Veteran law enforcement officer Jay Freeman will become Gadsden State Community College’s first police chief.
The school announced Freeman’s hiring, effective June 26, on Friday in a news release. He will leave the Southside Police Department, where he’s served since 2009.
“We are delighted to have Chief Freeman on our staff,” school President Kathy Murphy said. “We know he will do an amazing job in building Gadsden State’s very first police department. We believe his past work experience and his passion for public safety and security made him the best person for this new role at Gadsden State.”
Freeman was captain of investigations at Southside, and also was involved in management of school resource officers, training and media relations.
While at Southside, he said in the release, “I’ve had the opportunity to safeguard the well-being of citizens and establish a safe and secure environment. I am motivated to extend this dedication to the Gadsden State community.”
Freeman’s first law enforcement job was in 2007 with the Rainbow City Police Department and also was an officer in Ohatchee before moving to Southside.
“From a young age, I’ve had a strong passion for community service,” he said in the release. “I’ve always desired to make my community safer. I’ve always wanted to be part of something greater than myself. Law enforcement was the ideal way for me to uphold these values.
“Protecting and serving, promoting peace and ensuring fairness align with my core beliefs,” he said. “I believe law enforcement is more than just enforcing the law. It’s about community engagement, creating safe environments and helping those in need. My role is an opportunity to improve people’s lives and contribute to a harmonious community.”
A native of Etowah County and a graduate of Southside High School, Freeman holds two bachelor’s degrees, in criminal justice administration from Columbia Southern University and business administration management from Waldorf University, and a master’s in business administration from the University of West Alabama.
He has completed the Command Leadership Institute and the Supervisor Institute at the Federal Bureau of Investigation-Law Enforcement Executive Development Association, and the FBI’s Instructor Development course. He’s an adjunct instructor at the Northeast Alabama Law Enforcement Academy and an active shooter instructor for the Federal Law Enforcement Training Centers.
Gadsden State in March announced plans to create a police department to serve its five campuses: Wallace Drive, East Broad and Valley Street in Gadsden; Cherokee in Centre; and Ayers in Anniston.
It would merge with the college’s existing security department that has eight full-time and eight part-time officers. The plan is to hire additional officers with an increased level of training and give them arrest powers.
“We can have sworn officers on our campuses who will conduct complex misdemeanors and felony investigations,” Murphy said. “They will have a strong presence that will hinder criminal activity. Just having them on campus should make our students and our employees feel safe and secure.”
Freeman said he understood a college is more than just an educational institution, that it’s a “home” for students and staff.
“It’s a place where people should feel secure as they pursue their academic and professional goals,” he said. “Therefore, maintaining public safety at Gadsden State directly aligns with my passion and my career’s mission.
“My top priority is to work closely with students, staff and local law enforcement to ensure the safety and security of our campuses in Etowah, Calhoun and Cherokee counties,” Freeman said. “I will use my skills, knowledge and determination to ensure everyone involved feels secure and protected.”
Freeman is married to Laura Champion Freeman, and they have three daughters, Parker Kate, 11; Lennyn Grace, 6; and Ellie Jay, 4.
“They are the most important part of my life and the reason for everything I do,” he said. “My goal is to make the world a safer place for them and for all children to grow and thrive.”
This article originally appeared on The Gadsden Times: Freeman will serve as Gadsden State’s first police chief