Rowell Maps Out Priorities for Screven County Sheriff’s Office

Gun Rights

Bruce Rowell began his career in law enforcement working in the Screven County Jail back in the late 1990s, working duties of both dispatch and jailer. He went on to become POST-certified and worked in Screven County for a few years before getting hired by the Georgia Department of Public Safety as a radio operator. He graduated from the 75th Trooper School, worked the Atlanta area for a year, and then returned to the Sylvania Post for the remainder of his career.

His 25+ years in law enforcement, he says, has prepared him to take on the role of Sheriff of Screven County.

Why He’s Running for Sheriff

“It’s not for the money, the prestige, or the possible headaches – it’s the youth,” Rowell said in an interview with The Georgia Virtue. He’s worked as a 4H shotgun coach, an NRA shooting coach, and he’s mentored children over the years – all of which have given him an understanding of what kids today are facing in schools and their communities. “The drugs, the gangs, I want to see that go differently. I want to see them grow up in a safe environment and have the same futures that we did.”

Priorities
Community Safety

Rowell says he’ll prioritize aggressive drug enforcement, implementation of a program, such as D.A.R.E., inside the schools, networking with the communities, churches, and civic groups, and instituting additional resource officers (SRO) in the schools. Grants are available through the state, Rowell shared, and he would partner with the state and the county Board of Education to try to offset as much funding as possible.

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Employees

Rowell shared that the employees – on both patrol and in the jail – are a great foundation on which he could build on, if elected. But there needs to be more. 

“If we create a good working environment, those people will talk. I hope we’ll be able to recruit more people to come and work in Screven County,” he said. He’d also visit regional academies to seek out new graduates who may be looking to put roots down somewhere. 

As far as patrol goes, Rowell said the Sheriff’s Office needs at least three deputies on each shift with a long-term goal of four. That would allow the county to be split into zones for coverage and also include a supervisor.

Additionally, patrol deputies are in need of modernized equipment that is uniform across the agency. Currently, body cameras and in-car cameras are not the standard, nor are in-car computers. “It’s a recording of evidence, and it keeps people honest,” Rowell said. He also shared how having updated technology can streamline evidence and case transfers to prosecutors so things aren’t unnecessarily delayed or stuck in limbo.

Further, duty weapons are not the same, often ones deputies provide for themselves, which has resulted in a variety of different ammunition needs. Rowell says he would also ensure that life saving equipment, like ballistic vests, are up to par and not expired. 

Tangential to that would be the need for a formal and updated policy manual for office operations. Rowell says he’d utilize a committee of retired law enforcement officers to assist with drafting ‘best practices’ and standards for SCSO employees. And he says he would encourage employees to continue to seek more training beyond the state requirements and advocate for an office dynamic that supports employees who want to better themselves.

“I want employees to feel like I’m working beside them, working with them,” Rowell said. “Yes, we’ll have a chain of command and supervisors, but they’ll know they can always come in my door and talk to me about whatever it is.”

Transparency

Transparency is also at the forefront of his campaign. Rowell says he wants to have an office that is proactively forthcoming with information to build trust in the community. 

The Jail

The internal workings and operations of the jail are sound, Rowell said, but there are matters of deferred maintenance and security that will have to be addressed. He said that the construction of the jail being set up in pods will allow upgrades and improvements to be made ‘one pod at a time’ without disrupting other jail operations. Knowing that the costs of some of the needed improvements could be prohibitive, he said doing it in sections would also keep from burdening the taxpayers in one large sum. 

Rowell said when the jail is up to standards, he’d like to explore having federal inmates housed in Screven County to offset costs, money which could be used to pay for future upkeep of the jail. “If we’re spending money from that on the jail, then we can direct our local money to paying people better and paying more people,” Rowell said.

Also a priority in the jail would be a part-time nurse to administer inmate medication and assist with care – another effort he says will allow jailers to do the job they’re hired to do. 

Along those same lines, Rowell wants to see the communications component of SCSO and the jail duties separated so that each position can handle each particular job duty. “Dispatchers can handle dispatching and then let the jailers run the jail,” he said. Currently, communications officers and jailers are one in the same.

The Courthouse

Sheriff’s in Georgia are constitutionally required to secure the county courthouse. “I’m a stickler for quality and people who aren’t wearing guns and badges can’t be expected to protect the courthouse,” he said. “I will work to put someone up there when court is in session as soon as possible, even if it’s me or my Chief Deputy (Ben Forehand).”

Networking with Other Agencies

Citing an inability to institute every initiative he has on Day 1, Rowell says he would partner with other agencies to achieve goals in the short term. Specifically, neighboring counties have crime suppression teams and task forces already operational and partnering with them would amplify resources while he works to hire more people. 

“I’m not going to limit myself to ‘not working’ with anyone, especially if it can save us money and reduce crime,” Rowell said. “I would love to find a dedicated drug investigator and a female who can work sex crimes, especially against children. For internal matters, if it’s a policy issue, we’ll handle that, but if it turns into something else, or something criminal, we need to let an outside entity come in and investigate.” Rowell referenced the Use of Force Task Force made up of Sheriff’s Offices across the region as an option for assistance when reviewing issues within the office.

As far as municipalities go, Rowell said he sees value in a closer working relationship with the municipalities. He referenced a community event in Hiltonia where one officer had to secure the event and direct traffic for a day-long event. “While he did a great job for being one person, he shouldn’t have to do all the jobs as one person.” Rowell said he’d like to have staffing at a level where he could lend support when cities need it. 

On Being a Qualified Candidate

Rowell sees this election as an opportunity to institute change for the betterment of the community, not for a career to last the rest of his life. He says reforms can be made in two to three terms and he would pass it off to someone else.

He says he’s the most qualified person running for the office right now because of his training and experience.

“I worked in the jail, I worked as a deputy, and I was a Trooper. With the state, I worked big events like the G-8 summit, legislative conferences, and 12 presidential and vice presidential security details from Atlanta down to when George Bush came to Statesboro. Yes, I worked traffic and crashes but as Troopers, we used to back deputies up on domestic calls and other incidents all the time. I’m sure there are some things I haven’t seen, but I do feel like I’ve seen most things.”

All in all, he says he just wants to see Screven County be the best place it can be.

Follow Bruce Rowell’s campaign on Facebook.

Rowell is running on the Republican ticket and will face Norman Royal in the primary election. The winner of that race will face Democrat Incumbent Mike Kile in November.

Early voting begins April 29 at the Screven County Board of Elections at the county courthouse building. Election Day is May 21.

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