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Election 2016: Questions for the candidates for sheriff

By Charles Swenson
Coastal Observer

A. Lane Cribb

With six terms, Lane Cribb is Georgetown County’s longest-serving sheriff. The Republican, 70, is a county native with 43 years in law enforcement.

What’s the No. 1 challenge for law enforcement in Georgetown County?

CRIBB: I think it’s the same anywhere: keeping people. Now local, somebody that’s from here will stay here, but these guys who are not, for a little more money they’re going to move.

County Council has helped us a great deal in trying to cure that problem. It has to continue. It can’t just be a one-time shot and expect it to work.

Actually, we have no control over the money. I can move money around, but you can’t move money around to pay recurring expenses when you don’t know if it’s going to be there the next time.

We’ve got a good work environment, which helps us. We’re probably about full right now. But you never know.

What’s the pitch that you make to recruit deputies to Georgetown County?

CRIBB: The pitch is, we’re an accredited agency, which is good and it’s bad. People love to hire your people from an accredited agency. This area helps us a little, except for the living expenses. I’ve got some living in Horry County.

Even with us losing people to Horry County, at times, people will leave Horry County and work here. I think it’s the process we go through. It’s a long process. I think it gives them the feeling they have come to work for a top-notch agency. One little thing can throw you out.

I don’t know if that’s a pitch. What we try to do is influence the deputies that are here to help us recruit. They have.

What does community policing mean to you?

CRIBB: It means that some really smart person read how the police used to work and said, “Let’s call it community policing.”

Even when I worked as a deputy in the western part of the county, it didn’t matter what day it was or what time it was, guess who answered the call? I did. That’s community policing. I knew everybody. I served every paper out there, every warrant.

Now things have gotten busier. Our civil division basically is part-time people and they serve the papers. That is good, but way back, talking about community policing, when the deputy in the area done it, he got to know more people.

We do it, but we do it a little different. Like [Sgt. Robert] Patterson. He does it daily in different communities. He doesn’t have a specific community. The ICE team. They do it in a way, except that they go to trouble areas.

It’s different over here because it’s more people in a small area. The other side of the waterway it’s a farm area. Over there it might be an average response time of 11-12 minutes. Over here at times it can be three to five minutes because it’s closer.

In 2014, a woman with a knife who had mental health problems was shot and killed by a deputy who was called to her apartment in Litchfield. Have you changed the way you deal with people with mental illness since then?

CRIBB: It’s so different on each one. None of it is good. It doesn’t make me feel good that something like that happened.

I think about it all the time. Do you back off and just wait? In some cases, yes you can, if you know who is in the house. What if somebody was in there besides her or him? Then what do you do?

We always try to think of better ways. How do you come up with what is that better way? It’s difficult.

The 45 mph speed limit on Highway 17 through Pawleys Island and Litchfield is a concern of people who don’t believe it is being enforced. What can be done?

CRIBB: Do they ever discuss it with the Highway Patrol? That’s what I’d like to know.

What you’ve got here is a 9-mile stretch of interstate that’s 45, basically. A lot of times it’s the local people. I drive it every day. I see it. When people get to Hog Heaven they don’t think about it. When they get to the next 45 sign: “Oh my God, I’m speeding.” It’s even happened to me.

I know that the Highway Patrol is busy, but we can’t do it all. We’ve got other stuff to do. Plenty of other stuff.

I don’t judge what somebody does or how many arrests they make. I judge them on how safe a community is and how little incidents happen.

I know there are wrecks, but there are wrecks at 3 o’clock in the morning at crossroads in the country when there are only two cars on the road. I’m not saying we’re not going to work speeding. We are and we do. It’s just that we can’t do it when we’ve got other things to do.

Darryel C. Carr

The Democratic Party candidate, Darryel Carr grew up in Horry County, but has lived in Pawleys Island for the last 23 years. He worked with the sheriff’s office for 10 years and is now owner and operator of a tour bus company. He turns 49 this month.

What’s the No. 1 challenge for law enforcement in Georgetown County?

CARR: Being pro-active in making sure that the citizens of Georgetown County’s personal property and commercial property is protected 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

How I would meet that challenge is making sure we have strong visibility across the county. With the sheriff’s office having a $12.8 million budget, of course we have deputies leaving. You might be spread thin, but I do feel like the sheriff’s office is top heavy so we need to get some of those guys out of the office and make sure that the county is covered and being protected.

Over here in Pawleys Island, saturate the 45 mile an hour speed zone. People will be 65, 75 miles an hour sometimes in that 45 zone.

Under my administration, first of all we’ll have a traffic unit. We’re going to saturate the whole county, but mainly slow people down over here in the 45 mile an hour speed zone.

