Ordinance would replace sheriff's office with police department | News
KERSHAW COUNTY, SC (WIS)- Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews says he may have "stepped on a few toes" for someone to propose an ordinance that would dismantle the sheriff's office and establish a new county police department in its place.
The proposal would take away the sheriff and his deputies' right to arrest people and give it to the new county police department that would have all authority and would perform all duties of the sheriff's department.
Matthews claims political enemies are using this plan to come after him. He says magistrates dislike him intensely because he "outed" them on a number of issues such as a backlog of DUI cases.
"The way I look at it is, black, white, rich, poor -- I'm going to treat everyone the same," Matthews said. "If you're prominent and you violate the law, you're going to get treated just the same as if you're not and you violate the law. In the minds of some people, they don't like that."
The sheriff also says the assistant county administrator approached him a month ago and asked of he would support the idea behind this ordinance after his term was up. Matthews said he would not support this plan.
In the end, Matthews compares the plan to similar efforts in Charleston and Horry counties that have failed.
Members of the Camden Street Committee say in the past there have been efforts to consolidate fire and police services and this plan could be part of a new consolidation effort.
The creation of this new county police department would need approval from voters in November. The state Constitution mandates counties must have a sheriff. So, if the ordinance goes through, Matthews would retain his title but probably not much else.
"I will not win this battle behind closed doors," Matthews said. "They started it behind closed doors and I'm sure they want to keep it there, but I'm going to keep the public informed."
Kershaw County Councilman Bobby Gary says he doesn't know all the facts of the this ordinance yet, but his support or opposition will depend on if taxpayer money can be saved or if public safety will be improved with a county police department.
The first reading of the ordinance is expected to be May 8 at the Kershaw County Council chambers in Camden.
Copyright 2012 WIS. All rights reserved.