HARROGATE, TENN. — Lincoln Memorial University President B. James Dawson announced the creation of the LMU Police Force at a press conference on Monday. Dawson and Claiborne County Sheriff David Ray signed a Memorandum of Understanding outlining the guidelines for the creation of the force during the event.
“The creation of a LMU Police Force is a necessary and essential step as this institution continues on its trajectory of rapid growth,” Dawson said. “Our people are our greatest resource and it is vital that we take every possible measure to protect them.”
LMU’s announcement follows the enactment of Tennessee Senate Bill 2166, which was sponsored by Sen. Mike Faulk and signed into law by Gov. Bill Haslam in April. The bill gives the Claiborne County sheriff the authority to monitor the formation of the police force and to define its geographical jurisdiction.
It also gives the sheriff the authority to deputize all officers on the LMU Police Force. Additionally, the bill stipulates that all LMU officers will be required to be POST certifiable. The LMU Board of Trustees and the Claiborne County Commission have also approved resolutions in favor of the measure.
The university began exploring a private police force for LMU’s main campus over a year ago. Chief of Security Bill Sowders researched security and police units at other private institutions of higher education in Tennessee. He focused on the police forces of the University of the South, Belmont University and Vanderbilt University as models in creating the LMU Police Force.
“The LMU Police Force’s chief priority is to keep our students, faculty, staff and community safe from outside threats. This is not a new concept for my team and has always been our goal,” Sowders said. “This step enhances our ability to do our job. It will also relieve the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department of the burden of patrolling the 1,000 acres that our campus covers. We are grateful to continue to collaborate with the Claiborne County Sheriff’s Department.”
The LMU Police Force will employ a total of six POST certifiable officers, all of which will be deputized by Ray, with the authority to carry a weapon and make arrests. At least one deputized officer will be on duty at all times.
Additionally, LMU will continue to employ security personnel to provide dispatch support and building security. Sowder, a 33-year veteran of the Tennessee Highway Patrol and Tennessee Department of Safety, and two other LMU officers were deputized by Ray at the press conference.
“This police department here will be so wonderful to assist and to assist us,” said Ray. “We are going to continue to assist in training and provide every assistance that we can as time goes on.”
“I believe with all my heart that this police department can develop into one of the best police departments on any campus or any place in the state of Tennessee,” said Ray.
The university will transition to the Police Force over the next month as officers are trained, deputized and an orientation is held. LMU’s jurisdiction will be limited to campus proper, including the 35 buildings and three additional buildings currently under construction on the 1,000-acre main campus in Harrogate and the recently purchased property in the Village of Cumberland Gap.
Lincoln Memorial University is a values-based learning community dedicated to providing educational experiences in the liberal arts and professional studies. The main campus is located in Harrogate.