LAUDERDALE COUNTY, Miss. (WTOK) - In our First Responders segment this week we meet Deputy Erik Shirley as he patrols the streets and roads of Lauderdale County. He's spent the past 17 years enforcing the law in this area.
Erik Shirley started out in Sumter County. His career in law enforcement began at the sheriff’s department. He was also a firefighter and an EMT at that time back in 2002.
“It’s a large county with a small group of people who were first responders. You kind of had to be all three. Johnny Hatter was the sheriff and hired me,” Shirley says.
Shirley worked for the Meridian Police Department for 12 years before moving to the Lauderdale County Sheriff’s Department. He’s now a DUI enforcement officer.
“I wanted to try to make a difference. I wanted to try to help out people where I could instead of responding to it, I was hoping I could get in front of it. That’s when I went into law enforcement,” Shirley says.
Shirley talks about striving to make a difference in at least one person’s life every time he puts on the uniform. He says that difference can present itself in many ways.
“Sometimes that’s stopping them and not writing them a ticket. Sometimes that’s stopping them and writing them a ticket,” Shirley explains. “Sometimes it’s talking to them and calming them down or sometimes you have to put them in jail to get the message across. It’s that chance to make a difference in that one person on that particular day.”
Shirley says he wants the public to keep in mind the mixture of calls deputies and officers respond to. He says going from something like a damaged mailbox to a fatal accident can be difficult.
“It weighs on you to a point and that goes back to who you work with and being able to talk to them and express yourself. No one really knows until you work this job for a long time what it’s going to do to you,” Shirley says.
Shirley had the support of his family and says for now, he’s continuing down the road he’s on.
“I don’t know if I’m going to be retiring anytime soon, but I have a lot more years behind me than in front of me before I can retire,” Shirley says.
To stay up to date with our First Responders series tune in every Sunday night for Newscenter 11 at 10:00 p.m. and on Good Morning Meridian on Monday mornings.