After Chester Police Chief Eric Williams, Captain Travis Moore, and Lieutenant Rickey Sanders were suspended on Jan. 7, they hired employment attorney Paul Porter, who issued a statement on behalf of his clients on Tuesday.
“The Mayor (Wanda Stringfellow) had publicly called for these folks to be fired in the months and weeks leading up to their suspension, based on her own personal interest, for something wholly different,” he said. “That did not pan out so here we are.”
Stringfellow has not publicly stated why the three officers were suspended. However, S.C. State Law Enforcement Division (SLED) spokesperson Tommy Crosby confirmed his agency had received “a request to investigate the finances” of the department, and was in the process of conducting a “preliminary inquiry” based on that request.
According to Porter, the three officers were suspended based on a third-party inquiry and not a formal investigation.
In a grievance request, Porter asked to Chester city administrator Stephanie Jackson to overturn the suspensions.
“It appears to me that the Mayor – who has previously made numerous public suggestions that Chief Williams and other police officers should be terminated – has brought this all about based on her own personal animus,” Porter wrote. “It is in the best interest of City to reverse these adverse employment actions and wash its hands of this personal vendetta.”
Porter said that none of the officers have a substantial disciplinary record or performance issues that would warrant such actions.
“These guys are a bright spot in Chester government,” Porter said. “I hope for the sake of the people that the City reverses their suspensions and lets them get back to work. Personal squabbles have no place in politics or policing.”
Sources familiar with the inquiry previously told FITSNew the allegations included in the initial complaint are reportedly tied to public funds that were earmarked for one purpose but used for another, our founding editor Will Folks reported.
Chester is a small town of approximately 5,400 people located in the Interstate 77 corridor between Columbia, S.C. and Charlotte, N.C. It has seen its population decline dramatically over the past few decades, shedding an estimated 24.8 percent of its residents over the past three decades.
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The Chester police force is comprised of an estimated two dozen officers – including gang, narcotics and patrol units.
Although a small town, Chester has a high violent crime rate – including five reported murders, six reported sexual assaults and 73 aggravated assaults in 2019, according to the latest statewide crime data.
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