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Gadsden State to create police department

Gadsden, Ala. — Gadsden State Community College is creating a new police department to serve all five of its campuses, announced Dr. Kathy Murphy, president.

“This is the right thing to do for our students, our employees and our community,” she said. “We want to ensure that our students have the best college experience by providing them with a safe and secure place of learning.”

The Gadsden State Campus Police and Security Department will cover all its campuses in Calhoun, Cherokee and Etowah counties. Officers will patrol on foot and in vehicles and will investigate all on-campus incidents, including car accidents or criminal activity.

Sworn police officers will conduct complex misdemeanor or felony investigations, including interviewing victims, suspects and offenders; preparing photo lineups; collecting evidence; and preparing case files. Their presence will also reduce the risk of potential crimes.

“Our officers will have a strong presence to hinder anyone even considering committing a crime at Gadsden State,” Murphy said. “Just having the police on campus should make our students and our employees feel confident that they are going home safely at the end of the day.”

Mark Bailey, chief safety and security officer for the Alabama Community College System, said having police officers will increase the level of protection for the college community.

“Gadsden State is dedicated to providing a safe and secure environment for its campus community,” he said. “With this in mind, we are hiring the best trained and qualified officers to achieve this goal.”

ACCS has opened seven police departments on its campuses in the past two years. Currently, Snead State Community College and Drake State Community College are in the hiring process for a police chief. Chattahoochee Valley Community College is finalizing the set-up of its police department.

Currently, Gadsden State has a security department with eight full-time and eight part-time security officers. Mark Light serves as security manager.

“Security officers do not have the level of training of police officers, and they do not have arresting power,” Bailey said. “They are certainly important to the safety and security on Gadsden State campuses but having police officers on duty will increase that level of security.”

Security officers protect property, perform building inspections, secure premises and deter criminal activity. The current Gadsden State security officers will continue to work for the College as a part of the new Campus Police and Security Department. Police officers will be hired once a chief of police is selected. A number of police officers to be hired is undetermined at this time.

“Our security officers have done an exceptional job in serving our students and securing our campuses, and they will continue this important role,” Murphy said. “As we add personnel to the GSCC Police Department, those individuals will likely be trained police officers rather than security.”

The College has posted the job for chief of police. Requirements include a bachelor’s degree in Criminal Justice or a related field; minimum of 10 years employment experience as a police officer; minimum of three years’ experience as a law enforcement supervisor and experience as a criminal investigator and a law enforcement training. The chief candidate must also have the Alabama Peace Officer Standards and Training Certificate or the ability to achieve a lateral transfer from APOST. Experience as a firearms instructor, use-of-force instructor and field training officer training are preferred.

Pre-employment background checks are required, including criminal history; driver’s records; review of disciplinary records from prior law enforcement agencies as well as secondary and post-secondary schools; and reviews of residential history, credit history and references. A polygraph test, psychological evaluation and drug test are also required.

“The Alabama Community College System has instituted a comprehensive background check process for hiring police officers,” Bailey said. “Our process not only meets but exceeds state requirements. We are committed to hiring the best candidates to provide the best protection for our campuses.”

Murphy said she anticipates the police department will make a positive impact on those who take classes or work at Gadsden State.

“Our students are our focus,” she said. “They are the reason we are here. They are the reason we are so passionate about our College. There is nothing more important to me than their safety and well-being. We want to make sure they are protected every time they step foot on one of our campuses.”

For more information on employment at Gadsden State, including the chief of police position, visit Application packages for chief of police are due by 4 p.m. March 16.