20th Sep, 2021

West Midlands Police honour the 'Sheriff of Hillfields'

Coventry Editorial 10th Aug, 2015 Updated: 28th Oct, 2016

AS PART of an ongoing campaign, West Midlands Police are giving local people a closer look at some of their officers.

In the latest edition of the force’s Summer Album, made available via their official Facebook page, the attention is turned to police band leader Coventry’s own ‘Sheriff of Hillfields’.

When not on the beat in the city, Jamaican-born PC Barney Barnes MBE is found with baton in hand as conductor and Musical Director of the West Midlands Police band.

Known to many in Hillfields after serving there as an officer since 1990, the 65-year-old is lovingly known to locals as the ‘Sheriff of Hillfields’.

“I love the job,” Barney explains.

“I joined the police to be a neighbourhood copper and said I wanted to be a beat officer in Coventry – a proper place with proper people.

“I’ve watched the area progress and develop – there are people I used to lock up for things like drugs that have turned into decent people, who are now coming up to me and shaking my hand all those years later and that’s nice.

“Neighbourhood policing isn’t a quick fix – but if you put down good terra firma it’s more likely to succeed and it’s great to have been there for that long.”

Barney joined the army aged 15 and served for 25 years in a forces career that saw tours of duty in every continent bar Antarctica before turning to policing.

Originally a drummer, he became Musical Director in 1999 and has since conducted hundreds of performances.

But one recital that has stuck in Barney’s memory above the others was when a fleeing criminal hopped off a shopping centre balcony into the middle of his percussion.

He added: “A traffic officer in his bike leathers was chasing someone who’d done a robbery.

“This lad jumped down from the shopping centre balcony and fell straight into the middle of the stage.

“He hadn’t realised what was going on before he bounded over.

“The band all dropped their instruments to help with the arrest, but I kept playing because we had a massive audience.”

And it was Barney’s ‘show must go on’ attitude that saw the criminal apprehended and the audience treated to a rousing finale.


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