Carmel Police Dept. Chief Jim Barlow wondered how he would know when it was the right time to retire.
The answer became clear in January 2021 when he was out of town and was notified of a tragic situation that ended with CPD officers fatally shooting a man who had fired several shots from within his home before raising a gun at officers.
Barlow’s friends on the trip with him assumed he’d need to rush back to Carmel, but he had enough confidence in the team on duty that he felt they could manage the situation without him. And they did.
“I came back, and it was handled,” Barlow said. “It was my proud papa day, knowing that they’re quite capable, and that they did a fantastic job.”
Feeling that the future of the department is in good hands, Barlow publicly announced last month his plans to retire on Jan. 7 after a 38-year career with CPD. He will be replaced by CPD Deputy Chief Jeff Horner, a 28-year CPD veteran who said he’s learned much from Barlow during their time working together.
“He’s been a great mentor getting me prepared to do this assignment,” Horner said.
Barlow, 62, became interested in a career in law enforcement while taking a criminal justice class as a business student at Indiana University. So, he changed his major and graduated with a degree in public affairs and criminal justice in 1983, joining CPD later that year.
Having grown up in Michigan City, Barlow didn’t know much about Carmel, then a city of approximately 20,000 residents. But he got to know it well as his career advanced, first as an overnight patrol officer and later as a firearms instructor; member and then commander of the SWAT team; investigator; and commander of the operations and support divisions. He became assistant chief of police in 2011 before being named chief in 2017 to replace the retiring Tim Green.
Barlow, who also served as director of the Hamilton County Drug Task Force and is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, said he enjoyed each step in his journey through CPD.
“It really helped me as chief,” he said. “I got the opportunity to do a lot of different roles and see how this department is run from a lot of different perspectives.”
Barlow listed being part of a statewide effort in the 1990s to seize large amounts of LSD brought to the community by fans of Grateful Dead and Phish when the bands would perform in Hamilton County among his most memorable moments, as well as being among the team of officers that arrested the suspects accused of murdering three young people in 1994 in the Thistlewood neighborhood.
“We were able to apprehend them and testify in one of the murder trials in South Bend,” Barlow said. “That was big, because you were able to catch some people who committed a horrendous act and see it through to conviction.”
Barlow said his greatest career achievement isn’t related to a single case but rather CPD’s efforts to provide expanded support to its own officers.
“What is nearest and dearest to my heart is probably when we came to the realization that we need to take care of our officers so they can better serve the community and started looking at mental health and physical health,” he said. “We’ve seen where it’s really helping.”
In 2019, CPD began providing an on-staff mental health consultant, and it has worked to expand its counseling resources. Barlow said unaddressed emotional or mental health issues can lead to alcohol abuse or anger management problems that can affect an officer’s ability on the job.
“When I was a young officer, when we dealt with (difficult) things, it was always, ‘Rub dirt in it and get back into the ballgame,’” Barlow said. “We know that doesn’t work.”
In retirement, Barlow, a Carmel resident, plans to spend more time bike riding, hunting and traveling, including on a European river cruise.
He’s looking forward to having more time to spend with his wife of 35 years and their three children and four grandchildren, who all live in Hamilton County.
“Over the years I’ve probably spent more time with my second family here at the police department than I have with my family,” Barlow said. “My wife’s been fantastic about that, so it’s time I spent some time with her enjoying life.”
Meet the new chief
Carmel Police Dept. Deputy Chief Jeff Horner, who will soon replace retiring Chief Jim Barlow, knew by the time he was 12 years old that he wanted to go into law enforcement.
“I wanted to get into one of those jobs where you’re out and about serving the community,” he said. “I’m very inquisitive, so I like to go places where other people don’t get to go and see what other people don’t get to see.”
Horner joined CPD in 1994 after graduating from Ball State University. He’s worked in the operations division, supervised the School Resource Unit and served as a defensive tactics instructor and SWAT commander. He became deputy chief of administration in 2018.
As chief, Horner plans to continue several initiatives already under way, including expanding the focus on officers’ mental health. He also plans to devote more resources to cybercrimes and improve the process for releasing information to the public.
Horner has appointed Lt. Joe Bickel, who joined CPD in 1994, to fill his role as deputy chief of administration.