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New Mount Jackson police chief takes over department

Published: Jan. 14, 2022 at 11:32 PM EST
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MOUNT JACKSON, Va. (WHSV) - The town of Mount Jackson appointed James Cowart as its new police chief on Tuesday. He steps into the role with nearly 18 years of law enforcement experience in Shenandoah County.

“I started law enforcement in 200. I started out with the Sheriff’s Office here in Shenandoah County, and then I’ve been with Mount Jackson since 2017, so about four and a half years,” said Chief Cowart.

Cowart spent the last four and a half years as a sergeant with the Mount Jackson Police Department under retired Chief Jeff Sterner, who he said taught him a lot that prepared him to be able to step into the role of chief.

“The cooperation between the town and the police department and how he was able to communicate with them and get things going, learning how to talk to the town from him and also learning more of the paperwork side of the job,” said Cowart.

Cowart said one of his goals as chief will be to work with other agencies around the state to improve the way a mental health crisis is handled.

“Being able to assist other agencies statewide, to look at the mental health system, because it’s flawed right now and it’s needing something, we just gotta get more agencies together working on it to get it right,” he said.

“There’s a lot of red tape and a lot of contradicting things, which puts a lot of burden on law enforcement when it’s really not our area of expertise.”

Cowart said he will also look to continue his predecessor’s work in connecting the department with the surrounding community.

“We’ll continue what we’ve been doing, national night out, talking with the citizens, listening to what they have to say. A lot of times they just want to vent and nobody will stop and listen to them so that’s part of our responsibility as law enforcement is being able to listen to what they’re saying and maybe offer some good advice to them,” Cowart said.

Ultimately, Cowart said what he is most looking forward to about being chief is a chance to make a bigger difference in the community.

The town will now look to hire an additional officer to fill Cowart’s previous role and get the department back to being fully staffed.

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