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Pawleys Island: Town names four finalists for police chief

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

Two serving officers and two from outside the department are the finalists to become the next chief of the Pawleys Island Police Department. One thing they share is an interest in working with people.

The two outside finalist took a series of tests on Wednesday and toured the island with Chief Guy Osborne, who will retire at the end of August after 10 years with the town. The tour covered familiar ground for Matt Elliott and Mike Fanning, corporals in the department who have applied for Osborne’s job. Elliott got his start in law enforcement with the town in 2003. Fanning joined the town in 2007 after retiring from the New York City Police Department, where he worked for 20 years.

“Matt and I have discussed it. We’d both be happy for each other,” Fanning said. “We think it should stay in-house for a variety of reasons.”

“We’ve taken the department to new levels” under Osborne’s leadership, Elliott said.

The other finalists are Jim Arnold, who retired as commander of police operations for the city of Georgetown in 2008 and now works as a private investigator, and Kirk Corley, a captain with the Calhoun County Sheriff’s Office. Arnold started in law enforcement in 1979. Corley began his career in 1992.

Town Council will interview the finalists July 9. The four will then be available to meet the public after the council meeting that day at the Waccamaw Library.

No date has been set to name the new chief. “The council will have to make that decision,” Mayor Bill Otis said. “It will have to be fairly quickly.”

The town wants the new chief to be able to work with Osborne during August.

Arnold started out as a police officer in Petersburg, Va., where he grew up. He began visiting Pawleys Island as a child, making trips to see his grandparents Jimmy and Katie Fulton, who were caretakers of True Blue plantation.

He worked in Georgetown, Mount Pleasant and the Isle of Palms, where he took over as police chief following Hurricane Hugo in 1989. He became the public safety director in 1992.

Arnold moved to Spearfish, N.D., in 1995 to become police chief. He had visions of retiring to the West and raising horses and cattle.

The hiring was controversial because he beat out applicants from within the department, he said. He returned to Georgetown in 1997.

He lived on the island in 1997, and while he’s familiar with Pawleys, he said he never thought about applying for the chief’s job in the past. “I enjoyed working at Georgetown,” he said. “I was not looking.”

He said he believes in community policing and said his model going into law enforcement was Andy Griffith, who played Sheriff Andy Taylor on television. “I just loved the way he policed,” Arnold said. “I have tried to do very similar things.”

Corley spent 21 years with Kershaw County, first as a special services officer then as a correctional officer before becoming a sheriff’s deputy. He was a commander in the sheriff’s office when he left for Calhoun County in 2010. He’s now in charge of the patrol division.

Corley’s in-laws have a second home at Surfside Beach, so he and his family are regular visitors to the coast. “Pawleys Island is a beach town without being a ‘beach town,’ ” he said. “It’s a lot slower pace when it comes to criminal activity.”

That’s one of the elements that led him to apply. A small department is more like family, Corley added. “I want to work and have fun and work around people I enjoy,” he said. “It’s about making a difference.”

His move from Kershaw County followed the retirement of the long-time sheriff. At Calhoun County he has started to implement programs, such as a tracking team, like he did in his former department, where he was frequently sent for training with the goal of teaching what he learned to the rest of the staff.

Elliott said the town took a risk when he was hired. He had been a youth programs director and coach in the Pittsburgh area before applying to the department. He won the top award in his class at the S.C. Justice Academy. He handles investigations along with patrol duties. He started the water rescue program and has won commendations for lifesaving.

“I don’t have as much experience as everyone else, but I think in nine years I have proven myself,” Elliott said.

If experience is a drawback, it’s also a potential strength. “I’m willing to grow,” he said. “I don’t come into the job thinking I know it all.”

He moved to the area after his wife took a job at All Saints Church. He got to know Osborne by running on the beach at Pawleys, and Osborne let Elliott know when the town decided to add a third police officer.

“I have a love for law enforcement. I didn’t know that nine years ago,” he said. “I love the public service part of the job.”

There isn’t much he would change if he is picked to lead the police department. “You have to realize the limitations,” Elliott said. The five full-time and four part-time officers share one computer and three patrol cars.

“The town doesn’t want us to be flashy,” he said.

Fanning also said he feels like a protégé of Osborne and that the continuity would help the town.

He started with the New York Transit Police and retired as a detective supervisor of NYPD’s hate crimes task force. He was also leader of a hostage negotiations team and worked as a patrol supervisor and detective.

He has also worked on investigations for Pawleys Island Police and developed the departments’ Facebook and Twitter sites.

In his time with the department, Fanning said he discovered how much he enjoys police work. “It’s a type of police work I never got to do in New York,” he said.

He moved to the area after meeting Georgetown County deputies who were at a hostage negotiations workshop in New York. A friend’s move to Ricefields sealed Fanning’s decision to move south with his family.

Although he retired once, he said he would like to advance his career with the town and he believes that he will continue to help the police department improve.

“I’d like to incorporate some new technology,” Fanning said, such as laptop computers in patrol cars that would increase the amount of information available to officers.

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