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Former Winchester police chief passes away

December 31, 2013 | Virginia News

News Image By Vic Bradshaw | The Winchester Star

WINCHESTER — F. Allen Barley began fighting crime in the city on Feb. 1, 1957, and he never stopped.

Barley, a Stephens City native who spent half of his life working for the Winchester Police Department and more than 16 years as its chief, died Saturday, December 28 at Winchester Medical Center. He was 80.

“Right up until the last time I saw him, I called him ‘Boss,’” said Lenny Millholland, who served under Barley for 16 of the 22 years he spent with the city police before being elected Winchester’s sheriff. “You knew where you stood with Allen, and you were held responsible for your actions. He treated you well, with respect.”

Barley worked his way up in the department, becoming its chief on Aug. 16, 1980. He stayed in the post until March 1997.

Barley’s wife, Sue, said her husband left the position a couple of years earlier than he wanted to because of a conflict with then-City Manager Edwin C. Daley. But he didn’t stop working to make Winchester’s streets safer.

He was a member of the board of directors of Crime Solvers — the community crime fighting program he helped found as the Winchester-Frederick Crime Watch League in 1981 — until his death and was active in CLEAN Inc., the anti-narcotics organization he also helped found.

Paul Thomson, Winchester’s commonwealth’s attorney from 1986 to 2001, said those and other community policing programs that helped make city streets safer are a big part of Barley’s legacy.

They worked to help establish Neighborhood Watch groups and create opportunities for police officers to live rent-free in troubled neighborhoods, efforts aimed at curbing drugs and violence in the days when crack cocaine hit the city’s streets. Thomson remembers taking an officer to what would be his South Kent Street home and seeing “blood all over the door” from an assault at a house across the street.

“Having those officers move into those neighborhoods,” he said, “was not an easy thing.”

Frederick County Sheriff Robert Williamson recalled Winchester being known as an “open-air crack market” for a while, but Barley led efforts that reduced the drug problem.

Sue Barley said her husband didn’t mind law enforcement’s demands because he loved his work.

“It didn’t make any difference how challenging it was,” she said, “he faced it and he enjoyed it right up to the end, and he didn’t want to retire when he did. It was just the love of his life.”

The police chief also supported prosecutions, Thomson said, by providing extra resources for an important case when needed.

“We had some crazy cases that came through — shootings, stabbings, just gruesome,” he said. “It just seemed like things exploded in the mid-80s, and the next thing we knew we had serious problems in some neighborhoods.

“We were really busy. It was pretty much a blur.”

A way with people
Former Mayor Charles Zuckerman said Barley was an ideal chief for Winchester because of his kind nature.

“He was just so down to earth as a chief and did such a wonderful job,” Zuckerman said. “He was a guy everybody really liked and respected because he took his office very, very, very seriously.”

Williamson said Barley’s “people skills” and straight-talk approach were an asset for anyone in his position.

“He had the ability to talk to anybody, whether it was a doctor or a lawyer or a poor person on the street,” Williamson said. “Some people didn’t appreciate Allen’s approach because he was very blunt and straightforward at times, but I prefer that.”

Barley was embraced by everyone from members of City Council to the public, said Wendell Seldon, who promoted Barley to chief during his tenure as city manager.

“His relationship with the mayor and the council and with the (council’s) Public Safety Committee and the public were strong,” Seldon recalled, “and they were very beneficial to the city during his tenure.”

Thomson said Barley — a James Wood High School graduate and U.S. Navy veteran — had a talent for “hiring great people,” but he wasn’t shy about ribbing some of his officers.

Millholland said Barley once greeted him the morning after he and his police dog, Apollo, had spent the night tracking down a burglar on a spree by asking why he was tired “because the dog did all the work.”

Then there was the time both he and Apollo were seriously cut by a sword-wielding assailant. Millholland, whose wounds required dozens of stitches, said he went with Apollo to the veterinarian before being treated himself and had an emergency medical technician holding compresses to his leg to control the profuse bleeding.

“Allen’s biggest concern,” Millholland said, “was that something had happened to the dog, with no concern about me.”

Community-oriented chief
Above all, friends said Barley was devoted to his community. His police career was the primary way he gave back to Winchester, but he was involved in other ways, too.

Williamson recalled that Barley, who was a good enough baseball and football player at James Wood to be inducted into the school’s P. Wendell Dick Athletic Hall of Fame, helped start a teen baseball league in the 1970s and coached one of the teams. Williamson played for one of those teams.

Sue Barley said her husband enjoyed coaching softball, too, and was an active member of the Winchester Host Lions Club.

But many of his civic activities were tied to his profession.

Jim Pearce said Barley assisted him in numerous ways after he became chairman of Crime Solvers, and the ex-chief routinely sold at least 30 tickets to its major annual fundraiser.

Barley, Pearce said, also joined the Fraternal Order of Police Ole Fredericktowne Lodge 12 after helping found it in 1960, and was its longest continuous member.

“He was very dedicated,” said Pearce, a retired Nassau County, N.Y., detective who’s been Winchester’s victim-witness director since 1995. “It was in his blood to want to do the best for his men and the community, and he was passionate about police work.”

Williamson said Barley helped him when he started as an administrator, and they served together on the CLEAN Inc. board.

“Allen always brought wisdom and insight to the table,” he said. “I think our community has lost a real asset.”

William Sirbaugh, a reserve police officer from 1980 to 2005, said Barley frequently thanked him for filling that volunteer role. He even promoted Sirbaugh for awards from local organizations.

“As far as I’m concerned,” he said, “he was one of the best police chiefs Winchester ever had.”

In addition to his wife, Barley is survived by his daughter, Pamela Sue Barley of Stephens City, and a brother, Bruce Barley of Winchester.

The family will receive friends from 6 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Stephens City United Methodist Church. Funeral services will be held at noon Friday at the church, with burial to follow in Green Hill Cemetery in Stephens City.