Sheriff briefs residents on vision for the future

May 1—MARIETTA — More than 60 people attended a community briefing held by the Cobb County Sheriff's Office on Saturday morning at First Presbyterian Church.

The purpose of the event was to inform residents on some of the new equipment being used as well as the kinds of services the sheriff's office provides.

Horses Duke and Diesel of the mounted patrol unit greeted visitors by the entrance, as did members of the motorcycle unit.

A drone with the word "sheriff" on its side grabbed the attention of attendees as they stepped into the church.

Deputy Chris Jones, a member of the drone team, was there to greet people as he explained some of the uses and capabilities of the new technology.

"The small one can be used to go into houses to gather information," Jones said. "We actually had someone surrender to a drone — the person followed the drone out of the house. The drones are very expensive, and cool," he said.

Jones said the general flight time depends on what it is being used for — hovering, chasing, surveillance — and is equipped with a speaker, a spotlight and a camera. It can also drop items in rescue situations.

Sheriff Craig Owens, who took office in January of 2021, spoke at length about what the sheriff's office does to keep residents safe while being transparent and building trust.

"Staying modern, with a new police fleet, facilities, tasers, technology and drones, is vital to keeping our deputies and citizens safe," Owens said. "I think we have the best drone program around."

Owens discussed how drone technology is being used at the Braves' baseball stadium, Truist Park, festivals and other public gatherings to make sure the community stays safe.

"The idea is to work smarter, not harder," Owens said. "We're focused on education and training to keep our deputies mentally and physically fit."

The sheriff's office serves the third largest population in the state of Georgia, according to their website, with a staff of more than 800 deputies and civilians.

The law enforcement agency executes a wide range of services, including jail operations, court security, criminal warrant execution, mental health transports, fugitive investigation and apprehension, funeral escorts, background checks and more.

Col. Ryan Mehling, commander of the field operations division, discussed some of what goes into making sure the courts are safe.

"We have new X-ray machines at all the checkpoints," Mehling said. "More than 162,000 people were scanned through last year, with 701 weapons found, 481 knives and five guns."

Other topics in the discussion included what is being done at the jails to help prepare inmates for a future when they are released. There is currently a GED program and courses to teach inmates a trade, like welding.

After answering a few questions from the audience, Owens ended the program by inviting attendees to check out some of the new technology displayed in the lobby, adding that he believes the department is moving in the right direction and is one of the best in the country.

"Our command staff is one of the most diverse in the nation, and one of the best," Owens said. "When you look like the people you represent, they are more open to listen."