“We need advice. We need help. We need to get the message out, especially because we’re concerned about Orangeburg County,” Sheriff Leroy Ravenell said to a small group of ministers last week.
“We need to start this conversation and that’s why we’re here today.”
He spoke at a Faith & Blue gathering held at Good Shepherd Community Ministries in Orangeburg. Some members of Ravenell’s command staff were also present.
“People think we are counselors – not only people, lawmakers, they think we’re counselors. We have to counsel people, we have to police, we have to do everything,” Ravenell said.
Ravenell told the ministers that “the training academy doesn’t have a budget. How can that be?”
According to S.C. state law, the S.C. Criminal Justice Academy is funded as a special purpose district. Ravenell noted that when payments from tickets are collected, a portion goes to the academy for the training of law enforcement officers.
“We have one of the best training academies in the country because we have a good director, but is that fair to him or fair to us? It’s not,” he said.
“This is where we start. We’ve got to do better. We have to,” he added.
He also stated, “I’ll be the first to tell you we’re not perfect and I’ll be the first to tell you we’re not doing everything right.”
Law enforcement is not a profession for people who just need a job, Ravenell said.
“The reason there are bad officers is because they’re in law enforcement not because they want to help people, they’re in law enforcement because they needed a job and they knew somebody would hire them,” he said.
The Rev. James Rowson Jr., pastor of Kingdom Life Ministries, asked about ongoing psychological evaluations for deputies.
Sheriff’s Office Capt. Randy Culler stated that there aren’t any ongoing psychological evaluations for deputies.
Applicants undergo psychological evaluations once they are selected for the job.
“If it’s not passed, then they’re not hired,” Culler said.
“That’s what’s scary to me,” Rowson said. “That’s what brings concerns to me.”
While a deputy may have passed a psychological evaluation upon his or her hiring, the deputy’s life may change as life goes on, he said.
Rowson mentioned that a deputy may have struggles at home that may cause the deputy to handle work-related stressful situations differently.
“I just wish there was something that was ongoing, even if things were going good” for deputies, Rowson said.
Sheriff’s Office Victim Services Director Chandra McPherson-Gibbs said that some law enforcement agencies across the nation are hoping to hire therapists, but that costs additional funds.
Ravenell also noted that the majority of law enforcement officers who commit suicide do so after they retire.
The Feast of the Lord Assistant Pastor Hayward Jean, who is the Orangeburg County School District director of Student Services, expressed an additional concern.
“Newspapers write more about teenagers committing acts of violence than acts of kindness,” Jean said.
He recommended that more youth play advisory roles to the sheriff’s office.
Ravenell noted that he’d like for the school resource officers throughout the county to be able to teach classes at the schools they serve.
“We have to accept that we’re parents,” Ravenell said.
Both the sheriff’s office and ministers agreed that discussions will continue between them. The next meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Contact the writer: email@example.com or 803-533-5545. Follow on Twitter: @MRBrownTandD.
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