Barrett, Jacquelyn 1950–
Jacquelyn Barrett 1950–
Jacquelyn Barrett broke color and gender barriers on November 3, 1992 when she was elected sheriff of Fulton County, Georgia, thus becoming the first African American female sheriff in the United States. Her election signaled the end of the old-time stereotype of the Southern sheriff as a big-bellied, tobacco-spitting, white male. As a black female with a master’s degree and over twenty years in law enforcement, Barrett represented the new face of law enforcement. As sheriff, Barrett inherited a constituency that included the city of Atlanta, a budget in excess of #65 million, and a staff of over 1000 sworn officers and civilians. Despite the high-profile nature of her job and the public scrutiny that goes with it, Barrett has always made family a priority. “I’m a mother and I don’t hide that from anyone,” she told Ebony. “I talk about being a mother in the hope that my experience will help other mothers in this community who are trying to raise their kids.”
Barrett’s commitment to community goes beyond her roles as sheriff and mother. “I am a particular advocate of a sense of community—caring about each other as members of the community, acting like neighbors,” she told Ebony. To that end, the sheriff’s department participates in numerous programs such as fundraisers for youth homes, gang resistance training in middle schools, and job training. Individually, Barrett goes, as she told Eye on Women, “wherever anybody will let me talk” to lecture on everything from domestic abuse to the realities of jail. Barrett explained that she feels this is simply another aspect of her duties as sheriff.
Born in 1950 to Ocie P. Harrison, and Cornelius Harrison, Sr., Barrett was the oldest of two children. Barrett and her brother Cornelius, Jr. were raised among scholars on the campus of Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina, where Barrett’s mother worked as secretary to the university president. In this setting, surrounded by the families of professors and educators, “there was never any question that we would finish high school and go on to college—never,” she recalled in Ebony.
Before leaving for college, Barrett received a lesson in politics as a witness to the dramas of the Civil Rights Movement. Recalling how she did not like the way the government used the police to control protestors, she told Ebony that she realized she wanted to do something about it “from the inside, rather than fight for change from the outside.”
Barrett attended Beaver College in Glenside, Pennsylvania, majoring in criminal justice. During the summer, she returned to her hometown to work in the county sheriff’s office. Back then, however, this future sheriff was allowed to perform only those jobs that were considered appropriate for a woman.
After receiving her undergraduate degree, Barrett moved to Atlanta to pursue a master’s degree in sociology. Upon graduation, she took a position in a
At a Glance…
Born in 1950, raised in Charlotte, NC; daughter of Ocie P. Harrison (a retired secretary) and Cornelius Harrison, Sr. (deceased); divorced; children: Kimberly and Alan. Education: Beaver College, degree in criminal justice; Clark Atlanta University, master’s degree in sociology.
Career: Georgia Peace Officers Standards and Training Council, 1976-85; Fulton County Sheriff’s Office, Chief Administrative Officer, 1985-87; Fulton County Public Safety Training Center, director, 1987-1992; Fulton County, sheriff, 1992-.
Awards: Martin Luther King, Jr. “Drum Major for Justice” Award; Jean Young Community Service Award; inducted into the Atlanta YWCA’s Academy of Women, 1995; Turner Broadcasting System, Trumpet Award, 1998.
Memberships: Georgia Center for Children, board member; the Georgia International Law Enforcement Exchange, board member; the Fulton County Emergency Medical Service/911 Advisory Board; St. Jude’s Recovery Board; Atlanta Business League’s “Atlanta’s Top 100 Black Women of Influence;” 100 Black Women, Atlanta Chapter; Atlanta Humane Society; National Sheriffs Association, Accreditation and Education and Training Committees; National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives (NOBLE), president, 1997-98.
Addresses: Office —Fuîton County Courthouse, 185 Central Ave., SW 9th Floor, Atlanta, GA 30303; (404) 730-5100. fma/7—[email protected], org
local police station before moving on in 1976 to Georgia’s Peace Officer Standards and Training Council (POST). In nine years there she worked in a variety of positions in which she taught instructors and wrote curriculums.
During this period, she bore two children, Kimberly and Alan. One of the first ways motherhood influenced her career is when she decided to focus her career on working in Fulton County, where she lived with her family, rather than continuing with the statewide POST. This decision not only helped her spend more time with her children, but led her to her first position with the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department.
In 1985 Barrett was appointed Chief Administrative Officer for the department. However, she would not take over the sheriff’s position just yet. Rather, in 1987, when the county opened it’s own training facility, she was selected to head it. Thus, she shattered her first glass ceiling as the first women to head an agency of this type in Georgia.
In 1992 the position of Sheriff of Fulton County opened up and Barrett decided to enter the race. With the support of the deputies’ union behind her, Barrett won the election and made history. Though she broke both racial and gender barriers when she was elected, she later told the Greensboro News and Record, “Every time I hear [that I made history], I go Who me? I was just running for a job.”
