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Command College Graduate’s Community Policing Initiatives Recognized Nationally

February 17, 2023
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Lt. Eric Kirkland, left, a graduate of the Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration, received the Excellence in Community Engagement Award from LAW Publications. Barnwell County Sheriff Steve Griffith presented the award to Lt. Kirkland.

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Cultivating community is more than just a catchy phrase for Lt. Eric Kirkland, a graduate of the Command College of South Carolina, part of the Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration.

In his role with the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office, a law enforcement agency in the lower part of South Carolina, community relations means being a positive role model for youngsters and helping others in need. Lt. Kirkland received national recognition from LAW Publications, receiving the Excellence in Community Engagement Award.

Growing up in Barnwell, Lt. Kirkland looked up to local law enforcement officers for good reason.

“My support system and a lot of my role models were the local law enforcement officers that I knew in town that always had time for me. No matter where I was, they always took time to talk to me, to guide me. Probably as early as the sixth grade, I wanted to be a law enforcement officer, and that never went away,” he said.

Lt. Kirkland left his hometown to do law enforcement work in Orangeburg, then went to the Lexington County Sheriff’s Office, where he served for 18 years. In 2018, he returned to Barnwell. There he enthusiastically puts his experience to work in the place where he grew up and began in law enforcement more than 30 years ago. 

Barnwell County Sheriff Steve Griffith is proud of what Lt. Kirkland has accomplished as he seeks to build bridges between his agency and the community it serves. An Expo organized to help build those bridges won the Community Event of the Year Award from LAW Publications.

Lt. Kirkland views his role as going beyond just locking bad guys up. He views himself and his colleagues in uniform as a community resource. Community policing takes on many forms for Lt. Kirkland, who hands out “Barnwell County Junior Deputy” badges, wristbands, stickers or coloring books to children. He also reaches out to high schoolers to openly discuss the relationship between law enforcement officers and the public during times when news headlines seem to routinely put law enforcement in a negative light.

Kirkland talked about several initiatives he and the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office have organized to help citizens in need.

“We did a Stuff A Bus event and were able to bless 245 needy children in and around Barnwell County. And the ones that couldn’t come and get the toys, I had deputies take the bags of toys and ride them to the locations, so we know that on Christmas Day we were fortunate to bless that many homes,” he said. 

The Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office also partnered with Golden Harvest to do a food drive, enlisting the help of high school students to deliver food items to 745 people across the community for Thanksgiving.

“It’s a great thing to be recognized, but I’m doing something that I absolutely love. It’s servanthood—that’s what it is,” he said. “This job has to be in your heart. I have food in my car. If I run across people who don’t have food, I pass out food. I have people that call me when they don’t have clothes. A young man didn’t have shoes the other night. I couldn’t get anybody to do it, so Friday evening I went and bought him a pair of shoes. Homeless people walking in the bitter cold, don’t leave them walking in the bitter cold. When you pass by them they become your issue. You take care of that issue, get them to a safe place.” 

Lt. Kirkland, who graduated in the fifth cohort of the Command College, credits his education at Anderson University for helping him handle his cases professionally and do strategic planning for the many community events he organizes. 

“The Command College is for that individual who desires to be head of a law enforcement organization and prepares you at all levels on how to successfully do it,” he said. “We touched everything from policies to how to handle the media when a crisis occurs.”

Lt. Kirkland also appreciates the Christian worldview that Anderson University provides.

“I’ve always been raised in a spiritual household. My mom made me go to church. So coming into the Command College… every assignment we had at Anderson tied biblically into real world issues,” he said. “I kind of look at law enforcement as mission work, as we all should. You know, God cares about the 99, but we as law enforcement get an opportunity to reach the ones that got away—those lost sheep, those children that are going through domestic violence or hardships at home. If we use the right tools and if we can apply ourselves, we cannot only save them but we get an opportunity to tell them at some point in time about a man called Jesus.”

LAW Publications’ website commented, “Kirkland and the Barnwell County Sheriff’s Office clearly represent a force that is built with levels of respect, strength, empathy, loyalty, and a never-ending pursuit of excellence.”

More information about the Anderson University School of Public Service and Administration can be found online.

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