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.