Presidential Detail Gives Officer Chance To Witness History For Past 50 Years


When a presidential candidate comes to town, Lt. Karl Barth of the Columbus Division of Police may be the one person who doesn't play politics.

“When the secret service calls, I get a hold of the other agencies, outside departments other groups and invite them to the briefing,” explained Barth.

His focus is on protecting the candidate, and the wall in his office is proof of his track record.

Barth can rattle off the list of his presidential assignments over the years.

The names include Obama, Bush (father and son), Reagan, Carter, Ford, Nixon, Johnson, and Kennedy which was the first president that he met.

The meeting with John F. Kennedy would have a lasting impact on Barth. 

On Nov. 22, 1963, the day Kennedy was assassinated, Barth was riding his motorcycle on West Mound Street in Columbus. 

Barth said with every dignitary visit he coordinates, he works to make sure there is no chance for another tragedy like the one in Dallas. He said it’s always in the back of his mind.

“Since that was the first motorcade that I ever was with and that was President Kennedy when I had the privilege of meeting him,” said Barth.

With a career spanning 51 years, there have been countless meetings and campaign stops, and this year's White House race is no exception. 

Obama, Romney, Biden, Ryan and their wives and other dignitaries have made Ohio the focus of the campaign.

Barth said there have been so many dignitary visits this year that he's lost count, but he never forgets what it takes to make each stop safe.

He takes the lead in connecting local police, fire and emergency agencies with agents from the U.S. Secret Service.  Then, he and the Columbus Division of Police traffic bureau team tackle the motorcade routes.

“After that, I put together a booklet on what all the different agencies are doing to assist in that visit such as a helicopter flying over, the crowd control at a venue, what the railroad is doing, what other agencies are doing all on that visit,” he explained.

Other details are classified, and discretion is critical to dignitary protection.
It's never political with Barth who said he's happy to see these familiar political faces come to town and even happier when they leave.

“When they have wheels up and they're heading out of town, at least they've gotten through our jurisdiction safely,” he added.

In today's 24-hour, seven day a week, back and forth in battleground Ohio; a return visit at any time is a campaign promise sure to be kept.

Both Barth’s father and brother served in the Columbus Division of Police, and he holds the division's 'longevity' record at 51 years and counting.

Barth said he plans to stay on the job as long as his health is good.