Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration
Dr. Jeremy Pickens: Law Enforcement as a Calling
From a young age, Dr. Jeremy Pickens knew he wanted to be in a helping profession.
But would it be as a firefighter, an attorney, law enforcement or something else?
While taking a not-so-direct career path, Pickens follows a guiding principle—have a servant’s heart and a giving spirit. He lives that on the job and also in the classroom where he teaches the nuts and bolts of law enforcement to others.
Tell me about your job.
I’m a lieutenant with the special investigations division—I direct our our street narcotics division, our canine division at the Sheriff’s Office, and our interstate interdiction unit.
Tell me about getting your doctorate.
Coming out of high school, I really wasn’t interesting in college. All my friends were going, so I felt obligated to go somewhere, so I went to Tri-County but eventually quit before earning my degree. Later in life, when I had a family, I realized I needed to go back to school and set a good example for my children. So I finished my degree at Tri-County and I transferred to AU. At that point I was already in the criminal justice field and I wanted to give myself a better opportunity for advancement. I started the AU nontraditional program and I finished my bachelor’s. It was a quick, smooth process.
I was actually thinking of going to law school, which my wife encouraged. I took the LSAT and was accepted into law school. But we would have had to move away, which wasn't a good option for my family. I started a master's program instead. I still enjoyed law enforcement and what I was doing and I started teaching as an adjunct faculty member at both Tri-County and AU. I really enjoyed it so I kept teaching. I’m one of those that if I do something, I’m going to go all out, so in 2017 I decided to pursue my Ph.D. at Carolina University in Winston-Salem and I finished it last year.
I’m still an adjunct for AU and Tri-County. I teach several classes, including one about managing a multicultural and ethical law enforcement department at the Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration. I teach law enforcement executives, chiefs, captains, and upper level supervisors in those classes. At AU I’ve taught criminology, also judicial procedures. Then I teach introduction to public safety. I enjoy teaching the classes because of the human interaction. You can’t replace the value of actual face-to-face interaction.
What made you choose Anderson University?
I wasn’t a traditional student, so one of the big things for me was the flexibility of the program. It was the adult studies courses over seven or eight weeks, and it was very flexible.
Professors at a lot of mid-size and larger schools—and even some of the smaller schools—only have an academic background. They don’t have the practical background. Almost all of the professors, if not all, at AU had actual time in the field. They were either retired or adjuncts like myself who were active in the profession who actually had the experience. It’s very nice and important for students to have that ability to be in contact with professors who actually have experience in what they’re teaching.
How did you become interested in law enforcement as a career?
When I was about 12 or 13 I started as a junior firefighter. I thought I was going to be a career firefighter and I pursued that. I was a volunteer in Anderson County for a while. I thought that was my career path. I was an explorer with Anderson City Fire Department and it was more downtime than I liked, so that’s when I started exploring law enforcement. I guess I was probably getting close to graduating high school when I was looking at a career change. I was still volunteering at the time and I volunteered for several years after that and I knew that wasn’t my career path, so probably high school was when I started considering a law enforcement career.
At the end of the day, what gives you the greatest satisfaction?
It sounds like a cliché, but seriously it’s being able to help people. Sometimes it’s a child in a bad situation, or adults in a bad relationship that you helped them get out of. Sometimes it’s changing a tire on the side of the road for somebody that can’t do it for themselves. Whether it’s making a difference in the big scheme or not, knowing that I got to help somebody individually is the greatest satisfaction.
You guys see things people in the general public don’t see, some heart-wrenching things, and there’s that element of danger. How do you handle all that?
Being a Christian helps dramatically. Because it is a Christian university, that was another thing that attracted me to AU. My undergrad, graduate, and postgraduate degrees are all from Christian universities. That's something I pride myself in.
You feel like your faith is something you depend on with your job?
Absolutely. And having a good wife. I can go to her when stuff is bothering me I can vent and know that it’s safe there. That’s always great.
What kind of advice would you give to someone who is interested in a law enforcement career?
You’ve got to have a servant’s heart to want to do this job. You hear people say it all the time that it sounds cliché, but you’re not going to get rich doing it. It’s something that you’re called to do. It’s something you want to do and it’s something you enjoy doing. I’ve had the opportunity to take different jobs to go make more money. While I’ve entertained them, I still don’t think I would have the peace and satisfaction I’d have doing what I do. That’s why I continue to do it.
I have people quite often, and actually even my job that I’m in now, they thought once I completed my Ph.D. that I was leaving as soon as I got it. Having a Ph.D. does open a lot of doors, but again, I’m passionate about what I do. Making sure they have a servant’s heart, prepare to work long hours, be prepared to miss a lot of family time. But then again I think there are those rewards on the back end that makes it worth people’s time. You’ve got to be a people person to have longevity in this job.
Generally, what else can you say about your Anderson University education?
I wasn’t a traditional student but I had the opportunity to come on campus plenty. From there to being able to teach to serving on the alumni board, Anderson University is a great place. It’s a great environment. They offer a high-quality education. I think that’s important because there are so many universities that have a reputation for just being a paper mill. That’s not what you get from Anderson University. I really value the instructors and professors who have that field experience and knowledge and willingness to pour into students, even outside of the classroom. So I think that’s very valuable to anyone seeking higher education.