By Errol Castens
OXFORD – James Owens, a 24-year veteran of the Oxford Police Department, was named its assistant chief on Tuesday by unanimous vote of the Board of Aldermen.
The Lafayette County native grew up in Water Valley and is a father of four. Before this latest promotion, his previous rank was major.
Mayor George “Pat” Patterson said Owens, 50, is a good fit for the position.
“James Owens is the community-focused walking definition of a law enforcement professional, and we’re proud to have him,” Patterson said.
Owens got his first job in law enforcement after graduating from Northwest Mississippi Community College in 1987. After two years there, he went to the state Police Academy and was hired by OPD in 1990.
While he has developed skills and characteristics common to those who’ve had roles from rookie street cop to administration, Owens said he’s worked especially hard to develop his leadership within the department and the community.
“The ability to communicate with the public is crucial in this job,” Owens said. “You’ve got to have the trust and the backing of the community if you’re going to have a successful police department.”
Owens points to such outreach initiatives between OPD and the Oxford community as the department’s recent open house and officers’ longtime involvement in mentoring, sports and other efforts to benefit children.
While Oxford has a multigenerational reputation for a low crime rate, the department has had to step up policing around downtown bars in late-night and early-morning hours – including the addition of a horse patrol that also helps out with searches and special events.
“I don’t see the downtown area as being a ‘troubled’ area,” he said. “Has it become more difficult over the last 25 years? Yes, because there are more establishments now than before.”
Owens is the first black officer to be OPD’s second-in-command.
“It is a moment that I’m very proud of,” he said. “I want to thank the chief, the mayor and the board of aldermen for the opportunity.”
Even after 24 years, Owens said he still enjoys police work.
“What really keeps me in it is being able to help and make a difference in the community,” he said. “When you see individuals out at night and no one has to worry, you have that down-home feeling of comfort. It gives me joy to know I’m helping make people feel safe in Oxford.”