I used to be in the traffic unit. I used to write between 140 and 150 tickets a month throughout the whole county. The biggest time was in the morning and the afternoon. Those were the times I hit it the hardest. You’ve got to have a constant presence in that 45 mile an hour speed zone.

I will have a traffic unit doing that, which will also help with accidents. My traffic unit will also work accidents and help clear the highway quicker.

What does community policing mean to you?

CARR: You can’t have just one officer going around doing community-based policing. It has to be a collaborative effort between all the officers.

Whatever area you’re working in, you need to have a relationship with the community. That’s community-based policing, not taking a deputy and doing a program or setting up a little table and show the kids this car.

It’s going into communities and being involved in the communities and being connected with the communities, which will help solve crime.

When you are patrolling, which you patrol for 12 hours, you need to get out of the car, you need to go in these little neighborhoods and we need to be connected with the citizens. That’s community-based policing, not putting up a sign that says we’ve got a neighborhood watch. A sign never arrested nobody.

You mentioned turnover in the sheriff’s office. What would your pitch be to a potential recruit?

CARR: When I was there I didn’t get paid the most, but it was my passion. That’s probably 95 percent of other officers. If you have a change in leadership, somebody working for you trying to get higher salaries, trying to get you better equipment to do your job properly, I feel like a lot of the turnover will be cut out.

I’ll make a better sheriff because I worked there, from the bottom almost all the way up to the top. That’s why I’m pursuing the top job. I know what the officers need, know what they what, know what they’re looking for at the bottom.

I’m not saying Cribb don’t care about officers, but you’ve got to put more effort into the guys who are down on the street who are really the backbone of any department. I feel like a lot of our officers want change.

In 2014, a woman with a knife who had mental health problems was shot and killed by a deputy who was called to her apartment in Litchfield. How would you change the way the sheriff’s office deals with people with mental illness?

CARR: I’ve been on calls, several calls, where we had mental patients. The training that you have in the academy is not enough. It’s enough to handle some calls, but deputies need to be trained extensively after that.

You’ve got to look at the situation and evaluate it. You’ve got to see where they’re at and talk to them like I’m your friend, I’m here to help you.

I have done that several times.

Birt K. Adams

The Independence Party candidate, Birt Adams, 50, is a retired New York City corrections officer. He has lived in South Carolina since 2008, and worked in law enforcement in Georgetown County, Spartanburg and the city of Georgetown. He has lived in Georgetown for the last three years.

What’s the No. 1 challenge for law enforcement in Georgetown County?

ADAMS: Community policing. That’s going to be your race issue with black and white. Most African-Americans do not trust Georgetown law enforcement at all. They don’t report half of their crimes. Also, lower income white Americans don’t trust law enforcement so they don’t report half of their crimes. Building that trust, regaining that trust, that’s why I constantly speak about teaching kids from kindergarten all the way up to 12th grade to let them speak to an officer in a one hour class about morals, ethics and integrity. They’ll have a better rapport with the officers.

How do you define community policing?

ADAMS: Community policing is when anyone can walk in and feel comfortable talking to you and having a great conversation. We have a lot of drugs in our community. People want to say something, but they can’t because they’re afraid law enforcement is going to spread the word that they said something.

The policing comes in actually getting out in the community, doing certain programs with children, doing certain programs with adults, sitting down in community meetings trying to get a better understanding of what the community needs. You have to rebuild that trust with the community.

The 45 mph speed limit on Highway 17 through Pawleys Island and Litchfield is a concern of people who don’t believe it is being enforced. What can be done?

ADAMS: The sheriff’s office has officers out that do traffic, but traffic is not the sheriff’s office’s concern. What people must understand is that the sheriff’s office is very undermanned because they’re top heavy. The first thing I would have to do is put more deputies on the street, making a traffic unit, making a full-fledged drug unit, using my SWAT team to go out there and kick in doors to get these drug dealers off the street. You have to plan.

What would be you pitch to a potential recruit to the sheriff’s office?

ADAMS: How I’d make it attractive is by raising the salaries, using my budget in the correct way instead of just buying fancy toys. If you ask these officers, these officers say “I don’t want a brand new car. I’d prefer more money so I can feed my family.” And to know that you’re going to get time-and-a-half when you work overtime.

In 2014, a woman with a knife who had mental health problems was shot and killed by a deputy who was called to her apartment in Litchfield. How would you change the way the sheriff’s office deals with people with mental illness?

ADAMS: That is something I have been dealing with for my whole 25 years in law enforcement. There are so many tools out there. The sheriff says “I have the latest tools.” Well, you didn’t have the latest tool of restraint. You didn’t train your officers properly to open up that door and be prepared for what was on the other side. Those officers were all young officers. An experienced officer most likely would have handled that situation much better.

Police officers are not trained properly in dealing with mental health. Most of these officers should work a year in the jail to get an understanding of what they’re dealing with.

It’s a sensitive situation.

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