‘It’s money,’ police chief says of reason officers leave Horry County

CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – The Horry County Police Department has 21 vacancies, and Chief Joseph Hill says even if he could fill and keep officers in those open positions, it wouldn’t be enough to properly police the entire county.

Chief Hill says the department is now back to the original employee deficit it was at when he started in September 2016. The new leader of the police department has asked for pay increases for his officers since he started, and in Tuesday’s Horry County Public Safety Committee meeting, Chief Hill addressed county council members for more money, yet again.

Chief Hill told county leaders his department is really struggling. He says he needs more money to keep officers with the department, but even though he’s addressed this issue multiple times, there’s still no real plan from council to make it happen.

“I lost a guy to a construction job,” says Chief Hill. “He’s going to hang drywall making more than he can protecting the citizens of Horry County.”

Chief Hill says he’s losing officers weekly, and it’s for one thing.

“It’s money. Folks are leaving because they’re getting higher pay elsewhere,” Chief Hill states flatly.

In a department with about 260 officers, Chief Hill says he’s severely understaffed.

“Myrtle Beach has, I think around 300, and they have less square miles,” explains Chief Hill. “We need to be, probably right around, if you look at the national average, we probably need to be about 355.”

Horry County Council voted this year to bring on 12 new officers, but Chief Hill says that doesn’t address the real problem.

“They could give me 100 officers right now, but if I can’t find them, if I can’t retain them, it does me no good,” says Chief Hill.

Officers that are with the department for four years are paid the same amount as a newly hired officer, according to Chief Hill, making it nearly impossible to retain valuable employees.

Horry County Public Safety Committee Chair Al Allen says council has a plan to help.

“With the continuance of the 1.5% hospitality tax, there’s a really, really good chance that we are going to be able to address that pay issue in the very near future,” says Allen.

Allen hasn’t made a formal proposal to use the money for police, and other council members say they’d like to see it used to build I-73.

“That is going to be left up entirely to the vote of the county council, and again, it would take a three reading ordinance, which the earliest would probably be about a three to six-month time frame, I would say,” predicts Allen.

The hospitality tax was used previously for road projects in the county.

Horry County Council voted last week to continue collecting the tax, but several council members have gone back and forth on what the money should be used for.