just been an honor to serve, and I'm really proud to serve with all (past and current officers) that I have," Barnes said.
"Anything I've accomplished as an individual is small by comparison of what we've accomplished together," Barnes said.
At the end of September, Barnes will start his next full-time job as the assistant pastor at Temple Baptist Church in Richland. His focus will be in couples ministry.
It may sound surprising to hear Barnes is switching from law enforcer to religious leader, but he said being an officer and a minister are very compatible.
Both are people-oriented jobs that involve helping people who have needs, crisis intervention, mentoring and coaching, he said.
And it takes someone who is a good listener, a good communicator, and is calm and understanding to do both jobs.
"If I had not been doing both already, I wouldn't have seen it as a plausible step," Barnes said.
Barnes, who has a degree in theology, said being a licensed minister while also being a police officer helped "remind me there is a lot of good people out there too."
The veteran law enforcement officer began his career in 1981, when he joined the Kennewick Police Department as a reserve officer.
"I became a reserve just to give back to the community and fell in love with the job," Barnes said. "It's the kind of job you do where you know when you make a difference."
He was hired by Richland in October 1982 and was committed to staying with the department for his entire career.
He graduated first in his class at the law enforcement academy and joined the SWAT team in 1985 -- rising through the ranks to become the incident commander while the unit became a regional team.
Barnes was one of Richland's first defensive tactics instructors, a volunteer for the critical incident stress management team, worked undercover as a drug detective and was the last person to hold the rank of lieutenant in the department. He was Richland's officer of the year in 1993.
In 1999, he was promoted to captain, leading all three of the department's divisions -- field operations, support operations and administrative services -- and was the project manager during construction of the new police station, which opened in 2001.
And most recently, Chief Tony Corsi assigned him to be the administrative director for the Benton County Emergency Services department.
"He has done a wonderful job" Corsi said, noting that Barnes helped establish goals, a mission statement and more for emergency services.
Barnes' retirement leaves a big void in the department that will take time to fill, Corsi said.
The relationships and trust Barnes built over the years with his fellow officers, will be the most difficult thing to replace, Corsi said.
"He's a great leader, and he's helped me tremendously in the nine years since I've been here," Corsi said. "But all good things must come to an end."
A new captain hasn't been selected yet, he said.
Barnes said his career has been "so much more" than he ever imagined when he signed on to be a cop because it allowed him to see all aspects of the community, good and bad.
"You have the privilege of developing a complex view of the community fabric ... and can use it to learn how to make things better," he said, adding that Corsi "really challenged us to not just be responders, but to make a difference."
And that difference can be seen simply by driving by Howard Amon Park and watching kids play or seeing a brother and sister selling lemonade in front of their house.
"That happens in a safe community," he said.
Barnes said he decided to end his law enforcement career at 50 so he could transition to another career.
"I reached it and it's been very rewarding," Barnes said.
-- Paula Horton: 582-1556; email@example.com