Cobb sheriff gets top honor

Cobb County Sheriff Neil Warren, known for his aggressive stance against illegal immigration, has been named Georgia’s Sheriff of the Year.

The Georgia Sheriff’s Association, a lobbying and advocacy organization, gave Warren the honor during a conference this week at Lake Lanier. The decision came from the association’s 25-member board of directors, which represents all 159 sheriffs, Executive Director Terry Norris said.

“It’s the most prestigious award the association gives,” Norris said. Warren was picked for his character, professionalism, service to the community and promoting the office of sheriff, he added.

Warren joined the department as a deputy in 1974, then was elevated to sheriff in 2003 when Bill Hutson retired. He is currently serving his third term.

During his tenure, his policies on immigration have stirred controversy on a national level.

He pioneered a program known as 287(g) that trained deputies to identify illegal immigrants in jail and hand them over to federal immigration officials for deportation. Pro-immigrant groups labeled him “Wild West Warren.”

His unflinching stance put a spotlight on Cobb in 2010 when Kennesaw State University student Jessica Colotl was flagged for deportation following an arrest for driving without a license. Warren had Colotl, a native of Mexico, arrested again just days after she secured a one-year deferment from Immigration and Customs Enforcement to finish her studies, this time for lying about her address on jail booking records.

Warren said she was an adult who broke the law. The felony charges against her were later dismissed.

President Barack Obama has since scrapped the “task force” part of 287(g), in which police help with street-level immigration enforcement.

The Sheriff of the Year honor comes almost a year after Warren suffered a fractured vertebrae in a wreck on I-75, putting him out of commission for weeks. Warren and a chief deputy were driving southbound when a pickup truck hauling a trailer lost control and crossed all southbound lanes before colliding with the sheriff’s vehicle.

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