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"Lead, Innovate, and Inspire"

About Karen

karen in uniformSheriff Karen Bowden is a native of Smithfield, Virginia and has been a resident of Hampton, Virginia for many years. She is a graduate of Smithfield High School and received her Bachelor of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies from Norfolk State University.

Over 30 years ago, Karen walked into the Hampton Sheriff's Office to begin her career in law enforcement. Even though Sheriff Bowden started as a deputy operating the front desk in the office, her work ethic was the impetus for one promotion after another. She became a Lieutenant, later a Major with the title of Jail Administrator supervising 123 employees and managing over 350 inmates. Continuing to excel at each assignment, by 1998 Sheriff Bowden was again promoted to Colonel, with the title of Undersheriff, making her second-in-command of the Hampton Sheriff’s Office.

Sheriff Bowden was appointed Sheriff by Hampton City Council in 2021 upon the passing of Sheriff B.J. Roberts.

Karen 2Sheriff Bowden currently supervises and manages a staff of approximately 183 sworn and civilian staff members and an average daily inmate population of 265 for FY 2020. Her duties also include the development and management of an annual budget of approximately $9.3 million dollars.

Sheriff Bowden is married to her husband Larrine and they are the parents of a son, affectionately known as “TJ.” She is a member of First Gravel Hill Baptist Church.

Sheriff Bowden looks forward to writing a book on leadership, and becoming a national leadership trainer.



  • Certificate - Myers-Briggs Type Indicator - November 2020
  • Certificate - Virginia Sheriff’s Institute, VCU L. Douglas Wilder School of Government and Public Affairs - April 26, 2018
  • Bachelor of Arts Degree - Norfolk State University, Norfolk, VA - May 2011
  • Certificate - Virginia Sheriff’s Association, Richmond, VA, Courthouse Security Assessment - December 2005
  • Certificate - Peninsula Chamber of Commerce, Hampton, VA, Leadership Institute of the Virginia Peninsula - June 2002
  • Certificate - National Institute of Corrections, Longmont, CO, Executive Excellence Program - January 2001
  • Certificate - American Correctional Association, Alexandria, VA, Certified Jail Auditor - September 2001
  • Certificate - American Jail Association, Hagerstown, MD, Certified Jail Manager - November 2001
  • Certificate - National Institute of Corrections, Longmont, CO, Correctional Leadership Development - September 1997
  • Certificate - Commonwealth of Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services, Newport News, VA, General Instructor - December 1994


Professional Experience

  • Sheriff, City of Hampton, Virginia, January 2021 -
  • Undersheriff, Hampton Sheriff’s Office, Hampton, Virginia - June, 1998 - January, 2021
    • Provides general oversight and leadership for the Corrections, Court Services, Professional Standards & Training, Administration and Medical areas of the office. The Undersheriff upholds the charge to embrace the Hampton Sheriff’s Office brand of “committed to excellence” with emphasis on safety, security, performance management and accountability.
    • Essential Functions
      • Formulate organizational strategy and strategic budget planning
      • Assist the Sheriff in the leadership and supervision of the Command Staff and Line Staff - manage a staff of 177 civilian and sworn members
      • Administration of the Finance, Procurement and Payroll
      • Provide leadership in special projects and initiatives of the Sheriff
      • Responsible for the development and management of an annual budget of approximately 9.3 million dollars
      • Responsible for the day-to-day operation of the Office
      • Ensure policies and procedures are evenly applied
      • Generate, articulate, communicate, and sustain a vision for all staff members
  • Sworn Officer, ascending ranks, Hampton Sheriff's Office, Hampton, Virginia, 1984 - 1998

Notable Achievements

  • Launched a Quality Assurance Team
  • Launched and Completed a Business Plan
  • Launched a Jail Assessment Team
  • Met all management and operating standards for the Virginia Department of Corrections
  • Received an “unqualified opinion” on annual financial statements
  • Developed new recruitment and orientation efforts
  • Developed and implemented leadership training for new leaders/managers
  • Developed and implemented Policy Review Committee
  • Selected for key leadership roles in the Sheriff’s Office, in addition to; ensuring the management and operations of the Hampton Sheriff’s Office is properly supervised , managed a staff of approximately 183 sworn and civilian staff members, and an average daily inmate population of 281 for Fiscal Year 2019. Further, the task includes the development and management of an annual budget of approximately $9.3 million dollars.

Professional Affiliations

  • Peninsula Powerhouse Speakers - Toastmaster Member
  • Past Member of the Planning Committee for the Hampton Roads Regional Jail
  • Hampton Roads Regional Jail Board - Member
  • Hampton Roads Regional Jail Authority - Alternate Member
  • American Correctional Association - Member
  • American Correctional Association - Auditor
  • American Jail Association- Certified Jail Manager (CJM)
  • American Jail Association – Past Certified Jail Commissioner Member & Chairperson
  • National Sheriff’s Association - Member
  • National Organization of Black Law Enforcement - Member
  • Virginia Correctional Association - Member
  • Virginia Sheriff’s Association - Member


  • Barrett-Peake Heritage Foundation Distinguished Leadership Award
  • Historical Foundation of Aberdeen Garden - Board of Directors
  • Y.H. Thomas Athletic Association
  • American Heart Association
  • Hampton Sheriff’s Office Planning Coordinator - Cardiac Arrest Event
  • Early Intervention Program
  • Senior Informational Program
  • Special Olympic Polar Plunge