The South Carolina Highway Patrol (SCHP) is facing criticism for allegedly failing to properly outfit its troopers with new vehicles, uniforms and other equipment on a regular schedule – sparking fresh frustrations among rank-and-file officers.
A discussion on this subject was ginned up this week by Troopers FED UP, a Facebook group that has been exceedingly vocal in demanding new leadership at the much-maligned S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) – the umbrella agency for SCHP and several other state-level law enforcement organizations.
SCDPS’ director Leroy Smith – who was appointed to his post in 2011 by former governor Nikki Haley – has been the subject of withering (and well-deserved) criticism in recent years, including a damning 2017 report alleging that he has presided over soaring traffic fatalities, lax law enforcement, misappropriation of public funds and double standards in the administration of internal justice.
In addition to documenting numerous personnel issues at the agency, we have also filed reports showing that Smith’s response to troubling recruitment and retention issues exposed by lawmakers was to rush untrained troopers onto the job.
“Not surprisingly, such an approach has not improved public safety outcomes,” we wrote last fall.
Traffic fatalities slowed in 2017 but ticked up again last year – and are currently exceeding 2018 levels through the first six weeks of 2019, according to the latest SCDPS data.
Who is to blame?
Lawmakers certainly know who the believe should be held accountable. In the fall of 2017, they issued a vote of “no confidence” in Smith’s leadership – however current governor Henry McMaster (whose executive cabinet includes SCDPS) has allowed him to remain at his post.
Ultimately that was (is) McMaster’s call, and it clearly did not cost him at the ballot box last year.
Troopers are not happy, though … and they (and their families) are venting over the alleged consequences of Smith’s ongoing mismanagement of the agency.
“SCHP is giving out used clothing to employees,” a post on the Troopers FED UP site from earlier this week noted. “When we order new things … if you get something new it’s limited to one item a piece. Who the heck is running that joint down there?”
One member of the group – the ex-wife of a retired SCHP lieutenant and the mother of a lance corporal – lamented the sorry state of affairs at the agency when compared to previous decades.
Every year back in the day( 70s-90s) they got new uniforms, shoes, hat, boots, sweater, jacket and even had Ike jackets and a McIntosh. Those men loved their job and were highly respected. My heart aches to hear what it is like now. Praying things will change soon.
Meanwhile, a former trooper who posted on the page wrote that new vehicles were issued every 80,000 miles during his tenure in the late 1980s and early 1990s – and that new uniforms were issued twice annually. He also said troopers received Christmas bonuses.
“The (governor) does not support our troopers who risk their lives everyday to keep our roads safe,” another member of the group wrote this week.
This news outlet reached out to SCDPS’ communications office in the hopes of incorporating the agency’s perspective in our reporting but did not immediately receive a response.
To be clear: We do not take every word posted on Troopers FED UP as gospel, although the group and its members have generally been spot-on in their assessment of problems at SCDPS – and have helped us break numerous stories related to various developments within the agency.
They are a credible source, in other words … in addition to being a loud one.
For those of you keeping score at home, SCHP received $79.7 million (including $51.7 million in general funds) in the fiscal year 2018-2019 state budget. That is an 8.2 percent increase from the $73.6 million (including $44.1 million in general funds) it received five years earlier. SCDPS got $161.5 million in the most recent budget (including $91.5 million in general funds) – a 6.6 increase from the $151.4 million it got five years ago.
This news outlet will continue to keep tabs on the situation at SCDPS, always advocating for state government to adequately fund core functions such as cops and courts.
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