Tag: Horry County Police Department

City Has Potential Nuclear Option in Parking Fee Issue

The City of Myrtle Beach holds a potential nuclear option that could blow up the current parking fee debate between the city and Horry County into a much bigger and more explosive issue.

Nuclear options in political discussion come in various categories. One we hear about often is a threatened change in U.S. Senate rules that could effectively prohibit filibusters.

However, the nuclear option that Myrtle Beach appears to hold could change taxation for many residents within the county, both inside and outside the city limits.

A little background:

The city and county have been at odds over parking fees and areas they are charged in Myrtle Beach city limits.

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus has addressed city council on several occasions attempting to reach some type of compromise that would allow county residents to pay $100 per year for a parking decal that would allow county residents to park at all city owned paid parking locations.

To date, the city has been reluctant to adopt Lazarus’ plan.

Personally, I don’t believe any of the city’s parking fees are justified, especially because they go to fund the Downtown Redevelopment Corporation, a notoriously underperforming enterprise.

In response to the city’s reticence, county council voted last week to not include $200,000 for the city’s planned museum/library complex and $30,000 specifically for Chapin Memorial Library in the county budget. The city requested both amounts.

At Tuesday’s Myrtle Beach City Council meeting, council member Mary Jeffcoat requested city staff to prepare a review of the amount of property tax revenue city residents pay to the county and what services city residents receive as a result of those taxes.

Local Reflections on 2016

Reflecting back on the year’s events in these last days of 2016, several local issues stand out that will carry over unresolved into the New Year.

The International Drive project is a perfect example of what many citizens find wrong in the country today. The project is highly popular with a vast majority of citizens because of the ‘back door’ ingress and egress it will give to Carolina Forest neighborhoods.

Horry County spent the year winning one court hearing after another over environmental groups trying to block the project. Some construction work was done in the fall after permits were issued by SCDHEC and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

However, a temporary stay issued by a federal court, since removed, and now a stay against the permits issued by the state court of appeals leaves the project once again stalled awaiting further court dates.

I first rode with General Vaught in his four wheel truck on what is now called International Drive when it was nothing more than a dirt track through the woods. There is no vast environmental disaster waiting to happen if construction of International Drive is completed.

Nevertheless, a small group of environmentalists continues to thwart the wishes of a vast majority of the citizens while completion of a much needed road continues to be delayed.

Staying with the county, much needed changes in the Horry County Police Department have begun with the hiring of a new chief in the fall.

After a year in which the county and its police department was hit with a series of lawsuits over the conduct of officers, notably those in the detective division, over a series of years, hopefully those transgressions will be ending.

The Horry County Police Department Morass

With the indictment of four former Horry County Police Department officers last week by the state grand jury, the morass of problems within that agency became a little more public.

The four officers were indicted for various forms of misconduct in office, which included sexual harassment in two cases and plain dereliction of duty in two others.

According to public records, these officers were previously disciplined for some of these actions but allowed to remain in the employ of the department. Those same actions have now been deemed criminal in nature.

In other words, HCPD officers were allowed to break the law and keep their jobs until the state grand jury became involved.

This is not just a problem with four officers. It is a systemic problem that is pervasive throughout the department, in my opinion. Officers are allowed to do, or not do, what they wish while the system protects them.

I have covered incidents going back nearly two decades where officers exhibited the same or similar types of conduct including false arrest, lying under oath and coverup of actions with no negative ramifications for the officers involved.

Particularly in Horry County, these types of actions are kept out of sight of the general public whenever possible. When they do come to light, the officers involved are referred to as a “few bad apples.”

Yet, it seems every year or two we are told our police officers are underpaid and taxes must be raised to provide them with more income.

How about requiring them to do their jobs?

A new police chief took over the reins of the department this week. He has a massive job in front of him cleaning out the systemic problems that plague the department.

More Legal Problems for Horry County Police Department

A recent lawsuit filed against the Horry County Police Department and individual officers highlights the systemic problems within the department.

While there have been more sensational headlines of sexual harassment of victims by HCPD detectives and a general breakdown within the entire detective division, this lawsuit demonstrates the attitude that is at the heart of the problems in the department.

The case is Brian E. Little v. Horry County Police Department et al. Case number 2016CP2604670.

In the pleadings, Little, the plaintiff, claims he had a building and a recreational vehicle vandalized by neighborhood juveniles.

In filing a report about the damage to HCPD officers, Little provided the officers with photographs from a security system on his property.

