CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County Police Department will not merge with the Horry County Sheriff’s Office, at least for now.
Horry County is the only county in the state with a county police department and sheriff’s office.
One councilman wanted the voters to decide whether to consolidate, but at Monday’s Horry County Public Safety Committee, leaders said it’s just not feasible to get the issue on this year’s ballot.
Lawsuits, SLED investigations, and abrupt retirements of several high-ranking officers in the Horry County Police Department all sparked the conversation about ways to move forward.
Horry County Sheriff Phillip Thompson was in support of the two entities combining.
“This is not a takeover, this is a consolidation, where you take the resources from one and put it with the other and move forward,” said Thompson.
Since the idea was brought up to consolidate the two, it’s caused controversy on both sides.
“This has never been my intention of a sheriff’s office versus police department, police department versus sheriff’s office. I care very much for all of them, for everyone,” said Thompson.
But, in order for you to vote this November, it would have to be voted on by council three times before August, and the committee says with only one meeting before then, that’s just not possible.
Councilman Paul Prince asked the full council vote one time to see where they stand, but other council members dismissed the request.
Councilmember Johnny Vaught says he doesn’t think merging the two departments would be a good idea because he believes the police chief should be based on merit, education, experience, and leadership ability.
“I can’t see advocating that responsibility to somebody that hasn’t been vetted, as far as a police leader is concerned. I don’t think we have any problems in our police department that we can’t fix,” said Vaught.
Sheriff Thompson says while he may not agree with council, public safety should be about the citizens, and although the vote won’t happen in November, he says this isn’t the end.
“I don’t think it’s going to go away. There’s just too many people calling me, emailing, texting, personal visits. There’s a lot of concern out there,” said Thompson.
Councilman Paul Prince asked if they could call two special called meetings in order to make time for the vote by council, and the county’s attorney said special called meetings should only be for urgent situations.
Committee leaders say the idea to combine the two departments was voted on by the people of Horry County before in 1998, but it didn’t pass.