Since her tenure as sheriff began, Barrett’s department has overseen security for one World Series, one Super Bowl, one Democratic National Convention, and the 1996 Summer Olympic Games. The Atlanta Olympics marked the first time that two women, Barrett and Atlanta’s Chief of Police, Beverly Harvard, headed security for the Games, Of the Olympics, Barrett told the Greensboro News and Record, “It was the most intense, the most complex, the most detailed event ever in my life.” The Olympics, however, were marred by a tragic bombing. Barrett told the Greensboro News and Record that, although the bombing was regrettable, “I’m just delighted we were as prepared as we were for the aftermath.”
Barrett has not only been successful with high-profile events, but also behind the scenes at the department. Her administrative responsibilities have included: overseeing the county’s nearly 2, 000-capacity jail, maintaining security at the courthouse, and administering the day-to-day functions of the department. In her first term, Barrett was instrumental in removing the county jail from federal oversight, saving the county millions of dollars in federal fees and penalties. She further proved her administrative skills by moving the sheriff’s office into the computer age. She told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution that when she arrived, “the budget still had requests for electric typewriters.” Barrett succeeded in ensuring that there are desktops on every desk and laptops in patrol cars. In addition, Barrett launched an extensive website that, in addition to staff biographies and department information, features an online booking log for officers, allows families to check on inmates, and lets lawyers track subpoenas and other proceedings. Barrett has also successfully led the department on the quest for accreditation. In March 2000 the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department passed the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies’s stringent requirements to receive accreditation.
Barrett’s successes have not gone unnoticed. She has received numerous award including the Turner Broadcasting’s Trumpet Award for African American Achievement and the Martin Luther King, Jr. “Drum Major Award” for justice. She has also served as the president of the prestigious National Organization of Black Law Enforcement (NOBLE) and has been a regular guest on Cable News Network (CNN). However, the highest reflection of her skill as sheriff is the fact that she was elected to her third four-year term in 2000.
With public office, however, comes controversy and Barrett has had her share. In 1996, 16 white sheriff’s deputies filed reverse discrimination charges against Barrett and the Fulton County Sheriff’s Department. They claimed they were excluded from advancement within the department solely for racial reasons. The courts agreed and ordered the department to pay over #800, 000 to the 16 deputies. The judgment was overturned by another court and the settlements were appealed. Despite the outcome, this case cast a dark shadow over Barrett’s otherwise stellar career.
Barrett has also come under fire with charges of mismanaged healthcare at the Fulton County Jail. In 1999, with legal support from the Southern Center for Human Rights, six HIV-positive inmates filed a lawsuit claiming they received inadequate medical attention in Fulton County Jail. After eight months, the inmates agreed to settle their suit with the county. However, the fallout from the case included an intensive probe into conditions at the jail. The results, released in 2000, were scathing. The chief investigator called the jail “disgraceful and totally unacceptable” and cited “gross inadequacies in of medical care,” according to the Fulton County Daily Report. Barrett’s initial response was to not renew the contract with the prison’s medical provider. She also assured that necessary changes were underway including reorganization of medical records and renovations of jail buildings.
Despite the troubles she has experienced as sheriff, the fact remains that Barrett is an inspiration to black women and to all women in general. “I often get women and young girls who come up to me and tell me how proud they are of what I’ve done,” Barrett told USA Today. “If my story helps other women to talk about what’s possible, then I feel I’ve done my job.”
Ebony, August 1995, p94.
Eye on Women, (Atlanta), 1995.
Fulton County Daily Report (Fulton County, Georgia), March 16, 2000.
Greensboro News and Record (Greensboro, NC), October 2, 1996, p1.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Sunday December 10, 2000.
USA Today, December 16, 1999.
Additional information was obtained online at www.ful-tonsheriff.org
More From encyclopedia.com
County Government , COUNTY GOVERNMENT. County governments in the United States function as local administrative arms within the states. In the early 2000s the National A… County , COUNTY A political subdivision of a state, the power and importance of which varies from one state to another. A county is distinguishable from a cit… Hereford and Worcester , Hereford and Worcester. This was a new county, formed under the Local Government Act of 1972. It included the county borough of Worcester, the old co… Wiltshire , Wiltshire is one of the larger counties, more than 50 miles from north to south. It is not easy to perceive much geographical coherence and the balan… Dorset , Dorset is one of the oldest and most beautiful shires. But it has been so immortalized in the novels of Thomas Hardy that to many people it is better… Monaghan (county) , Monaghan County in Ulster province, ne Republic of Ireland, on the boundary with Northern Ireland; the county town is Monaghan. The s and e are hilly…
About this article
Barrett, Jacquelyn 1950–
Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article
You Might Also Like
Barrett, Jacquelyn 1950–
Barrett, Majel 1939- (Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, M. Leigh Hudec, Majel Roddenberry, Majel Barrett Roddenberry)