Two Democrats running for Cobb Sheriff will end the office’s use of solitary confinement and push for an end to the arrest of people for misdemeanor possession of marijuana should they triumph in November.

James Herndon, a former sergeant with the Cobb Sheriff’s Office, and Craig Owens, a major in the Cobb Police Department, agreed on those and several other issues during a virtual forum hosted by the Austell Community Task Force and the Mableton Improvement Coalition Thursday.

Democrat Gregory Gilstrap, a police officer with Carver College Police Department, and incumbent Sheriff Neil Warren, a Republican, were invited but did not attend.

Voters will choose one of the Democrats during the June 9 primary to challenge Warren in November’s general election.

Herndon and Owens both said the majority of arrests for misdemeanor possession of marijuana are made by the Cobb County Police Department but would nevertheless advocate for an end to such arrests.

Herndon said the sheriff’s office tests marijuana on behalf of the county’s law enforcement agencies — for free. Charging for those tests, he said, would be a strong disincentive to those agencies to arrest people for possession of small amounts of the drug.

Herndon and Owens said they would either end or find alternatives to the use of solitary confinement and repeated their pledge to end the office’s enforcement of national immigration law — a policy known as 287(g) — and to seek accreditation for the office from national organizations.

When asked what legacy they would like to leave within the office, Herndon said he would like to improve the way in which it handles the thousands of mentally ill people who come through the Cobb County Adult Detention Center each year.

Detention centers in Georgia are a “de facto dumping ground for the mentally ill,” he said. “If people don’t need to be in jail and they need to be in treatment, that’s where I want them to go.”

Owens said he would like to implement programs that would help inmates get back on their feet after a stint at the detention center, such as counseling for mental health issues and anger management and life skills classes.

Both also took shots at the incumbent, saying morale was low.

“Firstly we have to change the culture,” Owens said, and “get our deputies believing in my new vision, because the current vision is obviously not a good vision because morale is bad.”

“Neil Warren has driven that place into the ground,” Herndon said. “People leave and they’re not leaving to take higher-paying jobs. They’re leaving to take lower-paying jobs because the quality of work is better.”

The entire debate can be viewed on the Facebook page of the Austell Community Taskforce.

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(5) comments

Mike Nelson

The reason the majority of people are leaving is due to the fact the Cobb BOC hasn’t given a decent pay raise in years. Cobb police , fire department and the sheriff’s dept are leaving due to better pay and benefits at other municipalities that recognized the value of public safety. The Democratic candidates are always going to change it for the better, make the prisoners happy. Seriously, don’t do the crime . That would be a novel idea. And you can’t give them a raise so don’t promise what you can’t deliver , morale is low due to money and the others having to put in overtime due to Understaffing.

Donald Schultz

I would really live to know what they plan to do with the inmates who cover themselves in feces and want to fight all the time. How about the inmates who continue to harm the deputies working inside the jail ? Are they planning to give them a treat and ask them to behave . Take away confinement for the violent offenders and see how many law suits the department will have for knowingly purposely putting the deputies in unnecessary danger.

Jim Tate

Both of these Sheriff hopefuls are definitely Democrats! Wow, Owens who is currently a Major at CCPD needs to take a look at his own department's morale before he starts fixing one of another agency. Cobb PD is a revolving door with Officers leaving in record numbers. I also took offense to Owen's statement a few weeks back about how the Sheriff doesn't interact with other Cobb law enforcement agencies. The current Sheriff does and always has, but unfortunately CCPD never wants to join in and play and has always held other Cobb law enforcement agencies with contempt.

Each of these candidates hope to decriminalize misd marijuana possession and end the 287(g) program. Seems they might be a better fit for an agency in the greater San Francisco area. See how that's going for the Californians. Funny too how former Sgt. Herndon made such a stink in his profanity laced video rant over what...marijuana possession of all things! Simple marijuana use leads to bigger things, and both of these candidates should know this as law enforcement Officers. Decriminalization of marijuana and the end of the 287(g) program are both similar in the fact they don't hold people accountable for breaking the law. Upholding laws is what Sheriffing is all about fellas!

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