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SLED probe of Horry police a concern for council chairman

Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes (right) speaks at a news conference in February 2014.
Horry County Police Chief Saundra Rhodes (right) speaks at a news conference in February 2014. MyrtleBeach

Horry County Council Chairman Mark Lazarus says he’s concerned about the ongoing investigation by state law enforcement officials into the county police department, but did not say whether it prompted the sudden resignation this week of Chief Saundra Rhodes.

“From her standpoint, I don’t know the reasoning,” Lazarus said Thursday. “After 23 years, she turned in her resignation and retirement — she’s ready to take retirement and seek other opportunities and we wish her well.”

Rhodes announced Monday she was retiring but did not state a reason. Her decision to step down comes in the midst of an investigation by the South Carolina Law Enforcement Division (SLED) of individuals within the department, and a lawsuit alleging that a detective sexually assaulted a rape victim.

One detective was dismissed in July on charges of sexual harassment, but police and county officials refuse to say whether it is the same unnamed detective that is the target of the lawsuit or one of the individuals under investigation by state law enforcement.

It’s very concerning when you have a police department the size that we do and things like that are happening, we’re very concerned.

Mark Lazarus, chairman, Horry County Council

“It’s very concerning when you have a police department the size that we do and things like that are happening, we’re very concerned,” Lazarus said. “But it’s out of our hands, it’s in other law enforcement hands.”

“When the report comes back from the SLED investigation, hopefully (the findings) are not too serious,” Lazarus said. “And if they are, we will take appropriate actions that we need to take as a county and make sure it doesn’t happen again.”

Lazarus said he did not know how much money Rhodes will be paid in retirement funds, but that the details would soon be released by county officials.

The department is also the target of a second lawsuit filed April 15 that accuses an unnamed officer of concluding that another rape case was unfounded. No arrest was made until March, three years after the crime was committed. That arrest resulted from the review of cases handled after the lawsuit accusing a detective of raping a victim was filed in December.

Rhodes worked for the Horry County Police Department since 1993 in several ranks from sergeant to lieutenant to captain, and began her career as an undercover narcotics agent. She was appointed to the chief position in 2012, replacing Johnny Morgan who was named chief in 2004.

Audrey Hudson: 843-444-1765, @AudreyHudson

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