Larry C. Black, commander of the Lookout Mountain Judicial Circuit Drug Task Force, has announced his candidacy to become the county's next sheriff.
The 35-year veteran said one of his longtime goals has been to serve as sheriff.
"When I started in law enforcement my original dream was to be a state trooper, but over the years my career goal shifted," he said. "I've had opportunities to work in the private sector and for other local, state and federal agencies, both here and abroad. I've always wanted to stay close to home."
Black has served as a Georgia State Patrol radio operator, with nearly every division - patrol, detective, jail administrator, command staff - within the sheriff's office. He ran unsuccessfully for the office of sheriff in 2000.
"I've served in practically every every job except that of being the actual sheriff," he said.
This graduate of Ringgold High School was awarded a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from Breneau College (now university) and has earned numerous law enforcement-related certifications.
"I'm among the less than 5 percent of law enforcement officers chosen to attend the FBI National Academy in Quantico, Va.," he said. "I've been active in teaching law enforcement methods throughout the South and outside the U.S. as an instructor for the U.S. Department of Justice."
Black was chief of the Fort Oglethorpe Police Department for about one and a half years before taking command in 2008 of the drug task force for Catoosa, Chattooga, Dade and Walker counties. It was a period when "this part of the state" was Georgia's worst for methamphetamine production, distribution and use.
"Drug use affects so many," he said. "Probably 50 to 60 percent of our jail population is related to addiction and abuse. It is a root cause of crime. There is the abuse of prescription drugs, meth, alcohol, and now our youth are faced with the potential abuse of synthetic marijuana."
Black says a two-fold approach is needed to counter the constant danger posed by illegally using and abusing drugs of any kind.
One is legislative, something that requires lawmakers taking action in Atlanta. The other involves the enforcement of those laws.
"Our goal should be continued improvement," Black said of Catoosa County's already good reputation statewide, in combating illegal drugs. "We can utilize more manpower by shifting staff to more intensive drug enforcement and call on outside resources so our local officers work hand in hand with state and federal agencies."
But more than making and enforcing drug laws is required, he said.
Anti-drug education programs that reach into schools and churches should be expanded. And if prevention is impossible, there needs to be a process - alternative sentencing, drug courts, monitored probation - that punishes while at the same time rehabilitates those charged and convicted for drug-related crimes.
"Addiction is so sad," Black said. "Loved ones that are truly addicted need help with their problem."
Attention should also focus on developing a domestic violence intervention unit, similar to an anti-drug unit. These officers would assist patrol officers whenever domestic violence is suspected. They would investigate underlying causes, not only to help prosecute but involve other agencies, like the Division of Family and Children Services, in dealing with assailants, their victims and families.
Dealing with drugs and domestic violence would have high priority for his administration, but so would adding a substation in the Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe area.
"A Westside substation will benefit the officers and the citizens," Black said. "It will help reduce response time, would help keep patrol cars in the community and be more convenient for anyone needing to talk to a deputy."
Such a substation would need little more than a telephone, Internet access and some office furniture, he said, and could be installed in an available voting precinct or other county-owned building at very low cost.
"It's time we do this," Black said. "It works for the community."
Serving his community has been key to Black's career in law enforcement and is why he wants to become sheriff, he said.
"We talk about experience and qualifications," he said. "I feel I am the most experienced and best qualified. But I truly feel deeply that the sheriff needs to be a friend of the people. Being sheriff is not only about enforcing laws; it is about serving people. That is why I want to be elected sheriff in July."