BLET program prepares Samuel Dunlap for a new career in law enforcement

The Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Gaston College equips students with essential skills for beginning a career as an officer at the state, county, and municipal level. Some of the program’s students, however, choose to enter law enforcement after having established other careers. One such student is Samuel Lee Dunlap, Jr.

Dunlap, who enrolled in the BLET program in July 2020, already had a bachelor’s degree in business management from Belmont Abbey College and had worked at Planet Fitness since 2011. In March 2020 he moved to Alabama to become a Regional Manager with the company, but the COVID-19 pandemic 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, step-father, foster parent, leader at my church and in the local Masonic Lodge, and Gaston County Schools Mentor. All of that – and my passion to serve others –

brought us to the conclusion that law enforcement would be an ideal career change.”

Photo of police officer

“At 42 years of age, Mr. Dunlap is a little older than our average student,” said Dennis Crosby, Director of the Gaston College Criminal Justice Academy and the BLET program. “His maturity, life experiences and business background 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 approximately 60 to 70 instructors, and most of them are full-time law enforcement officers who teach part-time at the 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 on November 30 and on December 3 he took the NC BLET State Exam. He successfully passed the exam and will become state-certified and can be sworn in to work. “I look forward to a career of 20 to 25 years serving in law enforcement with an opportunity to attend as many trainings as available, to earn ranks of Corporal, Sergeant, and Captain, and to be an instructor in the NC 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, my phenomenal classmates and instructors throughout the course, have made my experience with the BLET program nothing less than exceptional,” he said.

“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 agragreat 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.”

Samuel’s BLET classmates graduated and completed the state certification exam at a 96% pass rate! Ten of the eleven students passed the exam on their first attempt.

For more information about the Basic Law Enforcement Training program at Gaston College, contact Melanie Hoyle at or 704-922-6531.



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