220113ind barry

After a 26-year career with the North Kingstown Police Department, Paul Barry died suddenly last month.

NORTH KINGSTOWN, R.I. — Paul Barry always wanted to help people, said his brother, Kevin.

“I believe that’s the reason he became a police officer,” he said about Paul, 48, a North Kingstown Police captain, who died in mid-December after a sudden onset of illness. “He really liked police work and helping people.”

A 26-year member of the town police department, Barry was a “cop’s cop,” said Chief Patrick Flanagan, and leaves a mark of distinction for his willingness to put his life into a passion for law enforcement and his family and friends.

His brother, Kevin, tells the story of getting him in high school to join the football team. He was built to play football, “but wasn’t really inclined toward sports or athletics, but we convinced him to try out.”

Well, Paul went to the recruiting practices and participated in several of the tryouts, but then just suddenly decided not to do it, Kevin said. “About half the football team came down to the house to try to convince him to keep playing,” he added.

He wouldn’t do it. “I asked him later why not? He replied, ‘I just don’t like hurting people.’ He saw people get hurt playing the game.”

“Paul then matured into the most driven, courageous, and strongest man I have ever known. He also had an unyielding sense of empathy and compassion. Always extending a helping hand,” he said in a eulogy for his brother.

If anything underscored his brother’s love of police work, it was his interest in joining the police Explorers as teenager, getting a former R.I. State Police cruiser as his first car and using a 2014 black police Ford Crown Victoria the police department owns.

It’s called the “Black Stallion,” and he was meticulous about keeping the car clean, neat and shiny, Flanagan said.

James Tierney, a former South Kingstown police officer and Narragansett town manager, became close friends with Paul while mentoring him as an Explorer with the South Kingstown Police.

“He was the leader of the gang. He really enjoyed being in it and you could see he would make a great cop,” Tierney said about the young Paul Barry.

Detective Lt. Jeff St. Onge, in a remembrance, recalled that career Tierney saw taking shape. Barry began his career with DB Kelley Security – working his way up to supervisor of several crews throughout Massachusetts and Rhode Island.  

“While many young adults are still trying to figure out what they wanted to be when they grow up, Paul already bled blue and followed his desire to serve and protect,” St. Onge said.  

At 21, Barry joined the North Kingstown Police in July, 1995, following graduation from the police academy.

As with new officers, he started in the patrol division, said he long-time friend who also was already a town police officer. “Paul lived for police work.  I recall many nights watching Paul flying up and down Post Road looking for criminal activity,” he said.

“At the time, Paul was badge 62 and we called dispatch ‘W.’  Paul was so dedicated to police work that Jim Robinson and I often joked how we would not be surprised if we heard Paul over the police radio ‘62 to W, send me a tow truck to my mom’s house her registration has expired,” he said with some humor.

One small detail about Paul Barry — he “LOVED” the police lights, St. Onge said.

“He found a way to put lights in his personal car and without permission.  At another time he didn’t like that we did not have yellow/amber in our patrol car light bars.  Paul ordered a light and figured out how to put in the light bar,” he said, noting that Barry was not the most handy person with installations and repairs.

In December of 2001, Barry was transferred to the detective division and worked side-by-side with St. Onge for seven more years. During that time, in 2005, Barry was named the Rotary Club’s Police Officer of the Year.

On March 12, 2008, he was promoted to the rank of sergeant and two years later was again promoted, this time to lieutenant. On October 11, 2015, after some organizational changes, he served as acting Captain until he was formally promoted to Captain on July 16, 2016.

“In the 26 years I have known Paul, he has helped me move into a new house and has seen my daughter, Jacqueline, and my son, Noah, grow into adults.  My wife, Claudia, and I had many nights sitting with Paul chatting and of course Paul and I drinking our MacCallan Scotch,” he said.

He noted that Barry lived by the code “Family First” all times, and whether his own, that of his friends or the North Kingstown residents he served.

“Paul loved his mom and dad and Kevin with all his heart. They were always a topic in our conversations.  Paul’s late brother, Michael, was always in his heart and he showed this by having a picture of him in his office and in his home,” he said.

Barry was not married and did not have any children, “but he understood the importance of work-life balance. He vicariously lived through many of us.  Paul felt his police family was his extended family,” St. Onge said.

“During many conversations with Paul he always spoke fondly of his good friends, including John Michaledes, Jim Tierney, Ryan Heise and Diane Rogers.  He loved Diane’s visits to his office throughout the day,” he said.

That dedication to police work, said Chief Patrick Flanagan, brought a colorful quality to his blood, referring to the color blue in association with their uniforms and the profession in general.

“He had blue blood running through and through his veins,” the chief said.

Write to Bill Seymour, freelance writer covering news and feature stories, at independent.southcountylife@gmail.com.

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