Chief of county investigations is an open book, he says

Chief of county investigations is an open book, he says

A pink phone, “Where’s Waldo,” and a drum kit may not be at the top of the list of things associated with a chief investigator, but Captain Aaron Barlowe with the Caldwell County Sheriff’s Office has illustrated there is a lot of personality resting behind his badge.

Barlowe is currently responsible for every investigation at the sheriff’s office, and was promoted to captain in 2018.  

Though the position comes with a fair amount of stress, he says, the employees at the sheriff’s office know how to cut the tension with workplace pranks. 

“We’ve pulled all kinds of jokes on each other. It’s nothing that’s devious or hurting anybody, but it’s something to give you a good laugh and break the stress you’re dealing with.”

Barlowe once recalled losing his sunglasses for a few hours, only to find them frozen in a block of ice when he opened the break room freezer. 

“It was a really good joke, it breaks the monotony,” he said. “But I’ll tell you one of the most hilarious things that’s happened…” 

One day while filling his car with gas before a day's long training session he was teaching, Barlowe said he sat his phone on top of the gas pump and forgot it there.

 Unbeknownst to Barlowe at the time, someone with the sheriff's office located the phone quickly. Rather than immediately return the phone, his co-workers let him wonder. 

In the meantime, “I had to use whatever phone I could get a hold the time that was my wife’s old cell phone, which just so happened to be pink,” Barlowe said.

Barlowe said he was in the presence of three State Bureau of Investigation agents when his phone rang. 

“They look at me and just start horse laughing because I’m sitting there with a pink phone,” he said. “But I had to have a phone.”

Barlowe's cell phone was returned when a fellow investigator used it as a piece of mock evidence for the class, “and they made it to where it would ring and catch me off guard,” he said. 

“My favorite part about what I do is the people I get to deal with,” he said. “As an investigator you put on many hats. You’re a police officer… you’re a support system…”

He noted that oftentimes, “we’re dealing with people on the worst day of their life, so there’s opportunities there to help pick people up, and help people understand what’s going on.”

“It puts us in a position to be comforters and that’s one of the things’s not fun to do…but you can definitely make an impact on somebody in the worst hours of their life,” he said. 

Barlowe said that due to the various hats law enforcement has to wear, a lot goes into what makes a good agent. For the investigators he supervises, attention to detail is on the top of his list.

“Those details are some of the things that will solve the cases. For me, I’ve always liked puzzles. It’s always drawn my interest since I was a child, like ‘Where’s Waldo’ and things like that. That’s what would make somebody very successful at this job.”

One of the assets of this community in regards to his position is that “everybody knows everybody,” Barlowe said. 

He explained that oftentimes when discussing cases, investigators with the sheriff’s office can put together a suspect list simply by what other investigators have dealt with in the past. 

“We’re a fairly good sized county, but still, it’s got the small community feel to it.”

One thing he believes could bridge the gap of public perception and his line of work is, “the limitations we have."

“CSI (the television show) really altered the mindset of what law enforcement has the capabilities of doing, in the show they have it to where Gil (a character from the show) would come out, he’d get DNA on every scene and get finger prints on every scene, and by the end of the show he’s figured out who the guy is and it’s done within an hour,” he said. 

“That technology is there, but you have the entire state of North Carolina using the same people to do it, so there’s a lot of cases coming in, and the turn around is nowhere near the time frame that it would be on the show,” Barlowe said. 

As for what he has on the top of his priority list moving forward, Barlowe is looking to “get the investigations division as technologically up to date as possible.”

“That’s where we win,” he said. “Where we get our true evidence and our solid cases is through technology.”

Barlowe explained that one of the greatest accomplishments of his time, and top priorities to continue building upon, is recognizing that there are two crime scenes. 

“When you have a murder, you have the body and the witnesses, but you also have this unseen digital crime scene that’s all over the place. It’s being able to recognize that.” 

“We had that transition, I really noticed it between 2010 and 2015…that’s one of the things that has really helped us out with investigations and be able to solidify our cases,” he said. 

When Barlowe isn’t at the sheriff’s office, you can find him playing drums in his band, Mercy Heart, in a few local churches in the region. 

“That’s my stress relief,” he said. “For me, it is 100% my release with all this stress, and it’s where I center myself up. It’s not just playing music, but the ministry and the music behind it.”

This article is part of a growing series to introduce residents to their local leaders, and get to know “the person behind the position.” 

If you have a suggestion on who you would like to see next, email


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