A conversation with GBI Director Chris Hosey

GBI Director Chris Posey (right) and his wife Powell

GBI Director Chris Posey (right) and his wife Powell waiting in Gov. Kemp's office just before Posey's swearing-in ceremony on August 1, 2023. (Credit: Office of Gov. Kemp)

If anyone knows the inner workings of Georgia’s top law enforcement agency, it’s Chris Hosey. 

In his 36 years with the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, the Georgia native has worked under five GBI directors and held every sworn supervisor rank in the bureau’s investigative division. 

On Aug. 1, he assumed the helm of the 86-year-old bureau, succeeding Michael Register who returned to Cobb County where he is public safety director.  Hosey is the third director of the bureau in the last four years. Register’s predecessor, Vic Reynolds, was appointed by the governor to be Superior Court judge in Cobb County.

Hosey takes on a bureau with a staff of about 850 and a budget that topped $147 million in FY 2023. The bureau has investigated 65 officer-involved shootings since January, according to its latest monthly statistical report released this month. 

State Affairs spoke with Hosey about his nearly four-decade tenure with the bureau, his plans for moving the agency forward, the case of the headless goats,  and Will Trent, television’s quirky, fictional GBI special agent.

The conversation has been edited for clarity and length.

Q. What inspired you to go into law enforcement?

A. While I was in college, I had the opportunity to meet GBI agents and learn about the agency a little bit. I liked the professionalism that I saw in the agents that I met. I liked the fact that it was a statewide agency. And I had the ability to travel throughout the state to investigate crime and that sort of thing.

I don't mean this to sound bad but violent crime interested me. Just the ability to investigate and solve a complex situation intrigued me.

Q. You’re a career GBI employee. What unique attributes do you bring to the bureau?

A. Knowledge of the agency. There was still a learning curve obviously going into the director position. But I think I brought a lot of knowledge of the agency and the operations of the agency from just being around it for 36 years. I've served in literally every capacity the GBI has, beginning in the investigative division and then as deputy director over investigations. DirectorRegister made me assistant director last year. So I got a lot of exposure to what the director does, prior to his leaving.

Q. You’ve been with the GBI a long time, what do you love about the job?

A. I enjoy the work. I enjoy the people. I enjoy the partnerships in working with our state partners, our sheriff's office, our local partners in our sheriff's office and police departments. I'm just big on relationships like that because I don't believe one agency can do the job by itself. It takes everybody working together with a common goal in mind, set egos aside and work together and get the job done.

When you find yourself a part of a great team, that makes you not want to leave. It makes you want to stay. It makes you want to see that team develop. It makes you want to see new players come, watch them grow and be successful as well.

Q. The GBI has had three directors in the last four years? Has that created disruption within the organization and its goals?

A. As I’ve said before, the success of this agency doesn't depend on who's sitting in the director's chair. It’s dependent upon the men and women that are out there doing the job everyday. The director provides guidance, oversight, sets goals, whatever.  Every one of the directors I've worked for were ... very, very good leaders. Very good vision for the agency. They did great jobs.

Q. How does your leadership style differ from your predecessor?

A. I don't know that there's a lot of difference. One thing that I recognized when he came was, in a lot of ways, we were a lot alike in our leadership styles. We believe there's a mission out there. We set our goals and we give our people within the agency the ability to do their job, and we support them in that. He taught me a great deal in the time that he was here. He exposed me to a lot.

 I think one thing important about leadership is … once you get in a leadership position, it is not about you anymore, it's about taking care of your people.

Q. What are the biggest challenges facing the bureau?

A. We have to make sure that we're staying current with the times. The world is changing around us as a law enforcement agency; we've got to change with it. That involves technology, additional resources, equipment, personnel, whatever the case may be. We’ve got to be forward thinkers. We’ve got to be dealing with a day in front of us, but we've also got to be looking down the road trying to predict what could change next that we can be ready for and prepared for and not trying to catch up.

There's a lot that doesn't change in investigations. There's the traditional investigation, talking to people, collecting evidence, whether it be physical or testimonial evidence. I believe we should always be at the top tier of doing that. But with today's times, with the technologies out there for something as simple as cell phones we've got to be able to ensure that we are utilizing current technology that can assist us and complement the traditional investigative tasks that we have done for years.

Q. What will be your top priority going forward?

A. We've got to continue to address violent crime and gang activity across the state. We're continuing to look at ways we can advance in that. But again, that's an area GBI will not fix by itself. We rely heavily on those partnerships around the state as we do in every investigation that we work.

My focus is on the agency and providing the resources, manpower, and the leadership that it needs. We're an agency that has always adapted regardless of all of the instances that have come up. We have always found a way to adapt and get the job done.

