Those eating lunch in downtown Millbrae may have already met Lt. Ed Barberini.
He likes to go down there in uniform from time to time and meet residents. Most, he said, don’t realize that he serves as the police chief for the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Office Millbrae Police Bureau. But he prefers it that way. Barberini isn’t trying to flaunt his position. The 42-year-old is simply hoping to get to know residents in the town he’s been serving since March.
Barberini grew up in neighboring Burlingame but didn’t start helping in Millbrae until earlier this year, when the city decided to contract with the Sheriff’s Office for police services. While such a switch can be contentious, the goal is to make the change in such a manner that residents don’t notice it. Barberini said he’s been lucky. It’s been quiet since he took the helm with few problems.
It was his local background that really piqued City Manager Marcia Raines’ interest when putting in her two cents about the chief position.
"He’s a local boy and he knows our area,” she said.
Barberini is a self-proclaimed boring guy. He lives in Belmont, has a 13-year-old daughter, loves reading fiction and continues a life-long love for sports — particularly the San Francisco Giants. He attended Our Lady of Angels then St. Ignatius College Preparatory in San Francisco. His world revolved around football and baseball growing up but Barberini didn’t think he would be a superstar in the pros. At a young age, Barberini started working as a butcher in a San Mateo shop. He was set — a union job with benefits that worked around his school schedule.
Barberini studied at the College of San Mateo before finishing his political science degree at San Francisco State University. He studied law briefly but realized it wasn’t for him. Barberini actually applied to the Sheriff’s Office on a whim. He was still employed but his friends were going for it, so he turned in an application as well.
In 1994, Barberini joined the Sheriff’s Office as a correctional officer at the county jail in Redwood City. After a little over a year in that position, he was able to go through training and become a deputy sheriff.
Barberini said his background working in the private sector then the jail before becoming an officer was an advantage. He had more experience with dealing with people and understanding their point of view, he said.
Barberini’s law enforcement background includes a variety of positions. He spent a handful of years doing patrol in East Palo Alto, unincorporated Redwood City and Half Moon Bay before working with special street crimes team with the Redwood City department, which often focused on gang problems. Barberini spent six years working on the countywide narcotics task force which allowed him to work with individuals throughout the state. He’s also spent time working with the Office of Emergency Services before being considered to work in Millbrae.
All of those instances provided different training. Barberini believes in training. He often takes part in county-offered trainings but also now holds two master’s degrees, in public administration and homeland defense and security.
Joining Millbrae was nice for Barberini who previously had more of a learning curb when he took on new positions. But in Millbrae, he knew the area. The town, he said, has a lot of traffic and a transient population because of its proximity to transportation options. Despite being small, it’s enough activity to keep officers busy, he said.
Barberini’s goal is to maintain the level of service residents were used to while keeping people safe. Simply put, he hopes people in Millbrae feel safe in their homes and comfortable to stroll downtown for whatever they need.
"If nothing happens in Millbrae today,” he said, "that’s a good day for me.”
Heather Murtagh can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone: (650) 344-5200 ext. 105.