MANNING - Tears of joy and sorrow were seen on many faces of the more than 250 law enforcement officers, staff members, family, friends and students at the April 19 Law Enforcement Officers' Appreciation Luncheon.
While they were there to honor …
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While they were there to honor and recognize the achievements of Yolonda C. Junious, a Victim's Advocate with Clarendon County Sheriff's Office who was named the Officer of the Year by F.E. DuBose Career Center's Law Enforcement Services Class, they were there to remember and honor the late Hayes F. Samuels Jr., who served as Clarendon County coroner and member of the Law Enforcement Services Advisory Board and died in January 2018. Those present were also there to honor the memory and career of the late Holmes N. Smith Jr., an investigator with the sheriff's office who died in the line of duty in November 2014.
"Every year, our officers sacrifice their lives to protect the citizens of this county and state," said Mahogany Green as she gave the purpose for the luncheon.
"On today, we would like to honor you, our officers, and pay tribute to those who are not here with us today," Green added. "As we light these candles, the blue candle represents the unity of officers within the 'Thin Blue Line' family. The white candle is in memory of our lost friends: Clarendon County Coroner Hayes F. Samuels Jr. and Clarendon County Sheriff's Office Investigator Holmes N. Smith Jr. As the flame on the memorial candle burns, let us offer a moment of silence for all officers who have made the ultimate sacrifice."
Clarendon County Sheriff Tim Baxley gave the program's keynote address.
"This is a wonderful thing to do for all the law enforcement here in the county," Baxley said. "I changed what I wanted to talk about today. I pray all the time So this morning I was in my office. It came to me last night. I got up this morning and was raring to go and glad to be here."
"I knew eventually that I wanted to be sheriff of Clarendon County," he added. "The Lord has blessed me. I've fulfilled many dreams I've had in law enforcement."
Baxley credited many retired officers and a few officers who had many years of law enforcement under their belts with teaching him a lot about law enforcement.
"I don't know everything," Baxley said. "I'm learning every day. I've learned from everyone out here in this audience. I don't care if you just started with me, I learn from you. I've learned from the older guys that I've worked with. I ask questions all the time."
"I don't know everything, and when you get to the point where you think you know everything then you need to retire and end your career," Baxley said to thunderous applause. "There is something to learn every day."
Baxley cited the most important three things in his administration.
"Don't run around on your spouse while you're working for me," he said. "I won't tolerate it. Keep your morals high."
Secondly, treat everyone with respect, he stressed.
"Do the right thing, and that means treat everyone with respect," he said. "Even if you're arresting them, you treat them with respect because they are somebody."
Thirdly, "come home to your family at the end of your shift," Baxley said.
Baxley shared his thoughts on truth and reality as it pertains to law enforcement "during the old days" and now.
"The truth during the old days, law enforcement was a noble profession," he said. "Today, some don't respect us. A few bad apples have impacted all of us."
Truth - Drugs are prevalent, particularly opioids, a class of drugs including heroin, fentanyl, oxycodone, Vicodin, codeine, morphine and many more usually prescribed to treat pain, central nervous system problems, depression, anxiety and attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder.
Baxley said his deputies are currently carrying NARCAN, a drug used to block the effectiveness of opioids, so they can help save lives. Many of the drug addicts are aware the deputies have NARCAN, and deputies are making repeat trips to them because they know the deputies have the drug.
Baxley said it's like riding a Ferris wheel.
"We've already had to administer five doses since we got it," Baxley added.
He also told the audience that while he was on his way to the luncheon he received word that another person had probably overdosed on opioids.
Baxley applauded Sen. Kevin Johnson's stance on keeping marijuana illegal in South Carolina.
"Shake the hand of Johnson," Baxley urged. "Say thank you. He stood up against it."
Baxley said that Johnson went so far as to say that until law enforcement approves the use of marijuana, he will continue to fight it.
"Those are strong words," Baxley said.
Truth - Schools and churches are the targets of domestic terrorism.
Reality - Today, more school resource officers are needed.
Baxley said that churches are now paying off-duty officers to work their church services.
Baxley said that law enforcement is revamping its manner of response to school and church shootings because of the shootings in Texas and Florida.
"First in and last out didn't happen in Florida," he said, shaking his head. "You took an oath to put yourself in harm's way because of them. You took that oath, and by saying that you said 'I'll take a bullet for you.' That's truly what you said. We have to uphold that."
Baxley also blamed the media for not always printing the facts.
"What usually happens is not what we usually see," he said. "Bad news is what they want to share because it sells."
Baxley also credited the social media for getting inaccurate information out there and allowing that information to "roll."
Baxley stressed the use of car and body cameras by all forms of law enforcement.
"That's the way that we can tell our side," he said. "It's the truth."
Baxley also stressed the need for training.
"Thirty-nine officers have been killed in the line of duty in the United States," he said. "Two were in South Carolina."
Of the 39 deaths, 38 were male with one female. Twenty of the deaths were because of gunfire and 10 because of vehicle accidents. The average tour of duty for the 39 people was 11 years.
Baxley said that since taking office he's implemented an agility course and requires all deputies to utilize it.
"I was out there with them taking the agility course," he said. "I don't require anything of them that I'm not prepared to do."
On the issue of firearms, Baxley said firearms are tools in the right hands.
Since taking office, Baxley said he's hired 11 new uncertified officers, and it will take up to one year to get them into the academy. There are positions that you need seasoned law enforcement officers to help them along.
"I am blessed to be the sheriff of this county," Baxley added. "I don't take that for granted. I uphold it every day. I am there. I enjoy so much working with all agencies in this room. I enjoy working with them because we are all the same."
Baxley told the students in the audience that the truth is a career in law enforcement is "a very tough career in today's world, but it's still a good career."
"The reality is that every one of us that is in here now can do the right thing," Baxley said. "We can treat people fairly. We can serve and protect like we promised we'd do, and we will regain the nobility of being a law enforcement officer."
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