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home : news : law enforcement March 5, 2021

12/28/2020 3:52:00 PM
Samuel Dunlap, Jr. Completes BLET
Gaston College-trained officer to work for Belmont Police
Samuel Dunlap, Jr. (Photo Courtesy Gaston College)
Samuel Dunlap, Jr. 

(Photo Courtesy Gaston College)

Lincoln Herald Staff

He’s certified to protect and serve.

He’s Samuel Lee Dunlap, Jr., and he’s a recent graduate of the BLET (or basic law-enforcement training) program at Gaston College. According to college spokeswoman Stephanie Michael Pickett, Dunlap, 42, completed and successfully passed his examination earlier this month. Now state-certified, he works as an officer for the Belmont Police Department.

Pickett continued that the college’s BLET program equips students with the essential skills needed for beginning a career as an officer at state, county and municipal levels.

And some of the program’s students choose to enter law-enforcement after having established other careers. Dunlap is one of them. He enrolled in the program in July, having already earned a bachelor’s degree in business management at Belmont Abbey College. Dunlap had worked for Planet Fitness since 2011. He moved to Alabama in March to become a regional manager for the fitness company.

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However, restrictions that governors placed upon businesses in the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak prevented the franchise owner from expanding in that area, and Dunlap’s position was eliminated. He and his wife returned to North Carolina in June.

“A friend encouraged me to consider a career in law-enforcement shortly after I moved back home,” said Dunlap. “Through my belief in prayer and faith, my wife and I discussed the idea and considered my previous experience. I have three years in the military, almost nine years of servant-leadership with Planet Fitness that included working as a general manager, my college degree, being a husband, stepfather, foster parent, a leader at my church and in the local Masonic Lodge and a mentor in the Gaston County Schools. All of that––and my passion to serve others––brought us to the onclusion that law-enforcement would be an ideal career change.”

Dennis Crosby, director of the Gaston College Criminal Justice Academy and the BLET program, acknowledged Dunlap’s age. The average age for a BLET student is 20.

But Crosby also cited Dunlap’s “maturity, life experiences and business background,” adding that they “are beneficial when seeking a career in law-enforcement. He also came prepared. He’s in excellent physical condition, and he always projects a positive attitude.”  

Crosby tells students that the program is part of the selection process for law-enforcement agencies. The program has about 60 to 70 instructors, and most of them are full-time law-enforcement officers, teaching part-time at Gaston College. Many of them are unofficial recruiters for their agencies, and they often make hiring recommendations based upon students’ performance in the BLET classes. Dunlap’s qualifications and suitability for a law-enforcement career made him an attractive candidate.

The Belmont Police Department sponsored Dunlap in his pursuit of this new direction. He was accepted into the Gaston College BLET program in July, and the Belmont Police Department hired him in September. Dunlap completed the program Nov. 30. Dec. 3, he took the North Carolina BLET State Exam and successfully passed.

“I look forward to a career of 20 to 25 years serving in law-enforcement,” he said, “with an opportunity to attend as much training as available, to earn the ranks of corporal, sergeant, and captain and to be an instructor in the N.C. Criminal Justice Academy and teach a BLET course at Gaston College.”

Dunlap’s family and friends are excited that he is embarking on this new career, and they are confident that he will do well. He is grateful for their support and for the education and encouragement he received at Gaston College.

“Director Dennis Crosby, assistant director Shane Caughey and facilitator Melanie Hoyle, along with first-class administration and my phenomenal classmates and instructors throughout the course, have made my experience with the BLET program nothing less than exceptional,” said Dunlap.

“Mr. Dunlap epitomizes what we look for in BLET candidates,” said Crosby. “He came into the program well prepared and gave 100 percent every day. He has a great public service attitude. There are numerous job opportunities for people interested in a career in law-enforcement these days. Mr. Dunlap is an example that you can get hired, even before the class is completed, if you work hard and have a great attitude. I think he will be very successful in his newly chosen field.”

The BLET program at Gaston College prepares students for challenging and rewarding careers in law-enforcement.

“If anyone is considering law-enforcement as a career in Gaston County, no matter your age,” said Dunlap, “don’t look any further than Gaston College to receive the best instruction, guidance and opportunity to succeed.”

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