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Protecting ‘village within a city’

By Kay S. Pedrotti Gordon State College has been described as a ‘village within a city within a county,’ with its own qualified police department, services and challenges. Jeffrey Mason has served as police chief of the fully-certified officers in the Gordon Police Department for nearly six years. He said his goal for the department has been to hire the ‘best and most qualified seasoned officers’ to serve and protect a population of about 4,500. All officers are POST-certified and participate in ongoing law enforcement educational opportunities, Mason said. ’Anytime you have a population density such as a college, the job requires attention to detail, a certain amount of ‘˜community policing,’ and interaction with other agencies in mutual aid to each other as needed. We have an awesome relationship with Barnesville Police Deptartment, Lamar County Sheriff’s office, and Barnesville and Lamar County fire-rescue services. There are frequent training occasions when we all learn more about the campus and how it should be protected, and what roles other departments play,’ Mason said. ‘We also have cooperative emergency drills and procedures for weather emergencies, fires, ‘˜active shooter’ incidents and other situations that may arise.’ An example of preparedness would be training in which firefighters and law enforcement personnel become familiar with the campus and where equipment may be located and connected, said Mason. The college has a tornado siren ‘which benefits the community also,’ he added. The Gordon police department has 23 officers, 12 full-time and 11 part-time, and an administrative assistant. No fewer than two officers per shift are on duty 24 hours a day. There are ‘call boxes’ across the campus, Mason said. At a call from any of the boxes, ‘officers can be there in three minutes or less.’ The GSC campus is very safe, having the lowest crime rate of any college in the state with a resident population, he added. ’Our biggest problems here have to do with thefts,’ Mason said. ‘When students are away from home for the first time, and may be confused by their surroundings, they may take less care of their property. The thefts are mostly laptops, phones, iPads and other electronics. Most of the marijuana and drug problems we have are because non-students bring the contraband into the campus.’ The force solves crimes at a much higher rate than the national average, which Mason attributes to having enough time and personnel to pursue thorough investigations. Recovering property for students is a high priority, he said. He does not discount the incidents of ‘the small portion of humanity that doesn’t want to mind their manners – they are identified and often removed from the campus for good reasons.’ Mason is a Gordon instructor of law enforcement, criminal justice and investigations and also works with Southern Crescent Technical College. He has a master’s degree in public administration, a BS degree in criminal justice and an associate’s degree from Gordon, also in criminal justice. He also has attended the FBI’s prestigious National Academy. Mason describes himself as ‘driven,’ because in addition to police work, he enjoys working with First Baptist Church through various community projects and the Thanksgiving mission. He coaches soccer and loves the game – he says his U10 girls’ team is ‘just incredible.’ It’s the first time he’s coached girls’ soccer and he is enjoying the teamwork and determined attitude of his little team, he said. He also loves to spend time with his family: wife April, a CPA; daughter Taylor, 25; son Jacob, 16; son Ethan, 11; and son Eli, 7. Gordon PD officers can take advantage of educational opportunities through the college’s tuition assistance program. About half of the full-time officers have taken college courses to benefit their educational growth, Mason stated. ’I am proud of this police force,’ he said. ’They help the students with keys locked in cars, flat tires and other needs. It makes a difference in how students perceive the police if you are there to help them anytime.’

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