For the better part of the last three years, Palmetto political observers have wondered when scandal-scarred South Carolina Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) leader Leroy Smith would receive his walking papers.
According to our sources, he finally got them this week …
Smith announced on Tuesday morning that he would not be reappointed to his post by S.C. governor Henry McMaster next year – signaling the end of an eight-year tenure marred by a host of scandals and atrocious outcomes.
McMaster will choose a new director of SCDPS in the coming months ahead of Smith’s term ending next February. His appointment will be subject to the advice and consent of the S.C. Senate.
“My goals were to continue a strong tradition of public safety; establish and build partnerships; and create cohesiveness within our agency to help us move toward a safer South Carolina,” Smith wrote in a farewell message to SCDPS employees. “I am so proud of all that we accomplished together, and I cannot say enough about the men and women who comprise this great agency – both current and retired. Your tireless commitment and passion to serve the state and its visitors have been truly inspiring.”
What was accomplished, though?
In the spring of 2017, state lawmakers issued a damning report alleging that Smith – who was appointed to his post in 2011 by former governor Nikki Haley – had presided over soaring traffic fatalities, lax law enforcement, misappropriation of public funds and double standards in the administration of internal justice.
Allegations of reverse racism (a.k.a. racism) were also leveled at Smith – although he claimed in his farewell message that SCDPS “ensured fairness and equity in hiring practices” during his tenure.
A group of fourteen lawmakers wrote a letter to McMaster in late 2017 informing him they had “no confidence” in Smith’s leadership of the agency and its most visible subsidiary, the S.C. Highway Patrol (SCHP) – which continues to suffer from severe shortages under his tenure.
“The dedicated men and women of the Highway Patrol, deserve better,” the lawmakers wrote in their letter to the governor.
We concurred with that assessment …
(Click to view)
McMaster did not respond, though … choosing to leave Smith at his post.
Earlier this year another scandal rocked SCDPS – this one involving allegations of preferential treatment involving the 2014 arrest of a prominent supporter of Clemson University. One of the SCHP leaders involved in that scandal was allowed to retire from the agency last month and controversially managed to avoid criminal charges in connection with the alleged uneven administration of justice. Curiously, Smith promoted the officer at the heart of the scandal two years ago.
Smith also drew criticism earlier this year for attempting to create a needlessly duplicative helicopter program at SCDPS – a decision he later rescinded. Troopers were especially miffed over this attempted misappropriation given the crucial shortages of manpower and resources at the agency.
Our real issue with Smith, though, has always revolved around the shortages of troopers – which have materially impacted public safety.
We first began reporting on the alarming shortage of SCHP troopers on Palmetto roadways back in late 2016. In the fall of 2017, we published a follow-up report on ill-conceived efforts by leaders at the S.C. Department of Public Safety (SCDPS) to address these shortages – notably by rushing troopers onto the job without adequate training.
“These trooper shortages constitute an unconscionable neglect of a core government function,” we wrote back in October of 2017.
Back in April, we published another report detailing how these trooper shortages had escalated despite tens of millions of taxpayer dollars being spent on training new trooper classes over the past seven years.
“There are supposed to be at least 1,200 troopers on South Carolina highways at any given time,” we noted. “Sadly, the Palmetto State is nowhere near that optimum staffing level … and is in fact continuing to lose ground.”
Hopefully new leadership at SCDPS will result in better prioritization of resources …
WANNA SOUND OFF?
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