Horry County Sheriff calls for unification of county law enforcement agencies

CONWAY, S.C. (WBTW)- Horry County Sheriff Phillip E. Thompson is calling for the unification of the Horry County Police Department and the Horry County Sheriff’s Office.

After former Police Chief Saundra Rhodes announced her retirement, Thompson says he’s received a lot of phone calls.

“They would mention to me Sheriff I think it’s time to merge the two and I agree with them,” he said.

The Horry County Police Department and Sheriff’s Office have operated as two separate agencies for more than 50 years.

“We need to be on the same page we need to be working together,” said Thompson.

During Wednesday’s Public Safety meeting, Councilman Paul Prince asked the committee to consider merging the agencies.

“Make it one, united police department in Horry County,” he stated.

Prince says consolidation would help alleviate problems and allow citizens to elect an official to serve in a public role.

“The Sheriff everybody knows is elected by the people,” said Prince.

As an elected official, Thompson says he’s held accountable.

“The Sheriffs Office doesn’t belong to me. It belongs to the citizens of the county,” explained Thompson.

Thompson has served as Sheriff for 15 years and says he’s never had a problem working with the police department.

“The communication between myself and Chief Rhodes was fantastic,” he said.

However, consolidation would unite law enforcement officers under one mission.

“It’s nothing about the police department versus the Sheriff’s Office,” said Thompson. ” This is about making it more effective.”

Thompson currently runs unopposed in the race for Sheriff.  News 13 asked if he would be ready to take on this new leadership role.

“Obviously it’ll create more work, but I’ve never been afraid of work,” said Thompson.

Horry County is the only county in South Carolina with separate departments. The Public Safety Committee members said they’d be willing to take the issue before county council.

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