SPRINGFIELD – The Town of Springfield has hired a new police chief and three new officers.
Police Chief Brian H. Gray was selected to lead the Springfield Police Department, which includes newly hired officers Lt. Joshua Orth, Patrolman Jason Conley and Staff Sgt. Chris Funk.
Gray has 12 years of experience in law enforcement with the Blackville and Williston police departments and the Aiken County Sheriff’s Office. He replaces former Springfield police chief Lacra Jenkins, who resigned in July after allegations surfaced of misconduct in office while he was employed as a deputy with the OCSO. Jenkins was since been charged.
On the Springfield Police Department Facebook page, Gray wrote, “As your chief of police I pledge to protect the lives and property of the town of Springfield to the best of my ability, establish law and order (and) build a department (so) the citizens of our community will feel safe as they leave for work and lay their heads down at night."
“I am pleased with the direction in which he is taking the protection and safety of our citizens," Mayor Edward Furtick said of Gray.
All of the Springfield Police Department's new officers underwent background checks, all have associate’s degrees or bachelor’s degrees in criminal justice and all have at least a decade of experience in law enforcement, Gray said.
Orth served as a master at arms in the Navy, worked with the United States Naval Criminal Investigative Service and is a veteran officer, he said.
The new police chief said he and his officers have been sprucing up the outside and inside of the police headquarters, including painting “Springfield Police Department” above the police station entrance.
“It’s an entrance for citizens instead of just an employee entrance now,” Gray said.
“I want Springfield to be just like Mayberry (the fictional small North Carolina town in TV's “The Andy Griffith Show"). I want the citizens to be able to come to me like I am part of their family,” he added.
Gray said he believes in community policing, noting that he and his officers are getting out and talking to people in the community and communicating not only in person, but through Facebook announcements as well.
“We go to different restaurants to meet people. We go to meet people and greet people and shake hands," Orth said.
In response to recent thefts in Springfield, including a four-wheeler, Gray reported he installed cameras in key locations in the town to address the issue.
“I bought body cameras, too," the police chief said. "I want accountability not only for us, but for the citizens."
With the increase in the police force, the department is cracking down on tractor-trailers speeding through the town, Gray reported.
He has also addressed problems with hunters running dogs within the town limits.
On the department's Facebook page, Gray noted, “I'm sure you all are aware that it is hunting season, and we have a lot of complaints about hunters from out of town that like to run dogs (that) have been getting into town. We have an ordinance against hunting in the city limits.”
“ … I like to hunt like the next person, but let's be respectful of other people's land. We have also had several complaints of these hunters flying down the roads on four-wheelers," he said. "Again, from what I'm getting, this is an out of town group."
Gray added, “Day one when I took office, I contacted several close friends I have with DNR (who have) and are currently working the area very forcefully. Several (hunters) have been cited … ”
The new chief said he established contact with Orangeburg County Sheriff's Office Chief Deputy Kenneth Kinsey and told him that the OCSO can use his department as a substation when necessary and that his door is always open. He said he also set up a meeting with the Town of Salley in Aiken County to arrange a mutual aid agreement between the two towns.