A familiar face around Hall County, Jeff Strickland is months into building his second police department in his own backyard at Lanier Technical College.
Lanier Tech named Strickland as the police chief in September to create the institution’s campus police.
“When I learned of the opening here, of course I applied for it because it’s five miles from my house,” said Strickland, who was putting 500 miles on the odometer every week going to Athens Technical College.
Starting as a jailer in 1983, Strickland retired as the Hall County Sheriff’s Office’s chief deputy in 2011. He ran unsuccessfully for sheriff in 2012 against Gerald Couch.
Strickland started with Athens Tech, where he similarly built the department for the college, in 2013. Both Lanier Tech and Athens Tech formerly used security from the surrounding sheriff’s office.
“Creating the campus police agency provides us with another tool to help assure a safe learning and working environment,” Lanier Tech President Ray Perren said in a statement.
Lanier Tech is the 18th police department in the Technical College System of Georgia.
“It’s pretty much been a trend that the technical college system has moved from using security to creating their own police departments,” Strickland said.
Athens Tech vice president for student affairs Jennifer Benson said the department was left in good shape after Strickland’s departure.
“He doesn’t do anything halfway,” she said.
Building a campus police department is a “monumental task,” Strickland said, that begins with approval by the college’s president and the Technical College System of Georgia. This led to recognition from the Georgia Peace Officer Standards and Training Council, which governs law enforcement officers.
Along with building logos, patches and uniforms are deciding what equipment to carry and going through the state procurement process for the requested items.
“It’s a work in progress everyday, but I really feel like everyday when I go home and I’ve got something accomplished, I can see the things building,” Strickland said.
Strickland said the department was in the process of getting its originating agency identifier number from the Georgia Bureau of Investigation.
“That’s how you report your crime stats to the GBI and FBI. If you’re using (Georgia Crime Information Center) or something … that just identifies your agency,” Strickland said.
On Nov. 22, the department conducted an active shooter training exercise. Strickland said he hopes to continue the exercise on different campuses each year.
“We provide a frontline level of defense for anything that would happen on our campus,” he said.
Between the five Lanier Tech campuses — Oakwood, Dawsonville, Cumming, Commerce and Winder — Strickland said the department will likely have several full-time and roughly 30 part-time officers.
“All of the additional agencies in Hall County have a standing offer from the Sheriff’s Office for any assistance that we can provide on any level, if it’s a major incident all the way down to the more basic needs,” Sheriff’s Office Deputy Stephen Wilbanks said.
In the southern part of the county, Wilbanks said the patrol zones are smaller.
“Those patrol officers are usually in pretty close proximity, within a pretty quick response time, to those campuses if something did arise,” Wilbanks said.
The chief has already hired four officers, each with roughly 18 years of experience or more from either Gainesville Police, Hall County Sheriff’s Office or Dawson County Sheriff’s Office.
“All of them have already had a long career in law enforcement, and they have a lot of experience. We bring all that experience to this campus,” Strickland said.
Being married for 20 years in March, the police chief said he missed a lot with his family in law enforcement.
“When I was with the Sheriff’s Office, our workload was so heavy. I sacrificed a lot of family time there,” he said.
While he still has a large responsibility at Lanier Tech, Strickland said the job will afford him more time to spend with his grandchildren.