Chief of Staff James Barber served with the United States Marine Corps prior to beginning his 28-year career with the Mobile Police Department. During that time, Barber was assigned to various specialized units within MPD, including Narcotics and Vice, Intelligence, Organized Crime, Drug Enforcement, and Internal Affairs. He rose through the ranks to become an executive officer before being appointed Chief of Police in 2013. As Chief, Barber implemented an Intelligence-led policing model that targeted criminals, not communities — leading to some of the lowest total crime rates the City of Mobile had recorded in nearly four decades.
Barber is credited for launching two MPD programs that are now nationally recognized. The first is Bridging the Gap, which brings young people together with law enforcement officers to teach kids how to best conduct themselves when encountering the police in various circumstances. Barber also launched the Second Chance or Else (SCORE) program, which works to connect low-level, non-violent drug offenders to community resources instead of arresting them. The goal of the program is to get participants out of the drug scene and into the workforce. Both programs are still used today by MPD and other law enforcement agencies around the country.
Barber was appointed Public Safety Director for the City of Mobile in 2017. In this new role, Director Barber oversaw MPD as well as the Mobile Fire-Rescue Department. Under his direction, a new leadership team was established at MFRD, which lead the department from ISO-3 to ISO-1. This is a fire service rating only achieved by 432 of the more than 45,000 fire departments in the U.S.
As Public Safety Director, Barber also sought to address the problem of repeat violent offenders being released on bail only to commit more acts of violence in the community. That quickly grew into a statewide effort to change Alabama’s Constitution. Working with Rep. Chip Brown, Barber helped draft a bill that would give judges more flexibility to withhold bail from clearly dangerous defendants who are likely to re-offend. That bill would later be named “Aniah’s Law” in honor of Aniah Blanchard, who was kidnapped and killed by a man out on bail for charges of kidnapping and attempted murder. In 2021, Aniah’s Law passed the Alabama Legislature with bipartisan support. It was ratified by an overwhelming majority of voters on November 8, 2022.
In 2020, Mobile Mayor Sandy Stimpson appointed Barber to serve as his Chief of Staff. In his current role, Chief Barber oversees all the City of Mobile’s departments and executive directors. Despite a broader focus, he maintains a core belief that the fundamental purpose of government is public safety.