Q. What budget and policy requests will you make for the upcoming amended FY 2024 and FY 2025 budget?

A. We're still working through that right now. We've not finalized anything, budget wise. I'm looking at what our needs are coming from the division directors and how that can best support the agency over the next year or the following year.

Q. Are you expecting any policy or legislative changes with regard to the GBI during the  2024 session?

A. No, hopefully. Not to my knowledge.

Q. Senate Bill 11, which enables the GBI to investigate all acts of terrorism,  passed during the last session. This bill opens the door for the GBIto pursue alleged crimes that local law enforcement agencies have deemed not worth their time. Are there some cases you’d like the GBI to pursue?

A. Not that I can think of right now. We take them as they come. If they're worthy of an investigation, then we're going to pursue that.

Q. SB 44, which is intended to limit gang activity, appears to have some unintended consequences. Apparently, critics believe more people could face prison sentences if they miss a court date or, for example, if they get stopped for something like a broken tail light. Thoughts?

A. In general, I think we have very good gang laws in this state. It's not hard to work across the state and realize that there are concerns when it comes to gang activity. There’s a nexus between human trafficking and gang activity at times; it just depends on where in the state you want to look. The fact that we're seeing evidence of gangs attempting to recruit 11 year olds, 12 year olds is very uncomfortable to see and hear about. I believe we have good gang laws. I believe we're pursuing it in the right way. And at the end of the day it’s to make Georgia safer.

Q. Have you personally sat down with gang members or alleged gang members?

A. Years back I have.

Q. Would you consider doing that again going forward?

A. Yeah, absolutely.

Q. The GBI is investigating a case involving headless goats that have been dumped in the Chattahoochee River over a number of years now. Has any progress or arrests been made in that case?

A. I'd have to go back and check on that. I'm not really familiar with the incidents.

Q. Georgia’s ban on abortion after six weeks, or the first detection of a heartbeat, took effect last year. Have you had a case where an individual had violated Georgia’s abortion law? If so, did you arrest that person?

A. I'm not familiar with any. But just like any other law that is set forth for us to enforce, if we had the need to investigate one, we will. I’m not familiar with any we’re working on right now.

Q. Aside from becoming head of the bureau, what’s your biggest accomplishment at the GBI?

A. Probably them allowing me to stay here 36 years.

Q. What’s your biggest disappointment?

A. I don't know that I've had a big disappointment. There's things that have come up through 36 years that bothered me. But you know, I live under the adage that this too shall pass.

Q. Have you seen the [ABC Friday night television show] Will Trent. It’s about a GBI special agent. Do you have a Will Trent on staff and more importantly do you recognize the TV version of the GBI?

A. I watched it the first night [it came on] and I wasn't real sure. Then I continued to watch it. It's entertainment. I mean, it's Hollywood. You know, Will Trent is depicted as an excellent investigator and from that standpoint I got 300-something of him. I enjoy watching it.

I actually went to an out-of-state conference in the spring of this year. When they handed me my name tag, my name was on one side and [the name] Will Trent was on the other side. They knew I was from Georgia and that show was out. I was getting ragged about that a little bit.

Want to get a glimpse of what the GBI does? Take a look at its monthly statistical reports here.

GBI Director Chris Hosey
The Christopher E. Hosey Files

Title: Director of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation

Age: 59

Hometown: Newnan

Current residence: Thomaston

Education: Bachelor of Science in Sociology from Georgia Southwestern State University and a Masters in Public Administration from Columbus State University. He is a graduate of the FBI National Academy, Class 247.

Career path: Narcotics agent, local violators squad, 1987-89; special agent, Region 5 in Statesboro, 1989-90; special agent, Region 2, Thomaston/Greenville, 1990-2001; assistant special agent in charge, Region 2, Greenville, 2001-05; assistant special agent in charge, West Georgia Drug Task Force/West Metro RDEO, 2005-08; special agent in charge, Region 5, Statesboro, 2008-09; special agent in charge, Savannah RDEO, 2009-12; inspector, headquarters, investigative division, 2012-20; deputy director of investigations, HQ,  investigative division, 2020-22; GBI assistant director, 2022-23. 

Family: Married 34 years to Powell;  two daughters.

Hobbies: “I go to the gym. I've been doing that for years. I enjoy golf. Working in the yard. I like woodworking. I just haven't had time to do much of that here lately.”

If you weren’t in the field of law what would you be doing?  “The first thing that popped in my mind was probably something in the medical field. I went to school for EMS [Emergency Medical Services]. The GBI actually sent me to school for that for our tactical team. Once I completed it, I actually went to work part-time with an ambulance service at home. And I did that up till last year. Then things just got so busy. I didn't have time to do it anymore but I enjoyed it. I still have the uniforms. I still intend on going back and doing it some more when I can, when things settle in.”

Have questions, comments or tips? Contact Tammy Joyner on X @lvjoyner or at [email protected].

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