According to the pleadings:

HCPD officers did nothing.

Little, then, approached the mother of one of the juveniles and obtained a signed statement from the juvenile admitting to the damage, which he provided to police.

Again, nothing was done by HCPD.

Approximately two months later, Little’s property was vandalized again and, again, HCPD did what it does best – nothing.

Ultimately, Little began passing out circulars in his area about the vandalism to assist a neighborhood watch program. While he was passing out the circulars, little was approached by HCPD officers telling him he can’t pass out his circulars. Little complained to the officers that HCPD was doing nothing and, ultimately, they arrested Little for harassment.

Committee Guarantees Independent Horry County Police Department

In a neatly orchestrated discussion to reach a predetermined conclusion, the Horry County Public Safety Committee determined an independent Horry County Police Department would remain the rule in the county.

Said in a slightly different way, there will be no opportunity for the voters to express themselves through a referendum on whether to merge the police department with the Horry County Sheriff’s Department because council is unwilling to give them the opportunity.

Horry County Attorney Arrigo Carotti told the committee it would require a three reading ordinance of council followed by a binding voter referendum to merge the departments.

Carotti said the ordinance had to be passed by August 15, 2016 in order to appear on the November 2016 general election ballot. Carotti said there was only one meeting of Horry County Council before the August date and special called meetings of council were only intended to address urgent issues between council meetings.

Obviously, there is no urgency on the part of council to allow the voters the opportunity to vote on the issue of a merger.

Carotti said low voter turnout consistent with special elections, the other possible alternative for a referendum, would not give a fair representation of the wishes of voters on the issue.

By that logic, there should not be any primary elections nor special elections for vacant offices because the wishes of the voters are not fairly represented by the 10 percent or less of voters who turn up at the polls to vote in them.

You can see this is not an issue that council is willing to take to the voters and this little dog and pony show was carefully designed to avoid that possibility.

Council Against Horry County Sheriff Merger

If the decision is left up to the politicians, the Horry County Sheriff merger with the Horry County Police Department won’t happen.

Horry County Council is building a case that it’s too costly and they don’t know who the next sheriff will be.

Restated the case is: the same voters who elected current council members aren’t to be trusted when it comes to electing a sheriff.

The county is also pointing to an approximately $650k price tag to repaint and remark the vehicles and buy such things as new badges and uniforms to replace the current HCPD stock.

I have a quick suggestion. The $650k is approximately the same price as the proposed new mobile command center county council and HCPD want to purchase. Quit with the Inspector Gadget mentality and the money is found.

The amount of public money Horry County Council and HCPD have wasted on gadgets and radios over the last 15 years is abominable. These are two groups who should never use spending public dollars as an excuse not to do something that makes sense, considering the number of things they have spent public money on that do not make sense.

The real issue, however, is what can be done to eliminate the culture of corruption that has existed in HCPD ranks, especially command ranks, over the last two or so decades.

Obviously hiring a new chief is not the answer. Four new chiefs have been hired over that period (two internal, two external) with little to no change.

The decision on whether or not to merge the Sheriff’s department with HCPD is one that the people should decide in a referendum.

And, the argument that we don’t know who will follow our current sheriff Phillip Thompson is bogus. We don’t know who is going to succeed our current council members either.

Horry County Sheriff Referendum Appears Dead

It appears that decisions have been made out of the public eye that no referendum will be put to the people on whether to consolidate the Horry County Police Department and Horry County Sheriff’s Department.

An advertisement for applications for the position of police chief was posted recently on the Horry County website.

This would not have been done if there was any chance Horry County Council would vote to authorize a referendum on whether the two departments should be consolidated.

Sources familiar with the views of council members say there are only two votes among council members that would support placing a referendum before the voters.

There appeared to be a majority opinion among county residents that the Sheriff’s Department should take over HCPD in order to fix it. One wonders why county council members are so out of contact with the citizens they represent.

With the decision to forego a referendum and hire a new chief, the responsibility for fixing the many problems at HCPD rests squarely on the shoulders of Horry County Council members.

If the voters approved consolidation of the two departments, something I believe would have happened if a referendum were held, it would have solved another potential problem for Horry County Government that it has strived to ignore through the years.

The problem is one of dual taxation where residents of the various cities within Horry County pay tax millage to fund HCPD while not getting the benefit of police services from the county police.

HCPD is currently funded from the county’s general fund from county wide millage collected from property owners throughout the county.

