HORRY COUNTY, SC (WMBF) – The chief of the Horry County Police Department wants the community to know the department can be trusted while also detailing a new internal affairs system.
While Chief Joe Hill was not able to go into detail about a lawsuit in which a former HCPD employee alleged he was mistreated by his superiors after blowing the whistle on some of the wrongdoing he allegedly alerted them to, the chief did comment on how the internal affairs system works and the changes he's made to that system so far.
"You can work hard all your years, and it only takes one incident to ruin the faith the citizens have in us," Hill said.
He added this very concept is one that lives in the back of every officer's mind. That is why he understands what it means to be held accountable.
"Whether it is internal or external, folks will bring complaints to the police department," Hill said. "They can bring it to an officer, a supervisor, or directly to internal affairs. They investigate it, determine if it meets several different criteria - founded, unfound, in compliance."
An update to this system is making it much harder for alleged misconduct to go unnoticed because now it is automated.
"It's going to be an easier way to track cruiser violations, pursuits, rude and unprofessional conduct, missed assignments or use of force," Hill said.
The system will also be calling attention to specific officers.
"A red flag will go up, a report will be generated saying, 'Hey, pay attention to this officer. Make sure you get that officer some attention and some help to keep him from going down the path from either self-destruction or termination,'" Hill said.
Regarding the environment within the department, the chief said he's been trying to see the issues from the officers' perspectives.
"One of the questions I always ask them is, 'What do we do good? What do we do that's not so good? And if you were chief for a day, what changes would you make?' And you get a lot of feedback from the officers," Hill said.
Hill's goal is simple, and that's restoring and keeping the faith both within the HCPD and the community it serves.
"Culture change is a long-term process, and you've got to maintain that. So we are right in the middle of that culture change, but it will be our culture from here on out," he said.
One thing that didn't take much time for Chief Hill to see is the quality of officers within the department despite past lawsuits.
"In the short time I've been here, I've determined that they are some of the better cops I've worked with in my, you know, 35-plus years," Hill said. "And as a leader of this organization, we're not going to fail them. If issues are brought to our attention, we will address them quickly, and we don't want to violate that trust that the public has in us because that's how we function. We based on the trust the community has in law enforcement."
On the community end of building trust, Hill has introduced town hall-style meetings. The next one is Wednesday at 6 p.m. at Seaside Elementary. There, the community will be able to talk to officers face-to-face about any issues or concerns.