Van Alstyne Police Chief Tim Barnes knows that a recent decision he has made regarding his department may bring him heat, but he is prepared for whatever may come his way. Barnes has the strength of conviction on his side, and he believes that this decision he has made is doing the right thing.
VAPD vehicles now have “In God We Trust” decals on them. Barnes is adamant that the verbiage is simply an attempt to get back to what’s right and that there is no religious connotation involved.
“I think it’s getting back to the basics,” said Barnes. “It’s not a religious-type thing; I’m not pushing religion on anyone. With the society we have now — especially with law enforcement — it’s another symbol of doing what’s right. It’s no different than the ‘Community First’ decals already on our cars. It’s just getting back to the basics.”
Barnes takes great pains to stress that it is not a religious statement.
“When I talk about doing what’s right, it means what’s right in that person’s belief system, whatever god they may pray to,” said Barnes. “But we have to get back to what this country was founded on. Society has to make an adjustment to what we’re going to tolerate and what we’re not going to tolerate. It is not there to offend anyone, nor is it any kind of religious statement. I just feel it’s the right thing to do.”
Those four words made national headlines a couple of months ago when Childress, (Tx.) police chief Adrian Garcia put “In God We Trust” decals on his department’s vehicles. The matter has been taken up by the top lawmakers in the state as Attorney General Ken Paxton last week handed down his decision backing police departments’ right to display the motto. Paxton cited the fact that “In God We Trust” is the nation’s motto and is found on coins and printed currency and further opined “displaying ‘In God We Trust’ on police vehicles is a passive use of a motto steeped in our nation’s history that does not coerce Citizen approval or participation.”
While other police chiefs waited to see which way the attorney general fell on the issue, Barnes did not. The decals had been ordered and placed on vehicles a day before the decision was announced. Currently, it is believed that Van Alstyne is the only city in Grayson County to have “In God We Trust” on its vehicles.
Barnes said that, so far, the reaction has been all positive.
“I haven’t heard any negative yet,” said Barnes. “Again, I want to stress that this is not a religious stance. I’m not pushing my religion or anyone’s religion on anyone. In this community, I think the department will be backed 100 percent. I’m sure as soon as this story comes out, I’ll get some [negativity] but I’m prepared for that. If there is an issue, I think it will come from outside the community and come from people who don’t understand what those words can entail or they’re reading into those words that’s it’s a religious statement. It’s not.”
While Barnes stresses also that he made this decision completely on his own, he said that it has been supported by the city council and City Manager Frank Baker.
“Chief Barnes brought his idea to me along with the legal documentation to substantiate his decision. We discussed his goal of humanizing the department and city as a whole by stating our common beliefs on the vehicles. I support him and his officers in their desire to bring the community together through any opportunity available,” said Baker.
Barnes said no matter what comes down the road, he stands by his decision.
“I think it’s the right thing to do and time will tell,” he said. “It was my decision and my decision only. If I doubted it was the right thing to do I wouldn’t have put it on the cars. I feel passionately about doing the right thing. It’s what I expect of our officers. There has to be a glimmer of light for the hardships going on across the nation. Maybe not [in Van Alstyne] because we are supported here, but nationwide. We have to figure out how to get things going in the right direction.”