We all grow up wanting to be like the characters from movies and TV shows, but not all of us get to play action hero. Except for Strayer Alumnus and detective Eric Coe (BSCJ ’12), who has spent the past three decades fighting crime as a police officer.

After graduating from the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Police Academy at 20 years old, he started a journey that he immediately knew would be a lifelong career. “From the time I went on my first call, I had the sense this was the right path for me,” Eric remembers.

Eric started out as a uniform patrol officer and then moved to a street drug interdiction unit, where he began doing undercover work. It was at this point that Eric’s career began to more closely mimic those TV action roles—he was setting up fake drug deals, kicking down doors and confiscating illegal contraband such as guns, drugs and more. It was exciting, sure—but also dangerous. Eric faced great risk. As a husband and a father to two daughters and a son, the most challenging part was convincing his family that he was going to return home from work each day.

So eventually, after years of success on the drug team, Eric retired his uniform for a suit and tie. Today he works as a as a detective in the District Attorney’s Office. Bringing his years of training and skills together, Eric serves as a liaison between the DA and the police department, helping to manage witnesses, analyze evidence and prepare for trials.

It was in this role that Eric was inspired to earn an online college degree. “When I first started, it was striking to me how well-rounded my colleagues were who had degrees, and I wanted to be a part of that,” he says. “I wanted a more comprehensive picture of how the office works and the process of taking a case from arrest all the way to prosecution and conviction, so I went back to school.”

Eric opted to pursue a degree in criminal justice. As a detective, Eric saw many different felony cases cross his desk—and he wanted to make sure they were well-represented. A degree, he felt, would help him work better for those he swore to serve, and Strayer’s convenient online classes were perfect for his schedule. “I was already comfortable with the online environment so transitioning to online classes at Strayer was easy, but I was most impressed with the quality of my classmates and the faculty,” he says. “I really enjoyed the discussions with people from all over the world and my professors were very easy to connect with.”

Eric says his favorite part of his Criminal Justice degree was the capstone class in which he examined the inner workings of a police department. “Learning about the other side of the operation—the administrative side—really broadened my perspective of what it takes to run a police department,” he says. “It was fascinating to learn about everything the chief must balance, from the different personalities among staff, to ensuring safety, setting policy and working with various stakeholders.”

Eric’s education provided him with valuable practical skills, as well as gave him a springboard for advancing his career. With so many opportunities on the horizon and now armed with a degree, Eric looks forward to growing in his role.