Alum Eric Southerland Enjoys Career of a Lifetime in Law Enforcement

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Every since high school, Eric Southerland knew that he wanted to go into law enforcement. “It was my first choice in a survey for career paths,” said Eric. While attending James Kenan High School in Warsaw, NC, Eric was fortunate enough to be selected as one of the founding members into the Duplin County Explorers with the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, a program designed just for high school students.

“Sheriff Garner reached out and started the explorers program for those interested in law enforcement… that program is still in existence today. It helped me experience what it would be like to work in the Sheriff’s Office.”

The introduction into the Sheriff’s Office lead Eric to obtain his BLET (Basic Law Enforcement Training) certificate at James Sprunt Community College. Earning that one credential at James Sprunt allowed Eric the opportunity to work for over 20 years for the Duplin County Sheriff’s Office, having a successful career doing what he loves most.

Fast forward to today, and you’ll find Eric still working as an officer of the law, except now he is working full-time as the Police Chief of the Warsaw Police Department, as well as serving as the Director of the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at James Sprunt Community College.

As the Police Chief, Eric does a little bit of everything. “I do administrative work, as well as enforcement and also help to cover shifts,” says Eric. He is in charge of 14 officers in the department, a captain, two investigators, and 10 officers on patrol. “I love serving my community and trying to make a difference,” said Eric.

On his job as a BLET Director, Eric says, “I love being able to train new recruits to become a good, positive influence in the community. It was a great opportunity and I have discovered that I enjoy teaching and training new recruits about what it takes to become a police officer – and most importantly, a good officer.”

In addition to earning his BLET certification, Eric has also earned an associates of applied science degree in criminal justice from James Sprunt Community College, a degree that wasn’t required for his job as an officer, but a personal goal that he had always wanted to obtain.

Married with two children, ages 20 and 17, Eric resides in Warsaw, North Carolina. His advice to others seeking to enter a career in criminal justice and law enforcement is to “start preparing now for the physical requirements. Come with an open mind and ready to learn.”

-Cheryl Hemric / Director of Marketing and Public Information


James Sprunt Community College offers Basic Law Enforcement Training, a certificate program for entry into law enforcement. The next BLET class will begin January 29, 2018, being offered in the evening hours. James Sprunt students may earn up to 12 Criminal Justice Technology Curriculum credit hours for successful completion of this training program. Pell and VA financial aid is available for students who qualify.  For more information or to secure a BLET packet, contact Eric Southerland at 910-296-2533 or

James Sprunt Community College is one of the premier institutions in the North Carolina Community College System. Our college serves more than 5,000 students annually from our Kenansville and WestPark campuses and three specialized centers. Learn more at


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