The 30-year law enforcement veteran gives little away through his words or demeanor. The soft-spoken father of five says his time with the federal agency was “a lot of fun, high speed, long hours, interesting work, good people to work with. It was a good experience.”
Born in Boston, McCann’s family moved to Rome when his father, an electrical engineer with General Electric, transferred to the Floyd County plant when McCann was 6. And here he has remained, following his lifelong dream of being in law enforcement from the Floyd County Sheriff’s Office to Cartersville Police Department in 1984.
After moving into narcotics in 1987, McCann was assigned to a metro Atlanta drug task force, which led to his tenure with the DEA. In 2007 he transferred back to accept the position he holds now as assistant chief of police.
Name: Frank McCann
Occupation: Cartersville Assistant Chief of Police
City of Residence: Bartow County
Family: I’m married and have five children — two boys and three girls.
Education: School of hard knocks? I’ve attended, like, it was Floyd Junior when I attended, then Valdosta State [University], University of Virginia and Columbus State College.
How did you get into a law enforcement career?
A: I was always interested in it and was going to school — college — for it. I applied for a job and got the job ... [at] Floyd County Sheriff’s Office in 1983. ... Then a year later came here and I’ve been here ever since.
What was the path to assistant chief of police?
A: I’ve been here for 29 years and over that time I’ve got promoted, and basically, in 2007, I got promoted from captain to assistant chief. I mean, I was chosen.
... I started in patrol at the sheriff’s office, then came here in ‘84, then in ‘87 started working narcotics. I was the first person assigned to work narcotics here. Then in ‘88 ..., I was assigned to a drug task force in north Fulton County, Sandy Springs, Roswell, that area, Alpharetta. [I] worked there for about a year; during that time, ... I worked with the DEA and they asked me to come to that task force and they approved it here, so I went to the DEA task force in ‘89, stayed until 2007, but during that time I got promoted here, in ‘88 to a sergeant. In ‘95 I was promoted to lieutenant in charge of narcotics here; in ‘97 I was promoted to captain in charge of [Criminal Investigations Division] here, all while I’m doing the DEA stuff. Then, in 2007, I was promoted to assistant chief of police and transferred back here. I’ve been in this job ever since.
In your 30-year career, has there been a case that has impacted you the most?
A: I think the homicide cases — and there’s been a bunch — probably has the most impact, not only on me but on the community, because when you’ve got a homicide case ... the community’s concerned about it and they want to see somebody arrested and prosecuted and put away. So those homicide cases are pretty intense and we’ve done a lot of them here. I say a lot, not in comparison to a big city, but we had, I’m thinking it was, like, 2002 to 2003, I think we had seven or eight whodunnit homicides back to back that were extremely difficult to work and we were able to make arrests on all of them. I mean some of the homicides, like, for instance, one of them was a girl that was shot in the face eight times at the Bartow Motel. Well, at the Bartow Motel, you have 200 of the most likely suspects all living right there. It’s very difficult to narrow down the suspects, and then eventually charge them and they convict them. It’s a big deal. It’s one of the most challenging things to do. ... I think those are the most challenging cases.
You know, the narcotics cases are interesting. At DEA we did large-scale drug trafficking organizations. It was interesting. There was a lot of travel to it, and you know, basically, it was interesting to talk to the people involved in running those organizations to see what their thought process was. It really was.
But as far as you know most challenging cases, it would be those whodunnit homicides where, you know, you get there and you don’t have a clue. You just got to start working it, but that has the most impact personally on me because, in some of these cases, you think, “How could people do this to other people?” You know? You just shake your head. But anyway, it’s all the same. That’s all policework is. I don’t care if you’re a good accident investigator or a homicide investigator or narcotics. If you can do one, you can do them all. It’s pretty simple.
What did you enjoy doing the most?
A: I enjoyed working narcotics. I really enjoyed it. It was challenging, it was fun. You get to see things and do things you would never get to do anywhere else. We seized millions of dollars. We flew around in Leer jets. We flew in helicopters. It was high speed.
I did a lot of undercover back in the day. ... I’ve been in some bad situations before.
I’m assuming you’ve been shot at.
A: Oh yeah. During the time I did it, we were involved in a bunch of different shootings, and that’s another thing: when shots are being fired, you don’t know who’s firing the shots. If you’re in a real-life shooting situation, you don’t have a clue who’s shooting, you know, and you’re trying to figure it out. It’s just interesting to talk to people who have been in that situation, [they] understand; people who haven’t, they don’t understand. We’ve been in places, dark places in the middle of the night shots are being fired, you don’t know where they are coming from.
Is there a person — in your personal or professional life — who has influenced you or been a role model for you?
A: Probably Chief [Tommy] Culpepper actually because he’s very patient. You know what I’m saying? I mean, like, for instance, I may jump [and] say, “That’s ridiculous,” but he’s very patient. I’ve learned a lot from working with him.
All the guys I worked with at DEA, we’re still close, and we’re close because we’ve been in bad situations. I learned a lot from those guys, too. I know I could call any of them and they’d be here.
What can Cartersville Police Department do to cut down on crime in the higher crime areas of the city?
A: I think presence has a lot to do with it. I think presence deters a lot of the criminal activity. I think once you catch somebody or arrest somebody for a crime, they need to be prosecuted and they need to be sentenced to a term that makes them think, “I don’t ever want to do this again.” Maybe it’s not the term, maybe it’s a work camp or maybe, I mean, I’m a big believer in if somebody’s convicted of a crime then they should have to work, you know. They should have to work hard to pay the debt back. But I think there has to be a reason to deter them from doing the crime again and every situation is different, but you know, the system has got to the way things seem to be swinging here lately is more not necessarily punishing people for committing crimes.
How will sentencing reform and criminal justice changes affect law enforcement agencies like yours?
A: It’s passing buck. I mean because we are going to spend more money and our time dealing with the issues on the street, the streets of this town and every other town in this state, so to me, it’s almost like passing it on down for the law enforcement. It’s going to cost the community more.
... The way I look at it is like drug trafficking organizations, they’re all about making money. The problem is the people who are addicted to drugs don’t have the money to buy the drugs, so they’re out there creating all this other crime in the community like stealing your lawn mower or breaking into your house or a number of other crimes. And they’re not petty crimes. When it comes to breaking into your house, it can quickly escalate to murder, you know, assault, so it’s not petty. I think we’ve got to do something to deter it.
What makes Bartow County special?
A: It’s a good place to live and raise your family. The city of Cartersville is almost like a country club as far as I’m concerned because it’s got great recreation — and I’m including the county in that. It’s a small town feel. The people are friendly and nice. It’s just a nice place, and I’ve been all over the country. I’ve seen pretty much all over this country, and this is just a nice place, nice climate. I mean, seriously, what more could you ask for?
What would people be surprised to learn about you?
A: I want to be a farmer. I would love to be a farmer.
What is your favorite meal?
A: Red beans and rice.
Who would play Frank McCann in the movie about your life?
A: Probably Frank McCann.
If you were stranded on a deserted island, what three things could you not live without?
A: Probably a phone, my wife and my kids.