With the safety of the state's second largest city now resting in his hands. Gulfport's new police chief says his top priority is for people to feel secure in their homes and businesses.
On Tuesday afternoon the city council unanimously backed Steve Barnes as chief of police. Barnes was deputy chief under Wayne Payne who recently retired.
With the words "Congratulations, Chief" from council president Chuck Teston, Steve Barnes's journey to the top of the Gulfport police department ended. His career started in the dispatch room. Over the last 21 years, Barnes has also been a patrol officer, a detective and a narcotics officer.
"It's real important that you understand on the job that everybody makes a contribution," said Barnes. "I have worked my way through the ranks that I think I can appreciate that contribution more."
Nearly 300 police officers, dispatchers and other staff now look to Barnes for direction and leadership. The new chief says he'll look to them for support.
"As chief of this department, I'm simply the key that turns the ignition. The men and women of this department are the ones that make this engine run, and I'm fortunate that I have dedicated, loyal people here."
Barnes's says his philosophy on policing is simple: When people dial 911 for help, they deserve officers who respond with respect and understanding.
"We shouldn't get complacent in our job. You have to put yourself in their shoes for just a minute and respond how you would want them to respond to you if you were in their situation."
Although 21 years ago he never imagined sitting the department's top seat, he says he's honored by the people who had the faith and trust to put him there. Chief Steve Barnes will be officially sworn in on Thursday afternoon at Gulfport City Hall.