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Pawleys Island: After a decade, police chief makes his final rounds

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

First thing Monday morning, Police Chief Guy Osborne checks the weekend incident reports and any information passed along from officers in a notebook.

Two dogs off the leash. A pothole. A couple of alarms.

Once school starts, it gets quiet on Pawleys Island. And that’s the time Osborne chose more than a year ago as to when he will retire. He will turn over the department on Saturday to Mike Fanning after 10 years as chief and 42 in law enforcement.

“What we had in the middle of summer, June and July, can make up for anything,” Osborne said.

That’s one of the challenges faced by police on the town. Months when “you work like you’re in a major city,” he said, followed by months when officers watch the traffic and catch up on their training.

But he said he’s willing to match his five full-time and four part-time officers against any in the country for experience and professionalism. “I feel safe leaving this department, having the people we have here.”

The police department accounts for the largest share of the town budget. The chief is the town’s only paid management position. Osborne, 67, has been the longest-serving chief. When he started, he and Clay Naar, now a sergeant, were the only two officers. A Jeep Cherokee was the only patrol car, until its engine fell out, a victim of saltwater.

Osborne’s first day on the job was July 3, 2002.

He had retired after 23 years with the Horry County Police, finishing his career there as commander of investigations. He wasn’t sure he wanted to return to police work. But he wanted to keep up his certification, so he came to Pawleys Island looking for a part-time job, just one day a week.

Before he could start, he was asked by Mayor Bill Otis to apply for the job as police chief.

He was working as an insurance fraud investigator and after 32 years in law enforcement, “I was ready to do something else,” Osborne said.

He was reluctant to work for a small town where politics could interfere with police work. Otis promised him that wouldn’t happen. He took the job. “Boy, did I make a great decision,” Osborne said.

“They renewed my faith in small town government,” he said of the mayor and Town Council. “There’s not one single incident where they tried to interfere with this department.” His former colleagues called him “Chief Brody,” after the city cop who goes to work on Amity Island in the film “Jaws.”

“We experience the same things other jurisdictions do,” Osborne said. “A little bit of everything.”

A year after taking the job, he confronted a man on the beach with a knife. The man, who left a suicide note in his pickup truck, tried to provoke Osborne into shooting him. Earlier this year, a woman and her teen-age son were kidnapped at gunpoint from an island home in a robbery attempt.

But violent crime is rare. The biggest problems on the island are automobile break-ins, burglaries and traffic, in that order, Osborne said.

In a decade, he calculates that there were only 28 unsolved crimes. Those include car break-ins and a string of burglaries he believes were the work of a gang that traveled through the area.

In the future, he thinks traffic will be the biggest issue facing police on the island. Osborne has watched the number of vehicles grow. He’s seen more days where there is a vehicle in every legal parking spot on the island, along with those parked illegally.

“I think they can handle the crimes,” Osborne said. “They’re not going to be able to handle the volume of traffic.”

That’s a problem because it will hinder the ability of emergency services to respond, he said.

With the addition of a fifth full-time officer last year, the town was able to provide 24-hour coverage for the first time since the police department was formed in the early 1990s. Osborne said he is most proud of his success in recruiting officers. Fanning, a former sergeant with the New York Police Department, was hired five years ago.

“I don’t think a chief is a supervisor,” he said. “He sets the standards. I’m out there with them.”

Leaving a position he calls “the best job in the country” will allow him to set his own schedule, he said. He runs early-morning fitness boot camps and plans to continue and possibly expand those. He also plans to start a private investigator business, picking up with the sort of work he left to take the chief’s job.

“I’m never going to retire,” Osborne said.

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