Edwardsville officer accused of burglary while on duty, firearms possession
By Elizabeth Donald
A veteran Edwardsville police officer faces multiple charges after he has been accused of burglarizing homes and businesses while on duty and in uniform.
Officer Brian Barker, 41, of Moro was initially charged with burglary, a Class 2 felony, and official misconduct, a Class 3 felony. He was accused of entering Reality Salon in Edwardsville on Sunday and stealing money from the register while on duty. Prosecutors since have added another 12 charges: 10 counts of burglary, targeting Edwardsville businesses since 2012; one count of residential burglary of a home in Moro, a Class 1 felony; and one count of aggravated possession of stolen firearms, a Class X felony.
Madison County State’s Attorney Tom Gibbons said Barker was found in possession of seven stolen firearms, which had been stolen from individuals and from businesses. The businesses listed in the indictments include Edison’s Entertainment, multiple law offices, The Little Gym, Extreme Vapor, Edible Arrangements, Headstrong Hair, Afsanehs Alterations and Pedegos.
Once the salon reported the burglary and Edwardsville Police determined that the suspect was one of their own, Gibbons said, Chief Jay Keeven immediately turned it over to the Madison County Sheriff’s Department for an independent investigation.
Barker was being held on $175,000 bail but he has since posted bond, Gibbons said. Barker has been placed on administrative leave without pay.
Barker could not be reached for comment Friday. Gibbons said he is not sure whether Barker has hired an attorney.
Gibbons said the situation was “really awful.” He was not sure how long Barker has been a police officer, but believed it was at least 20 years.
“We put all this trust, faith and power in police officers, but with that comes gigantic stresses,” he said. “When they breach that trust, it’s so much worse ... The magnitude of this breach of public trust necessitates a very harsh penalty, and we will be seeking prison time.” The charges of residential burglary and possession of stolen firearms cannot carry probation, and the latter carries a minimum six-year sentence up to 30 years, Gibbons said. The burglary charges carry penalties ranging from probation up to 15 years.
It is only the latest in a series of problems at the Edwardsville Police Department. Last year, another 15-year veteran officer pleaded guilty to a felony count of unauthorized recording after he was caught videotaping women at a tanning salon with his department cellphone. He received a sentence of probation and lost his police pension. Earlier in 2013, former police chief James Bedell pleaded guilty to four counts of embezzlement and theft after he was caught stealing more than $138,000 from city towing fees to support his gambling habit. Bedell is currently serving a sentence of 18 months in federal prison.
Gibbons said that Edwardsville Police, the sheriff’s department and Mayor Hal Patton had been fully cooperative. “The moment they got notice of this, they’ve been all over it,” Gibbons said. “They did everything they could possibly do under these bizarre circumstances ... It’s really sad to see someone who’s supposed to be the good guy go wrong. But the measure of character of leadership is what they do when it happens. In this case, they absolutely did the right thing.”
Keeven said that police were contacted by Reality Salon on Sunday evening, and on Monday morning, he asked Sheriff John Lakin to take over the investigation. “It isn’t that I don’t have faith in my investigators, but for the public trust, it’s best to have an independent agency investigate your agency,” Keeven said. He said he had full faith that Lakin and Gibbons would conduct a “fair and thorough” investigation and prosecution.
Cynthia Van Patten, owner of Reality Salon and Spa located at 4 157 Center, said in prepared remarks that she called 911 after her security system detected motion in her business. She meet with a police sergeant at her salon and they discovered a burglary had occurred.
“I gave a statement to the sergeant and I’m fully cooperating with the investigation,” Van Patten said. “We are extremely disappointed that the person charged is a police officer but are pleased that the small business owners that were affected by this will now have resolution and justice.”
Keeven said the department was “blindsided” by the allegations. “We feel like we’ve been kicked in the gut,” he said. “It was a complete shock. I hate the fact that many officers are going to be suspect now, just for the fact that they’re a police officer. The victims are across the board: the families, the victims of the crimes, the police department, the community as a whole ... Nobody wins.”
“I understand that human beings are human beings and they are going to make mistakes and do bad things,” Keeven said. “But it’s very hurtful when our officers work so hard to build trust within our community, with all the things they do throughout the year ... Those things are forgotten when someone causes embarrassment to our department.”
Patton apologized to those impacted by the burglaries, and vowed that the city would fully cooperate with the investigation. “We want to emphatically state that our community has been, and will continue to be, a safe place to live and raise a family,” Patton said. “I have great confidence in the current leadership team of our police department and many of the officers known to me personally.”
Patton said an internal review will go forward to ensure integrity is restored and maintained within the department, and to encourage better communication between officers and administrators to identify individuals who may have personal issues requiring intervention or assistance. Both Patton and Keeven lauded the police officers who volunteered their time with the recent Shop With a Cop program for underprivileged children and worked with the Edwardsville NAACP to support local children. “Please stand by me in support of our officers who do so much good for all of us,” Patton said. “We would greatly appreciate the community’s support as we work through this difficult time.”
Keeven said he did not believe that Barker’s alleged actions reflected on the department. “The actions of one individual are not indicative of the service that we provide to this community on a daily basis,” he said. “Hopefully people can see that as it is: one person making bad decisions ... versus the good work that many of our officers do every day.”
Gibbons said investigators do not suspect any other person to be involved. “But they are digging hard because the chief wants to be sure,” Gibbons said. “Nobody is above the law.”