KPD’s Rollin McGowan: Keeping our kids safe

Tom KingOur Town Heroes

Knoxville Police Department (KPD) Det. Rollin McGowan’s job is one you and the vast majority of people want no part of – period. But thankfully, he’s there, at times averaging six hours a day in front of a computer screen as part of KPD’s Internet Crimes Against Children (ICAC) Unit.

He keeps watch on the lurid world of the Dark Web, among those and other websites, working cases where sex maniacs and pedophiles solicit children for the production of pornography to use as sex objects, for human trafficking, for child sexual tourism and all matter of sexual exploitation. Doubt not, this is a world of big money and big business, here and abroad.

Let’s make this real with the worst thing this 55-year-old, 20-year KPD veteran has seen on his computer screen: the video rape of a 2-month-old girl. He uses words like horrific, sickening, plus incredibly sad that we have people who use infants and babies to satisfy their insatiable needs for sex and money.

Why does he do this work? “My job is to save our kids. It’s just as simple as that. God leads you to the choices that are put before you in this life and this was my choice,” he says. “These types of criminals and these crimes against our children are going on right here in East Tennessee all around us. There are pedophiles online right now looking for their next victims. Be careful what your kids do on the internet and who they communicate with and the websites they visit.”

He and the KPD team of three investigators have approximately 70 open cases to investigate and he has 14 active cases. “Every case is disturbing and the younger the victim the more disturbing the case becomes,” he said.

McGowan joined the ICAC Special Task Force in the summer of 2023. He works under Lt. Andrew Boatman and Sgt. Brian Baldwin. The unit includes three investigators and two forensic experts who collect and analyze evidence.

Lt. Boatman is the state of Tennessee ICAC commander and the KPD team is the lead agency in the Tennessee ICAC Task Force. Funded through both federal and state grants, KPD and the 60 statewide affiliate agencies are dedicated to protecting children from predators that entice and exploit them via the Internet. They are also part of the National Center for Missing & Exploited Children and its resources.

“These highly trained individuals provide training to other law enforcement agencies regarding investigative strategies and conduct training through various community groups. Educating parents and teachers of the vulnerabilities within the internet can help prevent our children from becoming victims of sexual predators,” KPD explains.

His work at KPD has included patrol and being an SRO (School Resource Officer) at Bearden High School and South-Doyle Middle School. For five years while at KPD he was the head baseball coach at Karns High School.

McGowan’s educational credentials are impressive – he earned a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice from Colorado Technical University and a master’s in criminal justice from Liberty University.

Before joining KPD in 2005, he served for three years in the U.S. Navy aboard the aircraft carrier USS John F. Kennedy. “It wasn’t an easy life but it sure was an interesting one,” he says.

McGowan is a South Knoxville native who moved around with his family. His stepfather was a nuclear engineer who worked in Athens, Alabama, and Newport News, Virginia. Wife Suzanne is the national recruiter for Thrive Veterinarian Hospitals and they enjoy their blended family with five adult children.

His work can be consuming, he readily admits. “But there are cases you do not take home with you and discuss with anyone. You deal with it and get counseling help if you need it. This job that we do is not for the faint of heart. My faith helps get me through it and our church (Transformation Church) plays a huge role in my life. Ours is a God-first family.”

Tom King has been the editor of newspapers in Texas and California and also worked in Tennessee and Georgia. If you have someone you think we should consider featuring, please email him at the link with his name or text him at 865-659-3562.


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