The Cobb County Board of Commissioners unanimously approved the recommendation by Cobb County Manager Dr. Jackie McMorris that Deputy Chief Stuart VanHoozer take over as police chief effective immediately.
VanHoozer had been a deputy chief since 2018, and shared the interim chief position with Deputy Chief Scott Hamilton after the retirement of former Chief of Police Tim Cox.
The county held a press conference after the regular BOC business was completed.
McMorris said at the press conference that over 50 applications had been reviewed.
“I can tell you we had a lot of really good qualified applicants,” she said. “But we’re very proud to say today, we strongly believe we have chosen the most qualified, best suited police chief for Cobb County.”
“And that is Chief VanHoozer,” she said. “So we feel very strongly that he is going to take Cobb and our police department into truly 21st century policing.”
“He is a man of integrity. He has over 32 years of experience in various areas of law enforcement,” McMorris said. “So we are very fortunate here in Cobb to be able to choose someone from within our own ranks.”
“Someone from home, someone who grew up here in Cobb, who has lived here, who has raised children here, who has a family here, who has strong ties to Cobb,” she said.
BOC Chairwoman Lisa Cupid said, “Thank you, Dr. McMorris for outlining the process for selection of our police chief, and for speaking to the quality of the chief that we appointed today.”
“This was not an easy decision for the Board of Commissioners,” Cupid said. “We’ve had extremely qualified candidates, and very lengthy deliberation about who would be best to take Cobb County into the future.”
“We know that this was a tough decision made in a very tough climate when it comes to policing, especially considering all that has transpired, not just locally, but nationally,” she said.
“I served with DC Van Hoozer as a district commissioner for the South Cobb area,” she said. “And there he was a major for Precinct 2.”
“And we’ve had a lot of majors in Precinct 2, which covers the Six Flags area and Mableton. as well as some parts of Powder Springs and South Marietta,” she said.
“With all the crime that we had going on in the Six Flags area, when everybody addressed crime as a crime issue, and crime was something that always seemed to be rampant in that area, Major VanHoozer was the first person to say ‘This is not a crime issue. This is a community development issue.'”
“And instead of just looking at crime as being an entity that stands on its own, he looked at what is the root cause of the crime,” Cupid said. “And he started to bring together businesses and the landlords of multiple complexes there.”
“And through working with them strategically, we were able to get crime down to unprecedented levels, because he didn’t look at crime just as being crime,” she said.
Cobb County Public Safety Director Randy Crider said, “I will say this to you: First and foremost, he’s going to do what’s right.”
“He’s going to do what’s right by his officers.” Crider said. “But he’s also going to do what’s right by the community.”
“And when there’s conflict with that, he’s going to do what’s right,” he said.
“And I will say to you, and I think the officers in the Cobb County Police Department know this, that he’s going to hold you accountable,” Crider said. “But yet, he’s also going to have expectations of you to maybe adjust your mindset on policing, if you need to make that adjustment.”
VanHoozer took the podium and talked about his time growing in in Cobb County, then turned to the topic of community policing.
“What we do as police officers is something that nobody else can do,” he said. “And we need to realize that the impact that we can have on people every single day is really beyond what we recognize.”
“Because we do this every single day, we don’t realize what a traffic stop means to a citizen,” he said. “We can make their day better during that traffic stop, even if we issue them a citation. Or we can make their day worse, just by our attitude and just by how we treat them and talk to them.”
“When I got this job from the Cobb County Police Department,” VanHoozer said. “I lived in a basement in Mableton.”
“And when it rained, I would get a couple of inches of water in that basement,” he said. “And I was making about $5.25 an hour.”
“I had no skills. I had nothing special. I had no military, I had no prior police. I had no education. And Cobb County Police Department hired me,” he said. “They put me in a little bitty thing called a beat, which is an area where officers work.”
“They gave me one little section of Earth to protect for eight hours,” he said. “And from there I fell in love with this job.”
“I came from pretty much nothing. And if there are people out there thinking that you have to be someone special, or look a certain way or be from a certain background, that is not true. All you have to do is be willing to do something great for your community, to take on a challenging career. It is the most rewarding career you will ever have in your life. I can look back on 32 years, and I didn’t regret one minute of this job,” VanHoozer said.
Two activists on public safety issue then spoke, Sally Riddle of the Coalition for Public Safety, and Dr. Benjamin Williams of Cobb County SCLC.
“Good morning,” Riddle said. “I’m Sally Riddle representing the Cobb Coalition for Public Safety, a group of citizen activists who’ve been working with the Cobb County Police Department now for about seven years since we formed on policing and community relations.”
“And Stuart is not new to us,” said Riddle.
“I think I first met Stuart when he was heading up Precinct 2,” she said. “We have been working with Stuart as part of the executive team since he became Deputy Chief as well as when he was in charge of Precinct 2.”
She said she looked forward to supporting the efforts of VanHoozer to moved Cobb’s community policing to the next level.
“But as chief Vanhoozer also knows, we will also be quick to challenge when we feel that there’s things that need to be considered that perhaps have not been looked at, at this point in time,” she said. “So from both perspectives, congratulations. And we look forward to continue to work with you.”
“Thank you, Sally,” said Dr. Williams as he took the podium. “Just very quickly, those of you who look at some footage about new chiefs coming in, me standing up with the new chief is not something new.”
“The process has been conducted, a selection has been made, and our new chief has been selected. So I’m here in person, as I did with his predecessors, to welcome him to his new job,” Williams said. “And to say to him publicly what I’ve said to them.”
“SCLC has a long history in the social justice space, that includes criminal justice as well,” he said. “We have invested major parts of our time in really making sure that the continuity that the new chief referred to because of the transience of folk who come through, has some stability.”
“Overall, the community is that continuity,” he said. “If in fact, when we’re in the room, we are more than present, we are also adding value to whatever conversations, decisions that are made, and work to be done.”
“So our investment is one of a commitment to help us maintain the progress that we’ve made in Cobb County,” said Williams. “So Chief Stuart, I extend my hand to you to be there with you, whether I stand by myself, or with a legion.”
“If you’re right, I will stand up for you and speak out for you. But also, if you’re not right, and you want to correct it … I’m there,” he said. “If you don’t want to correct it, then you will find us, and only then, on opposing sides.”
“So once again, welcome, chief, to your new assignment, and good luck,” said Williams.
Cupid then said, “Well, it’s good, at least for now, we’re all on the same side.”