On the Beat

On the Beat
Posted Mar 24th, 2022

Some students grow up dreaming of becoming astronauts. Others discover a new favorite career every day. For Sgt. Jeremy Burkett, there was never any question about what he would do with his life.

“There were two things I wanted to do growing up. One was to be in the military, and the other was to be an Alabama State Trooper,” he says. “Today, I’ve been in the National Guard for almost 20 years and a trooper for 15 years.”

Burkett is part of what’s become a tradition for Pike County High School. He’s one of six graduates who have become state troopers and gone on to reach high levels in law enforcement. This spring, another Pike County graduate is set to join the fold. 

“I think it’s very unusual for a school to have six graduates that hold very senior-level positions in the Alabama Law Enforcement Agency,” says Pike County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mark Bazzell. “We’re certainly proud of the men they’ve grown up to be and the way they’ve represented the state of Alabama.”

Bazzell credits the successful ROTC program at Pike County High School, as well as participation in team sports, with instilling discipline and a sense of service in each of those graduates.

“A number of these were cadets in our ROTC programs, and many were student-athletes,” he says. “They were always good citizens when they were in school. So it doesn’t surprise me that they chose that career path, and it doesn’t surprise me that they’ve all been successful.”

A helping hand

For Burkett, the appeal of the troopers was clear from the beginning. He recalls that even as a child he would see them out in the community helping people and wanted to be a part of that.

“There are times I can remember being in a small town and broken down on the side of the road with my mother and twin brother. They stopped, helped us out and gave us a ride,” he says. “I’m not trying to be cheesy, but when you’re a little kid you think, ‘Hey, that’s something I want to do.’”

That desire to be a positive force in his community was only encouraged during his time at Pike County High School, where he felt like everyone was expected to find a way to serve those around them.

“Brundidge was one of those places where service was just built into it,” Burkett says. “I think a lot of us who went there were very engaged in our time at the school. And I think that was particularly true for people who played ball.”

As a member of the class of 2003, Burkett played football and baseball for the Bulldogs. The discipline and physical conditioning he picked up during that time, he believes, helped guide him toward his careers in the military and law enforcement.

“Once you get used to that lifestyle you really want to continue it,” he says. “There was a standard, just as I have now. If you said you were going to do something there was an expectation that you were going to follow through with it.”

Head of the class

Today, following that standard has led Burkett to his role as recruiting/public affairs coordinator for ALEA’s Office of the Secretary. It’s something he doesn’t think he could’ve achieved without first getting his college degree in criminology from Troy University, an accomplishment he shares with fellow Pike County graduates Col. Jimmy Helms and Senior Special Agent Jackie Hornsby.

“You don’t ever know what you don’t know until it’s too late. And getting into law enforcement at 21 made me realize there were a lot of things I needed to know,” Burkett says. “I felt like getting a college degree would make me more well-rounded, and it did.”

While he is especially proud of his time as a highway patrol trooper and with the state SWAT team, Burkett says the work he does now is the highlight of his career. It gives him the opportunity to craft the agency’s public message and shed more light on the positive role the troopers play in their communities.

“One thing I realized in my time in law enforcement is that our officers do a lot of really good work that doesn’t get out there,” he says. “They try to be humble and want to do the right thing just because that’s our job and what we took an oath to do. But I think it’s imperative that we begin to share more information about the really good job these officers do.”

Bazzell hopes current and future students at Pike County High School will pick up on some of that good work, as well as continue to see these alumni as role models for everything they can achieve.

“They serve as outstanding examples for our students that if you make good decisions, you can choose whatever career path you want,” he says. “Whether it’s in medicine, law enforcement or teaching, if you attend our schools and apply yourself you can succeed at the highest level.” 

 

SENIOR SPECIAL AGENT JACKIE HORNSBY
Hornsby began his career in law enforcement in 1997 as a highway patrol trooper, field training officer and a member of the Special Operations Unit for the Dothan Highway Patrol. In 2014 he became the detail leader for the Alabama Attorney General’s Protection Detail, and he currently serves as Attorney General Steve Marshall’s protection detail leader.

COL. JIMMY HELMS
A 30-year veteran of law enforcement, Helms joined the Montgomery Police Department in 1990. He joined the state troopers in 1997, where he served with the Highway Patrol Division and as a staff instructor and unit commander of the Capitol Police. Last year, he was appointed director of the ALEA Department of Safety.

CPL. PHILLIP FAULKNER
Faulkner joined ALEA in 2003 as a state trooper. He recently completed 18 years of service in positions that include training center instructor and traffic homicide investigator. He is also a certified crash reconstructionist. He is currently assigned to the Troy Highway Patrol Post, where he serves as field supervisor for troopers in Pike and Crenshaw counties.

LT. DREW BROOKS
Brooks started his law enforcement career with the Montgomery Police Department and the Pike County Sheriff’s Office before joining the state troopers in 2007. While there, he served as leader of Gov. Kay Ivey’s protection detail in her time as lieutenant governor. He is currently troop commander responsible for the Dothan and Troy Highway Patrol posts.

SGT. JEREMY J. BURKETT
Burkett joined ALEA as a state trooper in 2006. He recently completed 15 years of service, during which he has served as an operator on the state tactical team, a member of the Special Operations Unit and a field training officer. He is currently assigned to the Office of the Secretary, where he coordinates and manages statewide recruiting and public affairs efforts.

SENIOR TROOPER JAMES (ED) WILLIAMS
Williams served as a correctional officer for nine years before joining ALEA in 2007. He recently completed 14 years of service with the agency, and he’s currently assigned as a field training officer with the Dothan Highway Patrol Post. He is also a member of the ALEA Special Operations Platoon, which responds to natural disasters and civil unrest.