Major Craig Owens, currently the commander of Precinct 2 in the Cobb County Police Department, is a candidate in the upcoming Democratic primary for sheriff, where Owens, along with two other candidates are vying for the chance to face incumbent Republican Neil Warren in the fall election.
The Courier had a conversation with Owens, and began by asking about his background.
“I’ve been a Cobb County resident for over 30 years. I was born in North Carolina, and raised in the City of Atlanta,” he said. “I finished high school, (went) into the military, went to college, and came back and became a police officer.”
“I’ve been with the Cobb County Police Department for 31 years,” he said.
“I hold a master’s degree in Public Administration, a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice,” Owens said. “And an associate degree in Liberal Arts.”
“I’m a Command Sgt. Major in the United States Army Reserve,” Owens said. He said he is a graduate of the Army’s Sergeants Major Academy, and an Army War College graduate.
Owens said he has been the Division Sgt. Major of the M.P. Corps of the Army reserve, but will be retiring after 36 years of service and two combat tours.
“My responsibility detail (is) for over 14,000 soldiers across the United States and abroad to include Afghanistan, Kuwait, and also responsibility for soldiers running Guantanamo Bay,” he said.
Why Owens is running for office
Asked why he decided to run for office at this time, he said the incumbent had been in office for four decades, and that the right to serve has to be earned.
“Currently, I don’t think that’s been given to us citizens. And I’ll make sure that if I’m so fortunate to be elected, … that I have the transparency and the confidence of the community that I’m gonna do a good job and be accountable for my actions, as well as my deputies’ actions,” he said.
The Cobb County Adult Detention Center
Asked about conditions at the Cobb County Adult Detention Center, Owens said, “Things that I would look at changing if I was so fortunate to win this position: immediately looking at the conditions of the jail, which as we know been all across media and written in newspapers in different aspects.”
“My main focus is (to) provide basic needs and services for the detainees … inside the detention facility and make sure they receive the proper care,” he said. “And also to care for them who has some mental illnesses. We’ve got make sure we take care of them as well as take care of their basic medical needs while they’re in the facility.”
“They are our responsibility if they’re in my custody … we’ve got to take care of them,” he said. So I think that’s one thing we got to make sure we that we do a better job of taking care of the inmates that are under our custody and control, by make sure they get proper medical care and mental health care that we can provide in that facility. “
“We also got to make sure we train our deputies correctly and get the most qualified personnel to work in the facility,” he said. “And I think that is important. By having the best trained and the most qualified is gonna make the facility even much more efficient. So I think that’s something we got to concentrate on and get … re-evaluated in the beginning.”
Owens said he would also focus on collaboration between the sheriff’s office and local police departments.
“I don’t think we … have that right now,” he said. “We got a lot of gang activity which the sheriff’s department as a whole can help, (and) hopefully eradicate with local police departments … I think building a good partnership is going to fix that.”
“And overall crime Cobb County … if we all work together, I think we can solidify and eliminate some of those crimes just by working together and having that team effort,” Owens said.
Owens said he would address the problem of detainees who become repeat offenders.
“Can we give them some type of education? What can we do to give them some type of upward mobility (to) get out of there and come back to be great citizens? Versus sending them in and sending them back out (without trying) to give them any type of education or any other type of job training, something we can do to help them to become productive citizens in our county,” he said.
Owens gave his position on 287-G, the controversial program by which sheriff’s department employees are deputized as immigration enforcement agents.
“We need to review that. Is that an appropriate thing for our county? Is that a progressive thing?” he asked.
“Are we doing the job of a federal agent? And why are we wasting resources?” he asked. “And that’s something I’m not in support of.”
“I’m not in support of it because I think we can put those resources we put in that program to other resources in the county to help our crime rate come down,” he said.
“And I think if immigration is a federal task, they should be handling it,” he said. “And I can use my resources I’m putting into that to other things within the community to help my community out. And that’s why I think I could refocus that.”
“My job is protecting and serving the citizens of Cobb County,” he said. “So that means I got to be accessible. I gotta be transparent about things that happen this facility,” he said. “And if something happened bad in my facility, you’re gonna see me out speaking.”
“I’m not going to run not hide from it,” Owens said. “I’m bringing it to you and tell you what we do right and what we did wrong and how we’re going to get it right the next time … and what actions I’m gonna take.”
“So I think that’s all about having some different mindset and leadership,” he said.
Owens sad the the culture had changed in Cobb County Police Department over the past three or four years, and that he sees value in having independent evaluation.
“Having outside eyes, look at what you’re doing to make sure that you are doing it right. And if they make suggestions how you can do it better,” he said. “Take those suggestions and put them into practice, because no one person knows everything.”
“When I came here as commander couple years ago, and in the military or whenever you come into a new organization, a new job, you have to sit back and do that this assessment,” he said. “So I’m going to make an assessment.”
“Definitely I’ll make changes,” he said. “I don’t think it’s been ran efficiently. But obviously we know … right now there are some efficiency issues at the detention center based off what we know about the unfortunate deaths of some of those inmates …”
“That’d be the first thing I would tackle to make sure to see … how the the detention center has been ran and make sure it’s been run effectively and efficiently,” Owens said.
“I have no issues or qualms about having an outside third party come in and evaluate how we doing things and make sure we are doing it up to standards throughout United States,” he said.
Asked if he had any concluding remarks, Owens said, “I am definitely a product of South Cobb. I’ve lived here for 30 plus years (and) my kids went to school here.”
“I have a vested interest in Cobb County,” he said. “This is my home. I don’t plan on leaving. So I have a vested interest. And I think when people have a vested interest in something, they’re more apt to put everything into it.”
“In the military we have ‘one team, one fight.’ I want to bring that same type mentality into the sheriff’s department. We’re one team, one fight, but I will add not only one team one fight but we also want community,” Owens said.
The general primary is scheduled for June 9.
For more information on the Owens campaign visit his campaign website at https://www.craigforcobbsheriff.com/