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Sgt. announces bid for sheriff

COVINGTON - DeKalb County Sheriff's Office Sgt. Chris Cowan became the final candidate to qualify for sheriff late Thursday afternoon.

Cowan, a Republican, previously ran for sheriff in 2004 and was defeated by current Sheriff Joe Nichols, who is retiring after three terms.

"I wasn't able to pursue the goals I had in 2004 and I want to pick up on those goals. They're not lying idle," Cowan said of why he decided to run again.

One of those goals is to attain accreditation from The Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies, which Cowan said would bring national and international standards of operation to the department and limit the department's liability exposure. Accreditation could also open the doors for grants and other funding, he said. Cowan spearheaded the accreditation of the DeKalb County Sheriff's Office in 2006.

The increase in domestic violence cases is a big concern for Cowan, and he sees a need for a diversion program for men who commit such crimes.

Increased criminal activity among the county's youth is also a problem Cowan would like to address.

"Our youth need guidance and direction, not criminal records to reflect and dote on. It is a shame that this is what our youth have grown accustomed to," he said.

Cowan said he would work to build involvement with parents and the community at large to set up programs, support groups and positive activities for kids.

Though the East Metro Drug Enforcement Team was recently disbanded, Cowan said the Sheriff's Office can't let up on pursuit of drug activity.

"We've got a drug problem in Newton County. We've had one for a long time. There were reasons EMDET was disbanded, but we need a stronger anti-drug campaign," he said. "I want drug offenders to know it's not going to be tolerated."

Cowan has 20 years of law enforcement experience, and said his time in DeKalb County qualifies him to deal with the growing crime rate in Newton.

"The same problems DeKalb County has experienced, Newton County is going to be experiencing," he said. "I think it's time to bring the agency to where it needs to be to get ready to work on that growth. I have a lot of good ideas ... If we don't keep the agency along the lines with the growth, if we don't keep up with it, it's going to outgrow us."

Cowan grew up in Gwinnett County and graduated from Shiloh High School. He joined the Stone Mountain Park Police immediately after graduation and was hired by DeKalb County in 1990.

Cowan spent 15 years in the field operations division and seven years on an investigations unit that dealt with fugitives, fraud and domestic violence.

He was promoted to the rank of sergeant and is a shift supervisor in the jail.

Cowan moved to Newton County in 1999.

He is an assistant scout master for a local Boy Scout troop, works with the youth group at St. Pius X Catholic Church and is chairman of the Veterans Memorial Middle School Council.

He and his wife Kym have six children.

Cowan faces Stacey Cotton, Marty Roberts and Bill Watterson in the July 15 primary. Ezell Brown and Gwen Hightower are running on the Democratic

ticket.

Crystal Tatum can be reached at crystal.tatum@newtoncitizen.com.