A Look Back: Lawsuits, a shakeup at the top impact Horry County Police Department

A Look Back: Lawsuits, a shakeup at the top impact Horry County Police Department

HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - In 2016, there were some major changes to the Horry County Police Department.

Not only did former police chief Saundra Rhodes retire early, but the law enforcement agency drew scrutiny as state investigators began looking into the alleged misconduct of some former Horry County detectives and officers.

Some of those allegations were almost hard to believe. They included claims of nude, sexual-fetish, cat fights between women said to be organized by one former Horry County police detective named Troy Allen Large.

Large still maintains his innocence, saying in a phone interview in October that he never harmed anyone.

But for the victims of Large's alleged crimes and misconduct, they don't believe he did his job to protect and serve while handling their cases.

Most recently, Large was indicted by a Horry County grand jury for six counts of misconduct in office and five counts of third-degree criminal sexual conduct.

The indictments allege Large knowingly used coercion to engage in sexual battery with several victims and knowingly engaged in inappropriate relationships with victims of cases he was investigating.

Large has been the subject of WMBF News investigations since March. He was fired from his job as a Horry County police detective in 2015 after an internal Horry County Police Department investigation into sexual harassment allegations.

Through WMBF's own work to uncover Large's past, it was discovered he is named in or involved in five different lawsuits against Horry County police.

In a recorded deposition, Large detailed his relationship with a victim of domestic violence.

Large wasn't on Jane Doe 3's case at the time she claims he suggested she should catfight with other women.

In the interview with investigators, Large claims Jane Doe 3 was actually interested in catfighting so he helped her get to a fight in Asheville last year.

He said he paid for the hotel, her underwear, and even videotaped the fight, but denies any sexual contact or violence on the trip.

One thing Large did not deny throughout the deposition was how he felt about the fights.

"Basically, I was the ride along," Large said. "And yeah, I, as far as my personal, yeah, I don't mind watching it. It was fun."

The lawsuits would open the entire Horry County Police Department up to scrutiny.

The South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division opened an investigation into the HCPD in November 2015.

In the midst of it all, a big shakeup would come from the top, with Rhodes announcing her early retirement in May.

"It's very concerning when you have a police department the size that we do and things like that are happening," Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus previously said. "We are very concerned. It's out of our hands. It's in other law enforcement's hands and I'm sure that the investigation will come through and we'll take appropriate actions when necessary."

While trying to get to the bottom of what everyone was wondering, WMBF asked Lazarus if the lawsuits and investigations into the department could have led to Rhodes' retirement.

"Not from our standpoint it didn't," he said. "From her standpoint, I don't know. I don't know that reasoning. The only thing that I know is that she turned in for her retirement and was wanting to retire, so we accepted that resignation and retirement."

Rhodes never talked to WMBF on camera about the allegations or concerns about the timing of her departure from her position as the top cop in Horry County.

Her replacement, Chief Joseph Hill, who was sworn in in September, had a very clear message for the community and his department moving forward, especially in regards to the lawsuits involving Large.

"That individual is no longer with us and this agency is moving forward," Hill said at the time. "I've got 99.9 percent of the officers that are willing to do the job, capable and committed professionals.  We're going to put this behind us. But, we are going to cooperate with the SLED investigation. We see no other way to do it; that's the way to do it."

Hill said at his swearing-in ceremony before Horry County Council in September that he will focus on transparency within the department and the community.

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