By Paul Gable
With the SLED investigation of the Horry County Police Department complete and the Attorney General’s Office finding nothing of prosecutorial merit in the findings, the Horry County Police Department is now in position to move on to a new beginning.
With the investigation exonerating the police department and its evidence handling procedures, Chief Johnny Morgan announced his retirement Friday after 41 years in law enforcement. Morgan has been in the process of cleaning out his office and was just waiting for the investigation to be completed so he would not retire under a cloud of suspicion. Morgan’s retirement will be official June 30, 2012 and he will be on terminal leave until then.
Capt. Saundra Rhodes, head of the department’s North Precinct, has been named interim chief. Rhodes becomes the first woman and first African-American to head HCPD. Several council members expressed satisfaction in Rhodes’ selection and believe her abilities make her the perfect officer to head HCPD.
According to sources close to the department, Assistant Chief David Beatty’s days are also numbered. Beatty is rumored to not be the choice to replace Morgan and he has been applying for positions in other departments around the state.
The results of the SLED investigation were no surprise as the whole investigation was based on the Horry County Legislative Delegation using an August 2011 anonymous letter as an excuse to request an investigation of HCPD for political reasons.
In other HCPD news, the Horry County Public Safety Committee will hold two meetings later this month. The regular committee meeting will be February 16, 2012 at 5 p.m. and a special meeting dealing with bike week plans will be held February 23, 2012.
According to committee chairman Brent Schulz, the special meeting will include an in-depth presentation of what is allowed and what is not allowed during May bike weeks. Schulz said there has been considerable controversy in the past month about the upcoming bike weeks and he encourages the public to come to the meeting to learn what can be expected during May.
“We want the public to come to the meeting,” said Schulz. “The committee is prepared to spend all night, if necessary, to answer questions and provide information.”