Community members gathered Thursday evening at the Pine Lakes Country Club to honor and thank the “men and women in blue” who serve Horry County every day.
“We thought it was important that a multicultural group on the Grand Strand come together to thank you and find out how we can improve [community policing],” said the dinner’s co-chairman Bennie Swans.
Austin Cox, a street crimes officer with Myrtle Beach, said it felt amazing to be recognized by the community he serves, adding that that was not why he became an officer.
“I don’t do it for the attention,” he said. “I feel whole at the end of the day if I’ve helped a family out. Or removed a child from a bad situation.”
Cox said he thinks that over the past couple of years officers have been under a lot of scrutiny. But, he says, the mistakes and wrongdoings of some do not make up the whole of law enforcement.
“In the city we focus on community policing,” Cox, a Myrtle Beach native, said. “We get to know people. ... It’s not about arresting people and putting them in jail. It’s about improving the community and making the difference. I have a pretty large investment in this community.”
Kelvin Washington, a U.S. Marshall for South Carolina who served as keynote speaker, said it was important to have peace in the community.
“No one does more to promote peace in our community than our public safety officers,” he said. “Making peace must be more important than proving you’re right.”
The dinner comes at a time when public criticism of the police is high across the country. As nearby as North Charleston, former Patrolman Michael Thomas Slager was indicted earlier this week in the shooting death of Walter Scott, who was unarmed.
“Lately there has been extreme public scrutiny of our public safety officers,” Washington said. “I challenge you to place service above self.”
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or on Twitter @TSN_mprabhu.