Day after day the Oregon County Sheriff's Department does their duty by protecting the public and doing their best to resolve conflict.
Deputy Gene Barton said his job entails a little bit of everything. "Job description -- oh my goodness -- everything from a marriage counselor, to a problem solver, to a referee," Barton said.
Barton has been with the sheriff's department going on 13 years and has seen some pretty exciting things.
As a little boy, Barton said he once dreamed of being a police officer. "As a child, I think one time or another, throughout everybody's childhood, especially guys, they think about being a police officer, and yeah, I thought about it when I was younger," Barton said.
While he was working at Marathon Electric in June 1996, a position became available for a dispatcher at the sheriff's department. "So, I started out as a dispatcher," Barton said. "I dispatched for a year and a half, and then I went through the academy. So, there I started my childhood dream of being a police officer."
The sheriff's department stays busy with its number of calls. The department estimates that it receives about 35 calls per day. Some calls are frivolous and others are serious. "For the most part, it's someone with a problem who's asking for help," Barton said.
"I guess our number one job would be conflict resolution for people," Barton said. "When people have a problem, whether it be with their son, daughter, wife, brother, neighbor, we're the people they call, and personally I think a lot of it (conflict) can be worked out between them. But, because there is the sheriff's department they will call us up to come solve all their problems."
He said rather than calling the sheriff's department to resolve disputes people can take their time, calm down and try to resolve the dispute in a humane manner. "I believe a lot of things could be worked out if they would just calm down and think about it," Barton said. However, if it boils out of control, the sheriff's department is always there to help, he said.
Barton said he enjoys his job because he gets to meet people around the county and there is always something different. "I like meeting people, and I meet a lot of people through this job. It's usually not in a good way, but the people who I meet, who I can actually help, I like," Barton said.
When asked what he likes most about his job, he said, it's different every day. "This job can be different every day, and I like that part of it, I really do. You know, it can go from quiet to crazy with one phone call," he said.
Training for the job can be extensive. Barton said training in everything from conflict resolution, investigations, vehicle accidents, juvenile handling and firearms is required.
Many people believe one of the most satisfying things to see is the justice system working. "Seeing the bad guy go to jail can be pretty exciting," Barton said, "especially, to see the case begin with a phone call. No matter what it might be, it's exciting to get the phone call complaint with just a little bit of information, and with that little bit of information you get a little more from someone else. Spend some time interviewing people. It is a whole lot like what you see on TV, and a whole lot of it is not like what you see on TV. The process of seeing a case go from the beginning to actually getting charges on somebody, seeing them in court and seeing them sentenced for the crime that they committed, that's pretty exciting."
Barton also said going out on a call can also be exciting because he never really knows what is going to happen or what he will have to face once he gets to the scene. "I like that. I like the rush of the moment," Barton said.
"In 13 years, I've got a lot of memories," Barton said.
Through his experience, Barton, with the aid of his peers, has made some pretty memorable moments. "One thing I really remember, and there are a lot of things, is finding a lost child because it was really touching because I have an 8-year-old son," Barton said. "Finding a lost child who got away from his parents, no foul play or anything, he just wandered off. All of us searching for this child and finding the child and returning the child back to the parents and to see the looks on mom and dad's faces to know that their child had returned safe to them, that's really memorable."
Barton has lived in the Alton area most of his life and is dedicated to serving his community. "I'm still old school enough to believe that I do make a difference in the community where I live," Barton said.