The Covington News - - Front page -

them in the kids’ pock­ets as they went off, and I told them to call me if they needed me,” Roberts said.

Most of the time noth­ing came of those lists, but once Roberts re­ceived a mes­sage that for­mer Judge Billy Wa­ters was looking for him. Roberts’ first re­ac­tion was to won­der what he had done wrong, but as it turned out, his words had struck a chord.

“He said that a kid wanted me to know that I had saved his life and turned him around,” Roberts said.

Al­though Roberts was suc­cess­ful as a po­lice of­fi­cer, winning rookie of­fi­cer of the year in 1987 and help­ing form the CPD’s first crime scene in­ves­ti­ga­tion unit, his faith was the cen­tral mo­ti­va­tor in his life. That’s what even­tu­ally led him to leave the force and go into min­istry full time.

He had told then Sher­iff Joe Ni­chols that the only rea­son he would leave the NCSO was if he re­ceived a full-time of­fer from a church, and that call fi­nally came from Belmont Bap­tist Church in Cony­ers in 2004.

He started there in a fa­mil­iar po­si­tion, as the full-time youth pas­tor. But soon af­ter, Belmont re­ceived a call for help from Trin­ity Bap­tist Church on U.S. High­way 441 in Mor­gan County. Belmont be­gan send­ing dif­fer­ent church of­fi­cials to preach at Trin­ity ev­ery week, in­clud­ing Roberts, who re­ceived his first op­por­tu­nity to preach on a reg­u­lar ba­sis.

Af­ter a few months, Belmont Pas­tor Nolan Jack­son saw a tal­ent in Roberts and knew that he was suited to be Trin­ity’s full­time pas­tor. But Roberts didn’t yet know that, so Jack­son sent him on a prayer re­treat.

Af­ter four days of soli­tary pray­ing and search­ing, Roberts said that God re­vealed his will. Soon af­ter Roberts was voted in as the head pas­tor at Trin­ity.

“Law en­force­ment pre­pared me to be a pas­tor more than any­thing else could have. It helped me with mar­i­tal con­flicts, be­cause I knew what fam­i­lies were re­ally go­ing through. I had ex­pe­ri­ence work­ing with (trou­bled) teens and help­ing them,” Roberts said.

Dur­ing his time at Trin­ity, he over­saw the ex­pan­sion of the church’s build­ing and con­gre­ga­tion, which grew from 22 to 90 dur­ing his four years there. Smith said he heard Roberts preach on sev­eral oc­ca­sions and be­lieved his suc­cess was be­cause he was a car­ing, com- pas­sion­ate man who had pow­er­ful sto­ries to tell.

“He had a com­pas­sion­ate way about him, but at the same time he could see the se­ri­ous­ness in sit­u­a­tions,” Smith said.

Though Roberts en­joyed his time and had suc­cess­fully helped the church grow, he left the church the same way he joined it, by fol­low­ing God’s plan for his life. He re­signed from Trin­ity in March of this year and found him­self un­em­ployed in the midst of the long re­ces­sion. He man­aged to find part-time work at the Jasper County Sher­iff’s Of­fice, but that wasn’t enough to sup­port his fam­ily.

“We faced some hard times for six months without a full­time pay­check,” Roberts said.

He des­per­ately needed a full­time job and that’s when Brad­ford brought up an in­ter­est­ing idea: come back to the CPD. At first Robert was hes­i­tant. An open­ing was in the process of be­ing filled, but CPD Chief Stacey Cot­ton said if that can­di­date didn’t work out, then Roberts would have the job. The rest is his­tory.

“We al­ways say that things hap­pen by co­in­ci­dence, but there was no co­in­ci­dence. That open­ing came for me. I even got my old badge num­ber,” Roberts said.

Cot­ton said he was happy to have Roberts back on the force.

“I thought it was ironic how we had started out to­gether, and now 22 years later I had the chance to hire him again. It was in­ter­est­ing to look at how we had changed,” Cot­ton said.

Roberts said the pro­gres­sion in tech­nol­ogy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions had been the big­gest change, but many of the re­la­tion­ships have re­mained the same, even if Robert’s fel­low rook­ies are now his su­pe­rior of­fi­cers.

“It’s kind of a joke that now the peo­ple I trained with are my boss; it’s a lit­tle topsy-turvy. But I al­ways treated them right be­fore and now they treat me right back,” Roberts said.

Smith said it’s not sur­pris­ing that Roberts fits back in so well, be­cause he’s a great man and a great friend.

“I al­ways knew that if I needed him, he would be here for me and my fam­ily. That’s some­thing we kind of take for granted th­ese days,” Smith said.

Roberts said he has no plans to move on from the CPD. He said he hopes to re­tire even­tu­ally from his home­town po­lice force. Oh, and he’s plan­ning to start help­ing out in min­istry. Af­ter all, it’s only nat­u­ral.

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