Horry County Police Chief Joseph Hill was officially sworn into office Friday morning signaling a new direction for an agency that suffered a turbulent summer marked by departures of key officials, several lawsuits and the recent indictments of four officers.
Hill pledged to listen to the community and protect residents from crime, create a more transparent agency, and protect his officers while demanding the highest quality of dedication to their profession.
“I want you to know that as your chief, I will work hard for you, I will be ethical, honest, committed, and compassionate in what I do for you and for the citizens of the county,” Hill said to an audience that included 50 law enforcement officials.
“I want you to be the best officers you can be. I want you to be the true guardians of this community, because that’s what you are,” Hill said.
“From here on out, we lead this department in an ethical and professional manner,” Hill said.
The chief’s remarks drew two standing ovations, and he was later greeted with words of encouragement from local officials and members of the community who attended the event.
In an interview with The Sun News, Hill expounded on his repeated use of the word “ethical” in his speech.
“That is what this badge stands for, ethics, fair and equal application of the law for our citizens, and I was not only addressing the Horry County officers, but law enforcement officers across the country — we’ve got to do a better job,” Hill said.
Hill also addressed the recent upheaval within the agency.
Just days before Hill began his new job, a grand jury indicted four former officers on numerous charges of misconduct in office and two officers face criminal sexual conduct charges. The indictments include former Detective Allen Large, who is the target of four lawsuits filed by women who claim he sexually harassed, and in two cases assaulted them.
Former Police Chief Saundra Rhodes stepped down in May, followed by a deputy chief that retired, and a second deputy chief who took a job in Georgetown.
“I’m not going to tolerate the stuff that was tolerated in the past, it ain’t going to happen,” Hill said.
“If you don’t want to wear this badge and wear it honorably, you can find a job somewhere down at the Circle K, because we’re just not having it,” Hill said.
Hill asked the officers in the room to stand with him as he read the oath of honor, and repeat with him the pledge never to betray their profession, integrity, character or public trust.
“The oath of officers is so important, this means something, and we cannot abuse it,” Hill said.