HCPD is currently funded from the county’s general fund from county wide millage collected from property owners throughout the county.

Fixing the HCPD Culture of Corruption

Having watched portions of a videotaped deposition by former Horry County police detective Allen Large, it is apparent a culture of corruption exists at the HCPD far beyond the actions of a few officers.

Large is being sued by three women, described as Jane Does 1-3 in lawsuits, for sexual harassment, among other allegations.

In his deposition, Large admitted he suggested to three different female victims they get involved in videotaped cat fights to make money and admitted he enjoyed watching such events.

But, Large appeared to feel that his transgressions were minor compared to what other officers, including command staff officers, got involved in.

“We have a lot of incidents of officers doing stuff,” he said in his deposition.

Large went on to list officers having sex with other officers and department employees during duty hours, sometimes on desks in various offices within the police department; officers getting sexual services from exotic dancers while on duty and narcotics officers having sex with informants as some of the types of “stuff” going on.

Large said, “Officers have been let go for sending pictures of their private parts to people they pulled over.”

“There’s a lot of people still working there that have had “relationships” and things like that,” he said.. “Unless the police department’s covering up something, they should be able to tell you who they were.”

“You’re not supposed to be going and having sex while you’re on duty,” but Large said that sort of thing has been going on within the HCPD since he’s been there.

“There’s all kinds of shenanigans that go on there (HCPD) all the time,” Large added.

Large noted one case in which he said he was investigating the death of a man while his partner was “going off and having sex with the victim’s girlfriend.”

Issues Divide Horry County Council District 7 Republican Candidates

The contest for the Republican nomination for Horry County Council District 7 is up for a vote Tuesday May 17th.

There are significant differences between the candidates, Mike Roberts and Robert Shelley.

Politicians routinely claim to want to serve the people and/or give back to them.

Roberts is one of the people who believes the people should be included in important decisions. Shelley appears to believe he is above the people.

One of the biggest issues to have erupted in the county over the last few days clearly separates the two candidates. That issue is whether the Horry County Sheriff’s Department and Horry County Police Department should be merged.

Businessman Mike Roberts says yes. Former HCPD officer Robert Shelley says no.

“This is an issue the people should decide,” Roberts said. “It isn’t something that should be left to the decision of a few council members.”

Shelley, a former HCPD officer, said in a media interview that he opposed combining the departments because he likes having a separate police department and sheriff’s department.

But, this isn’t about what Shelley likes. It is about what is best for the citizens of Horry County.

Shelley said the people have already spoken on this issue, referring to a referendum on the question in 1998.

However, there are more than 125,000 new residents in Horry County since 1998 who haven’t spoken on the issue at all.

In addition, the HCPD is a mess with SLED conducting several criminal investigations into the department at the current time.

“Something needs to be done about the police department and that goes way beyond just hiring a new chief,” said Roberts.

Shelley said he believes politics and law enforcement don’t go together. Yet, the HCPD is all about politics.

Time for Horry County Sheriff Referendum

It is time for the citizens of Horry County to answer a referendum question ‘should all county law enforcement responsibility be turned back to the Horry County Sheriff?’

Unfortunately, this is something that Horry County Council must approve and, if information from a number of sources is accurate, the political will to approve a referendum vote is not a majority view of county council members at present.

Horry County Council members must answer the question, ‘are county citizens better off with the current system, which gives most law enforcement responsibilities to the Horry County Police Department?’

Considering SLED has several ongoing criminal investigations into the HCPD, especially the detective division, as well as several lawsuits already filed against HCPD with more expected to come, the obvious conclusion is a resounding NO!

Much to my surprise Sheriff Phillip Thompson said several days ago that he believed it is time to put the question of whether to recombine the HCPD with the Horry County Sheriff’s Department to the citizens of Horry County.

Thompson said he has received hundreds of calls from county residents over the last several weeks saying it was time for the sheriff’s department to run law enforcement activities within the county.

There are pros and cons to having the departments combined.

At this time, I believe the pros of having the sheriff take over the HCPD far outweigh the cons.

The sheriff is an elected official, directly answerable to the public. With HCPD under Horry County Council, through the administrator, there are too many levels of bureaucracy.

With the current situation, of a citizen has a problem with HCPD he or she inevitably calls his council member, who calls the administrator, who calls the police chief, who calls the captain of the area the complaint is about, who calls the officers involved.

With all those levels of bureaucracy to pass through, the problem often isn’t addressed and may never be solved.