Eric Kerns to serve as interim Burlington Police Dept. chief

City manager Hardin Watkins has announced the appointment of an interim police chief to serve alongside retiring police chief Jeff Smythe for 10 days during a transition period next month.

Former assistant police chief Eric Kerns, who retired in 2018 after 30 years with the department, will work with Smythe beginning on May 17, 2021 and become interim chief upon Smythe’s retirement on May 27, according to a press release from city hall.

As an assistant police chief of operations prior to his retirement, Kerns oversaw the patrol division, community relations division, traffic unit, and communications.

Kerns is currently a part-time employee with the department, working on accreditation and serves on the departmental budget team.

In addition to his part-time work with the department, Kerns also serves as a site-based assessment team leader for the Commission on Accreditation for Law Enforcement Agencies (CALEA), a national accreditation organization for law enforcement agencies across the U.S.

Kerns and his family are lifelong residents of Burlington and Elon.  Kerns is a 1984 graduate of Western Alamance High School.  He then got his bachelor of science degree in criminology and a minor in sociology from the University of North Carolina – Charlotte in 1988.  He subsequently obtained an MBA with a concentration in leadership from Pfeiffer University and graduated the administrative officers management program at N.C. State University.

Watkins says he has initiated a “robust recruitment and selection process” for recruiting a new police chief, estimating that a final selection could be made by late summer of early fall.