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07/03/24

Police chief celebrates first year of service

Gadsden, Ala. — It has been a year since Jay Freeman assumed the role of the first chief of the Ƶ Police and Public Safety Department.

“I have not taken the opportunity to serve Ƶ for granted,” he said. “Because of the hard work of our dedicated staff, we have achieved many accomplishments.”

In March 2023, it was announced that Ƶ was creating a new police department to serve all five of its campuses in Calhoun, Etowah and Cherokee counties. Previously, it was a security department only.

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

On May 26, 2023, Murphy announced that Freeman would take the reins of the department that would include both sworn law enforcement officers and public safety officers. His start date was July 3, 2023.

“Over the past year, Chief Freeman has exemplified dedication, leadership and commitment to the safety and well-being of our campus communities,” Murphy said. “He not only has enhanced our safety and security, but he has also fostered a sense of collaboration among students, faculty, staff and the communities we serve. I am appreciative of his exceptional service in building a strong, respected police department at Ƶ.”

The Ƶ law enforcement officers have the ability to conduct complex investigations, including interviewing victims, suspects and offenders; preparing photo lineups; collecting evidence; and preparing case files. The public safety officers protect property, perform building inspections, secure premises and deter criminal activity.

“We have a strong team, which is so important,” Freeman said. “A successful team needs people who work together toward the same goal. In my opinion, there’s no surefire recipe for creating a great team. Effective leadership, communication and access to resources contribute to a productive collaboration but it all comes down to having people understand each other and work well together.”

Freeman currently supervises 13 full-time employees, seven part-time employees and two reserve officers, who volunteer their time.

“I’m proud that we have established a dedicated staff, who is instrumental in ensuring the safety of students, faculty and staff at Ƶ,” he said.

Under Freeman’s leadership, the Department has enhanced training standards and programs, including crisis intervention training, de-escalation techniques and cultural sensitivity training.

“We ensure that all officers are equipped with the latest skills and knowledge to handle various safety and security challenges effectively,” he said. “This commitment to continuous improvement has positioned the Department as a leader in campus safety.”

The Police and Public Safety Department provides community outreach programs, including free women’s self-defense training. It also provides training courses for local law enforcement agencies in advanced first aid and tactical medicine, active shooter training, fire extinguisher safety and various other topics.

“The trainings allow us to enhance the skills and knowledge of all officers dedicated to serving our communities as well as equip our citizens with safety techniques,” he said. “By sharing resources and expertise, we aim to create a safer environment for everyone and ensure that officers are well prepared to handle the diverse challenges they face.”

The Cardinal Safety Training Program was created for employees by Freeman and his staff. Training has been offered in CPR, the use of automated external defibrillator, administering medication that reverses opioid overdose and self-defense.

“We will continue to create opportunities for our employees by providing essential training and development opportunities,” he said. “We must consider the return on investment. Employees who feel valued and invested in are more likely to have a positive attitude and be productive.”

Freeman said he is proud of the accomplishments he and his co-workers have achieved in the past year.

“I’m looking forward to seeing where tomorrow’s leaders will be coming from,” he said. “It all started with this current team, and we will continue to build something special.”

: Ƶ Chief of Police Jay Freeman teaches a free women’s self-defense class on the Wallace Drive Campus. Community outreach programs and trainings are an important piece of Freeman’s plan to foster collaboration and enhance safety skills.

Ƶ Chief of Police Jay Freeman teaches a free women’s self-defense class on the Wallace Drive Campus. Community outreach programs and trainings are an important piece of Freeman’s plan to foster collaboration and enhance safety skills.

Ƶ Chief of Police poses with trick-or-treaters at the college’s Candy with a Cardinals event in October 2023.

Ƶ Chief of Police poses with trick-or-treaters at the college’s Candy with the Cardinals event in October 2023.