A Part of the Solution

Chief Alex Barnes (BA ‘09, AS ‘09) wants to change the perception of University Police.

He’d like students to think of the department as a resource they can rely on. And they have provided services like Auto 101 workshops, escorts, battery boosts and unlocking vehicles. They have also helped students with getting counseling.

“We are here to listen. We are here to help. Come and let’s have a conversation. My door is always open,” Barnes says. “I regularly eat lunch in the cafeteria to make myself available to students. We can sit on the bench in the student union so the conversation doesn’t have to be isolated. If you meet an officer, say hello, and they will say it back. Lets build that relationship.”

He knows it won’t be easy, but it’s a challenge he’s been preparing for, for most of his life.

Ever since 9/11, Chief Barnes knew he wanted to serve. He just didn’t know in what capacity. Until one day, as a Nicholls student, he found a way.

“During move-in weekend, I was walking around campus looking for where my classes were,” he says. “I came across the police department, and I asked if they were hiring.

I became a campus student officer.”
Sixteen years of law enforcement experience across the Bayou Region later, and he landed his dream job as Chief of Police at Nicholls in 2020.

“The best part of it was the support that I had not only in the department, but law agencies across the region reached out to send their support and congrats,” he says. “It was almost overwhelming. I didn’t realize that I had much support and had made that many connections over the course of my career.”

“The best part of it was the support that I had not only in the department, but law agencies across the region reached out to send their support and congrats.” – Cheif Barnes

Even though he has long sought a career in law enforcement, Chief Barnes also knows there can be an ugly side. When he was in high school, Barnes, a Black man, was pulled over on the interstate in New Orleans. He and his friends were pulled out of the vehicle by the officers and told they looked like the usual suspects.

“The officers told us that David Duke was having a party nearby, and that they ought to introduce us to it,” Barnes says. “They were very unprofessional and were really making us uncomfortable.

“I also had my brother share with me that he was confronted at gunpoint by the police. One officer was telling him to put his hands up, while another was telling him to get on the ground. And he did not know what to do in getting conflicting instructions.”

Chief Barnes didn’t let that dissuade him from getting involved in law enforcement. The former Nicholls NAACP president believes his experiences and desire to serve his community can help to bridge the gap.

“I am a firm believer that instead of complaining about problems, being a part of the solution,” he says. “I had that experience, and having such strong beliefs, I think that had a huge role in why I wanted to stay in local law enforcement instead of giving federal. To be a part of a system, and make a change with my position, within the agencies and communities I work with.”

Chief Barnes says his officers are reaching out to students here on campus, and he believes if students get to know him and his department, then they can beat any stigma they may have against police.

– Cain Madden