Governor taps former Cobb police chief to head GBI

Cobb County’s former police chief has been tapped to lead the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, Gov. Brian Kemp announced this week.

Michael Register has been appointed to head the GBI pending approval by the state’s Board of Public Safety, the governor’s office said.

Credit: Governor's Office

Credit: Governor's Office

He will fill the vacancy left by former Director Vic Reynolds, who was appointed by Kemp to serve as a Superior Court judge in Cobb. GBI Assistant Director John Melvin will lead the agency in an interim role until Register is sworn in.

ExploreGBI Director Vic Reynolds appointed to Cobb bench

“Mike has a strong track record of strengthening public safety and protecting Georgia’s communities,” Kemp said in a statement. “I’m looking forward to his impact on this important agency that makes our entire state a safer and better place to live, work, and raise our families.”

Melvin, who worked with Register during his time as a Cobb County prosecutor, said the longtime lawman will make an excellent fit for the agency.

“It’s an outstanding appointment for the bureau,” Melvin said Tuesday morning during a media event at the GBI’s DeKalb County headquarters. “The man’s a leader through and through and he is going to fit in perfectly.”

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Before being named the GBI’s new director, Register served as assistant chief in the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office, overseeing the agency’s internal affairs division, community engagement and uniform field operations. He has also served as Cobb’s public safety director and the chief of both the Cobb County and Clayton County police departments.

Register began his career in law enforcement in Bibb County in 1982. He served 23 years in the U.S. Army Special Operations, which included combat operations in Afghanistan, the governor’s office said.

“I’m humbled by the opportunity Governor Kemp has given me and I look forward to serving this great state as its GBI Director,” Register told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

The agency has seven labs across the state and often assists local police departments that may lack the manpower or resources to conduct certain investigations. The bureau is frequently asked to perform autopsies, and has a team of investigators and scientists who conduct toxicology and ballistics testing. Many of those forensic experts are called in to testify during criminal proceedings.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The GBI also handles the majority of the state’s police shootings, compiling in-depth use-of-force reports that are then turned over to local district attorneys. The agency investigated 100 police shootings last year and 75 more since the start of 2022, well ahead of last year’s pace.

Melvin said Tuesday the two biggest issues facing the bureau are criminal street gangs and the increasing prevalence of fentanyl, which he said accounts for an alarming number of overdose deaths.

ExploreFentanyl overdoses spike in Cobb, public health officials warn

He also said the GBI is working to recruit more forensic pathologists to help keep up with the influx of bodies being sent to state-run labs for autopsies.

Credit: Steve Schaefer

Credit: Steve Schaefer

The governor thanked Reynolds for his contributions to the agency, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic and the widespread social unrest of 2020.

“As he continues to serve his fellow Georgians in a new capacity, Marty and I wish him the very best and congratulate him on leaving an enduring mark on the agency,” Kemp said of Reynolds.

Credit: Tyson Horne

Credit: Tyson Horne

In a statement, the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office congratulated Register on his appointment.

“Assistant Chief Michael Register is a dynamic leader and law enforcement professional. He has been instrumental in helping Sheriff Owens transform the culture at the sheriff’s office,” the statement said. “Sheriff Owens and the men and women of the Cobb County Sheriff’s Office express our appreciation for his service to the people of Cobb County and we wish him all the best in his new role serving our great state.”

Register is a former member of the Georgia POST Council, the Judicial Qualification Commission, and served on the executive board of the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Forces.

He is working on getting a doctorate in strategic leadership from Liberty University, has a master’s degree in public administration from Columbus State University and is a graduate of the FBI’s National Executive Institute.