CONWAY, SC (WMBF) – Friday was a change of guard atop the Horry County Police Department, as it was Chief Saundra Rhodes' final day before her abrupt retirement.
Rhodes started with the Horry County Police Department in 1998 and became chief in 2012.
An email to staff initially announcing her retirement listed some of her accomplishments, including increasing the department by 23 people, realigning precincts and creating a gang task force.
Recently, the department has also had its problems. Within the past year, the HCPD has faced issues with different detectives accused of sexual harassment and failing to investigate sexual abuse cases.
With Rhodes out, Deputy Chief Kelvin Waites will take the interim chief position until a new chief is appointed. Waites joined Horry County in 2012 after four years with the Georgetown County Sheriff's Office.
Horry County has repeatedly denied WMBF News interviews with Rhodes or Waites, saying it is a personnel issue.
Still, this change impacts 264 employees in the department. Chuck Canterbury, the national president for the Fraternal Order of Police, was asked about how these changes could impact the department.
"Right now, the officers are feeling a little bit anxious. They don't have any kind of information about what kind of search is going to take place to find a replacement for the chief," Canterbury said. "I think at this point there's a little anxiety, but they'll continue to do their jobs."
Canterbury worked for Horry County and knows the struggles with a change in leadership. He said officers are often regimented and militaristic, so change from the norm can be hard.
He added it's important that current leadership be open about the process moving forward.
"There's been so little information from the county government about what they're going to do," Canterbury said. "I think that's up in the air now, to see if the county administration is going to use some internal talent to help select the next chief."
The County will start advertising the job in June. The spokesperson said it will be a national search, just as it was the last time the position of chief was open.