CONWAY, SC (WBTW) – It’s been just over a year since Horry County hired Joseph Hill as Chief of Police. His first day on the job was September 26, 2016. Hill took over a department with low morale, retention issues, accusations of wrongdoing, and pending lawsuits against former and current officers.
A year after taking the reins of the Horry County Police Department, Chief Hill says he’s still working on higher salaries and better benefits.
“I just want to make sure I don’t lose officers to other jurisdictions. It’s not so much about the pay. It’s about retention,” explains Chief Hill.
In May, Chief Hill said the department needed more money to keep officers.
“I lost a guy to a construction job. He’s going to hang drywall making more than he can protecting the citizens of Horry County,” Chief Hill stated in a May interview.
After that interview, the Horry County Council chair publicly criticized Chief Hill and said the police department has enough money. He cited, among other things, a merit-based increase for all Horry County employees.
National President for the Fraternal Order of Police, Chuck Canterbury, says the raises haven’t kept up with rising costs and charges for benefits.
“I don’t think the chief has any ability to go to council without going through the county administrator, and I’m sure that that’s by design,” says Canterbury.
Chief Hill also promised to improve accountability after recent scandals, like officers not investigating cases. He’s instituted tracking software that logs the good and bad. It’s been in place about six months.
“Is it rude and professional behavior? Is it failed to appear in court? Is it uniforms not looking professional? Whatever that is we can tackle it. And once we see that trend developing, we develop training around it. It’s not the issue of making a mistake, it’s never to repeat that mistake again once you’ve identified it,” explains Chief Hill.
As for gaining back public trust, Chief Hill says he’s encouraged and believes the community meetings are helping.
“When they are able to communicate with us, they trust us. They are encouraged by us. They believe in us,” states Hill.
Finally, Chief Hill reminded us that officers are sworn to be peacekeepers, and when officers can resolve a situation peacefully it’s a good day for his department. That’s why he says crisis intervention training is a must.
We’ve included our interview with Chief Hill where he addresses other issues, including:
- Why he’s implemented employment polygraph examinations for all new hires and the new way they’ll be analyzing dash cam videos.
- How retired officers are working with his investigators on cold cases and if it’s making a difference.
- If the Citizens Police Academy he wanted to start is still on his “to do” list.