Sheriff Don Barnes has over thirty years of law enforcement service to the people of Orange County. He joined the Orange County Sheriff’s Department in 1989. Over the course of his career with the department he has held every leadership rank, culminating with his election as the 13th Sheriff-Coroner for Orange County in November 2018.
Sheriff Barnes leads a department of approximately 4,000 employees. The men and women of the Sheriff’s Department provide patrol services for approximately 800,000 residents, operate one of the nation’s largest county jail systems, manage the Orange County Crime Lab, conduct criminal investigations, and provide training services at the Orange County Sheriff’s Regional Training Academy. The Sheriff serves as the County’s Mutual Aid Coordinator and is responsible for emergency management. In 2020 the Sheriff faced the challenge leading the County’s response to multiple emergencies: the COVID-19 pandemic, civil unrest, and multiple wildfires.
During his tenure as Sheriff he has focused on initiatives aimed at fighting crime, enhancing school safety, implementing programs in the jail to reduce recidivism, and increasing efforts to stop trafficking of deadly narcotics. The issues of homelessness, mental illness and drug addiction impact the safety and quality of life for Orange County residents. To address these issues the Sheriff has taken a leadership role in creating the County of Orange Integrated Services Plan. This plan is an effort by multiple stakeholders in Orange County to better coordinate existing resources and more effectively mitigate these issues. These efforts are receiving national recognition. In February 2020, Sheriff Barnes was appointed to serve on the Social Problems Working Group, a subcommittee of the Presidential Commission on Law Enforcement. The Commission’s December 2020 Final Report featured recommendations that highlighted several best practices from Orange County, including the Integrated Services Plan.
The Sheriff has worked to be an advocate for law enforcement and public safety both at the state and federal level. He currently serves as an executive officer with the California State Sheriffs’ Association (CSSA) and serves as the chair of CSSA’s Technology Committee. At the national level, he serves as chair of the Major County Sheriffs of America’s (MCSA) Intelligence Commander Group. In that capacity the Sheriff is working to ensure open communication amongst local, state and federal law enforcement regarding critical threats facing our nation. This work is also accomplished through his service as MCSA’s representative to the Department of Justice’s Criminal Intelligence Coordinating Council (CICC).
In addition to his law enforcement work, the Sheriff is also an active member of several community organizations. He serves as board member for Orange County Crime Stoppers, Laura’s House, the Multi-Ethnic Collaborative of Community Agencies (MECCA), the Special Olympics Regional Leadership Council, and the Sheriff’s Interfaith Council.
Sheriff Barnes has a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration and a Masters in Public Administration. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, the FBI National Executive Institute, USC’s CREATE Program on Counter-Terrorism, the Senior Management Institute for Policing, and IACP’s Leadership in Police Organizations.
A Southern California native, Sheriff Barnes has been a resident of Orange County for over forty years. He and his wife, Marilyn, are the proud parents of two adult children. The Barnes Family are members of Saddleback Church in South Orange County. In his free time, Sheriff Barnes enjoys spending time with family and friends, cooking meals on his smoker, working on cars, and reading.