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GBI Director Keenan speaks to Kiwanis Club

Superior Court Judge Samuel Ozburn told the Kiwanis Club of Covington that if there was any criminal activity at Thursday’s meeting the person could be arrested, prosecuted, tried and put out on probation all by the people in the annex building of the First Baptist Church of Covington.

That’s because Covington Police Chief Stacey Cotton, Newton County Sheriff Ezell Brown, Walton County Sheriff Joe Chapman, Newton County District Attorney Layla Zonn and members of their staffs, along with members of the Newton County Public Defender’s office and Newton County Probation office were all present at Thursday’s meeting in order to see guest speaker Vernon Keenan, Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.

Keenan leads more than 770 employees and a Fiscal Year 2016 budget of $89.3 million dollars at the GBI, where he has been working since he was brought on as a special agent in 1973. He has also participated in professional exchange programs in Israel, China, Spain, Germany, Turkey, the Republic of Georgia and the United Kingdom.

The GBI is made up of three divisions: the State Crime Laboratory, the Georgia Crime Information Center and the Investigation Division.

These divisions are used to assist sheriff’s offices and municipalities throughout Georgia, work on specialized cases, perform autopsies (GBI performs autopsies for 153 of Georgia’s 159 counties) and investigate use of lethal force.

According to Keenan the GBI averages two cases each week where use of force results in death or severe injury.

“What I see as GBI Director is the vast majority is going to be lawful use of force,” Keenan told the Kiwanis Club. “This is a direct result of violence against Georgia law enforcement.”

Keenan also told the club of his fondness of the law enforcement and the officials in Newton County.

“You have excellent law enforcement who is well trained and an excellent prosecutor and in some parts of Georgia that’s not the case,” GBI Director Vernon Keenan said. “You are very fortunate that you have officials that work so well together here.”

Among Newton County’s officials is Judge Ozburn, who told the crowd that there were 659 burglaries, 1,731 cases of larceny and 233 vehicular thefts in the county in 2014.

“That highlights something we have to deal with in our society,” Ozburn said. “GBI does a great job handling this.”