MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Public safety is the central debating point between candidates who want to be mayor of Myrtle Beach. Current Mayor John Rhodes and former Mayor Mark McBride sparred over the number of officers on the city's police force during Tuesday's debate on WMBF News.
"We don't have enough officers," McBride said.
"Hiring enough officers is not that simple," Mayor Rhodes replied.
Then he directed his comments to McBride, referencing McBride's desire to hire 100 officers in his first year of office.
"If you were becoming the mayor in Myrtle Beach," Rhodes said, "from the day you were sworn in in January, in one year, if you didn't have 100 new police officers on the force, would you resign the next year that day?"
McBride's response was short, but with conditions.
"Yes," he said, looking directly into the camera. "If I had the $11.5 million from the chamber."
McBride proposes using advertising money currently going to the Myrtle Beach Area Chamber of Commerce.
"If you give me the money," he said, "I will have the officers."
A WMBF News investigation found hiring 100 police officers in a single year would be unprecedented in the state of South Carolina. In fact, the addition of 40 officers in the City of Myrtle Beach from 2007 to 2016 is second only to Charleston's 62 for the largest growth of any single city police agency in the state over an entire decade.
Even if you combine growth for all 78 agencies analyzed, there is no year in the last decade that saw a total police officer increase of more than 81 officers.
WMBF News analyzed data reported to the FBI from 2007 to 2016, only taking into account agencies that reported a total officer count all ten years.
Myrtle Beach added 28 officers from 2014 to 2015, the largest reported growth for the city in a single year, before dropping two the following year.
Mount Pleasant and North Charleston both added seven officers from 2015 to 2016, the largest growth of any agency that year. Three separate years saw growth so small, no single agency reported even a double-digit increase.
The City of Columbia added 42 officers from 2010 to 2011, the largest single-year growth of any agency over the last ten years. It has lost 44 officers since then.
Orangeburg lost 12 officers over the decade, the largest net loss reported.
Florence reported the third largest net loss, down eight officers from 2007 to 2016. The agency peaked with 121 officers in 2013 and was down to 92 by 2016.