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Changing of the Guard at the Macomb Police Department

Rich Egger
Curt Barker (left) and Jerel Jones during Barker's retirement ceremony

Jerel Jones is Macomb's new police chief. He was sworn into office this week. He replaced Curt Barker, who retired after a lengthy career with the department.

New Chief Jerel Jones

Jones took the oath of office Monday evening while a crowd of family, friends, and other supporters looked on. The event took place on a mild and overcast evening under a large tent on the front lawn of City Hall.

Credit Rich Egger
City Clerk Melanie Falk administered the oath of office to new Police Chief Jerel Jones on Monday, May 3, 2021.

“I am very humbled and honored to be the Chief of Police for the City of Macomb,” Jones told TSPR after the ceremony.

“This community has been wonderful to me, my wife, my beautiful children. I can’t ask for more. I’m very thankful.”

Jones said he was born and raised in Chicago. He is a third-generation law officer. He said his grandfather served as a Chicago police officer for 30 years but became terminally ill before Jones went off to college to study Law Enforcement and Justice Administration (LEJA) at Western Illinois University.

“One of my promises to him was to follow in his footsteps,” Jones said. “It was really important to me to continue with the family tradition.

He has now worked in law enforcement for around 15 years.

Prior to becoming Macomb’s police chief, Jones was a lieutenant at the McDonough County Sheriff's Department. He has also served as a lieutenant for the Bradley University Police Department in Peoria and he worked at the Office of Public Safety (OPS) at Western Illinois University.

Jones said he worked hard to become a police chief and is finishing additional studies at the Northwestern University School of Police Staff & Command.  

He said he will strive to diversify Macomb’s department with “men and women from all walks of life.”

The appointment of Jones to the position is one of those steps toward diversity. He is the first Black police chief in the city’s more than 160-year history.

“This is a milestone for me and my family. This is a milestone for the community. This is what the community has asked for – a diverse police department,” Jones said.

“Being born and raised in Chicago, on the south side, I grew up in a pretty rough neighborhood. I can remember some of the policing practices back home. So learning what to do and what not to do is going to help me lead our department in Macomb and this diverse community that we serve.”

Jones called the current times a “tough climate” for law enforcement. He said the work done by the men and women of the Macomb Police Department “is highly appreciated.”

He also said the department will be transparent and that he plans to build relationships and interact frequently with the community.

Credit Rich Egger
(Left to right) Curt Barker, Jerel Jones, McDonough County Sheriff Nick Petitgout, Dan Meyer (who will become Macomb's fire chief in a few months), and Angie Barker (Curt's wife), during the retirement ceremony for Curt Barker on April 30, 2021.

Retired Chief Curt Barker

During last week’s retirement reception for Barker, Jones praised his predecessor.

“Curt Barker is a wonderful man who’s done the job for a very long time,” Jones said before presenting Barker with the department’s award for Meritorious Service. Law officers from the Macomb department, the McDonough County Sheriff’s Department, Illinois State Police, and OPS were on hand for the ceremony, as were family members, friends, politicians, and others.

Credit Rich Egger
During the retirement ceremony, Barker thanked the community for its support.

Barker started with the Macomb Police Department in January, 1994, after a year with the Illinois Department of Corrections. The Macomb department promoted him to sergeant in 2001, lieutenant in 2004, and he was then appointed deputy chief a short time later. He became chief in 2009.

“I really loved Macomb. I thought Macomb was a great place to raise a family,” Barker told TSPR.

Barker said he found it rewarding to serve as chief. He said he enjoyed mentoring officers and working with community members to solve problems.

Barker believes officers today are more accountable to their community, which he called “a good thing.”

He also said, “Every chief out there right now really supports a lot of the reforms that are in place. We’re all working together to try to do that so that we don’t have some of those negative incidents that we’ve seen in the media. No chief wants that in their department.”

He believes the Macomb department has been ahead of the curve on implementing best practices and will be transparent about showing body camera videos.

“I think you will see that you have a very professional law enforcement department that’s here to serve the community,” he said.

In addition to his service with the police department, Barker spent 20 years in the U.S. Army Reserves. He completed two tours of duty in Iraq, received the Bronze Star Medal, and retired as a Major from the reserves.

The Bronze Star Medal is awarded to members of the U.S. Armed Forces for heroic achievement, heroic service, meritorious achievement, or meritorious service in a combat zone. 

Tri States Public Radio produced this story.  TSPR relies on financial support from our readers and listeners in order to provide coverage of the issues that matter to west central Illinois, southeast Iowa, and northeast Missouri. As someone who values the content created by TSPR's news department please consider making a financial contribution.

Rich is TSPR's News Director.