By Emily Gehman
When Barry Bedford started his pre-med program, he forgot one crucial thing: studying.
A good student, Barry hadn’t needed to study much in high school to get good grades. But it didn’t work like that at the University of Iowa. And with all the extra-curricular activities—“everyone on the floor was smoking [marijuana and hashish] so you even got high just walking down the hallway”—Barry struggled to keep his focus on studying.
He decided to change his major to “something safe” but would still land him in a helping profession: sociology. And he funneled all his electives into a criminology emphasis. Not long after Barry graduated, he was hired as an officer in Coralville, Iowa, in 1973. He loved it and had no regrets about abandoning med school. It was still a helping profession, but it came with a little more adrenaline and fewer school bills.
And it ignited a passion for justice. He’d often work late into the night solving mysteries and helping people. One case even spanned 20 years; he never gave up.
“We had people who were hurting, and victims, and it was important to me to try and make that right as best we could.”
In 1988, Barry had no desire to move up the ranks, even turning down promotions because he loved investigation so much. Then Barry got a call while he was on vacation that they wanted to interview him. A few tough questions and Barry’s signature candor later, and they offered him the job as police chief. He took it, but always loved the hands-on helping work as a detective.
“But I also was in a position to try and formulate, get the whole department to take on a different persona and be victim-oriented—and be compassionate.”
Barry spent the next 28 and a half years as the police chief—a position in which people usually last 3-5 years. According to Iowa law, Barry had to retire at 66, after nearly 44 years in law enforcement. But you can bet that in retirement, Barry has only continued helping people.
As a BAM team manager, Barry offers help, advice, and wisdom from his more than four decades in criminal justice–though it’s not exactly a direct correlation. His experience and skills as police chief ranged from organizational management and clarifying policies to crisis planning and media management. And in 2017, Barry became a certified executive coach and leadership instructor, further enhancing the support he offers.
Barry has never been an entrepreneur—you might even say he has a strict aversion to career advancement—but he provides a lifetime of stick-to-itiveness and dedication to excellence. Not to mention his ability to respond faithfully in the face of opposition, a skill that BAMers definitely need.
But more than all of those qualities, Barry shares a mission with MDE and its BAM clients: serving Jesus Christ wherever God lands you.
Growing up, Barry said his parents were “quote, ‘religious’” and went to a liberal, mainline Methodist church in Des Moines where the pastor preached against the Vietnam war. When Barry was about 12, he was moved to tears by the gospel at an evangelistic event. But when no follow-up happened to move him forward, his faith largely disappeared.
“I always believed in God. I always believed that He answered prayers. I believed Jesus was the Son of God,” Barry said. “But I didn’t understand how that related to me.”
Until while he worked at Shakey’s Pizza Parlor—where he made all the day’s pizza dough at 4:00 in the morning for $1.25 an hour—the two guys he lived with became Christians. One of them, who also worked at Shakey’s, invited him to a Navigator’s event
“I said, ‘Oh, a sailing club!’” Barry said. “Pretty soon he’s talking about Jesus and accepting Christ, and I’m thinking what’s this got to do with sailing?”
Barry stayed and listened. And then—
“It just hit me like a two-by-four, right between the eyes.”
Barry was overwhelmed. Didn’t say a word.
“During the middle of the night, I got out of bed and I just remember weeping. I recognized that [I had] a pride issue.”
The Lord kept working, and Barry’s faith has been a crucial part of his life ever since. He’s part of the National Christian Police Officers Association, and sees his faith as simply obeying Romans 13, God’s call to kind and just law enforcement officers. His big changes—first from med school to criminal justice, and then from pride to following Jesus—gave him passion and peace.
“When I got on the police department, there was no doubt in my mind. That’s what God wanted me to do,” Barry said. “I figure that wherever I am, wherever God has me, that I need to do my best in that position.”