DARLINGTON COUNTY, SC (WMBF) - For the first time in eight years Darlington County is under new leadership. Sheriff Tony Chavis took office January 3. He sat down with WMBF News to share what changes he expects to bring to the county.
Chavis retired as lieutenant of South Carolina Highway Patrol after 27 years. He was also prior deputy chief with the Chesterfield County Sheriff's Office.
The change in Darlington County Chavis said he wants to see will start with him, and most of all restore the trust in the community he believes was lost.
Chavis was sworn in along with a new Chief Deputy, Joshua Edwards who was the former Darlington County Magistrate. Chavis brought on board nearly ten new staff members who have previous law enforcement experience throughout the Pee Dee. Chavis said currently, the sheriff's office is still short more than 20 personnel, but he said he intends to bring it back to full staff.
"I've heard from so many people that they have contacted this office time and time again and nobody will talk to them, or nobody will see them, and they need to know that they have a sheriff's office that's here for them. You can pick up the phone and we'll come see you," Chavis said.
Chavis said no matter how small or big the need is, he wants people in Darlington County to trust him and the Sheriff's office.
"Over my term is to get that detention center within PREA compliant, we want to make sure that happens." Chavis explained that has to do with rape, theft, and violence happening inside the jail. Right now the Sheriff's Office is understaffed by more than 20 employees too.
"It's very important anybody who wishes to work at the Darlington county detention center as a correctional officer must know that they have a safe place working to begin with," Chavis stated.
Another change Chavis wants to see during his term is all new uniforms. "I expect them to be wearing a class A uniform, they'll be in a duty uniform." Chavis said that is not how his staff looks right now. He said it's to help people tell the officers apart and pullovers are no longer allowed.
A couple of his goals are to help reduce two problems in Darlington County. Those are domestic violence crime and narcotics cases.
Chavis stated, "You're going to jail and we are going to prosecute you. We are going to work that case and investigate we have the solicitors office and the fourth circuit has assigned two solicitors to handle it. It's plain and simple we aren't going to tolerate it."
He said he has plans to work hand in hand with county council. Chavis said, "The Darlington County Sheriff is here for them."
Chavis is in charge of creating a citizen advisory committee. He said it is made up of county members to communicate with the Sheriff's office to help fix problems in Darlington County faster.