ATLANTA –William Trivelpiece (M.S. in Criminal Justice ‘07), a drug intelligence officer with the Atlanta-Carolinas High Intensity Drug Trafficking Area program (HIDTA), works on a multidisciplinary effort to assuage the opioid epidemic in Georgia.
However, he’s doing it with PowerPoints and pens rather than pistols and handcuffs, which takes him far from where he began his career, 31 years ago.
“If you would have asked me when I finished graduate school if I saw myself working in a more community-oriented, educational capacity alongside the public health department, I would have looked at you like you were crazy,” he revealed in his Andrew Young School graduate commencement address (Fall 2018).
According to Trivelpiece, much of what he’s accomplished has boiled down to two principles he acquired at Georgia State University: never stop learning and look for ways to give back.
Trivelpiece began his career in law enforcement at the Atlanta Police Department (APD), serving under then Mayor Andrew Young while pursuing his master’s degree at Georgia State University.
A few courses shy of graduation, an on-the-job accident forced him to put his degree pursuit on hold. Still, he continued learning while he moved up the ranks at the APD, eventually earning a promotion to lieutenant of central investigations.
Professor Dean Dabney, chair of the school’s criminal justice and criminology department, met Trivelpiece in 2006 while conducting research in his zone. After hearing him tell his story, Dabney suggested he complete his master’s degree. Trivelpiece jumped at the opportunity.
Shortly after he graduated, three APD narcotics officers were accused of falsifying a warrant and planting drugs in the home of 92-year-old Kathryn Johnston, who was fatally shot during a raid on her home. They were later found guilty and imprisoned.
“The chief of police called me in shortly after the shooting to rebuild the narcotics unit from the bottom up, and that’s when my career path changed,” he said.
Trivelpiece rebuilt the unit and retired from the APD. Soon after, he joined the HIDTA program and eventually retired as deputy director in 2010. However, he was not done learning and serving the community. A few years later, he was asked to rejoin the HIDTA as a part of its Opioid Response Strategy.
“The initiative is built on collaborations between Drug Intelligence Officers, public health analysts and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention across multiple jurisdictions,” Trivelpiece said. “My new role is more hands-on community outreach. I provide an education platform with my public health partner.”
Trivelpiece shares give support and expertise with law enforcement officers and the communities he works in. Working alongside his partners in public health has also expanded his learning, he said.
“What you’re seeing out there is law enforcement desperately wanting to be able to give families some resources, some places to go to get help. I’ve learned that problems have more than one side to them. By approaching them in newly learned routes, the chances of positive outcomes increase.”
Story by Sumar Deen, Student (M.S. Clinical Mental Health Counseling, ’21)
Interview conducted by Tammie W. Green, Masters of Public Administration Student, Andrew Young School of Policy Studies.