Rick Grover - (January 19, 2017)
Will Lewis takes command of Greenville County Sheriff's Dept.
Only nine days into his new position as Greenville County’s newly elected Sheriff, Will Lewis has already made some distinct changes to the complexity of crime fighting and citizen protection in the Upstate. Following a meeting with his trusted inner circle including Chief Deputy Eldridge, he redesigned, streamlined and reduced his command staff, and delegated the appropriate power and responsibility for each to manage their units and divisions’. This one change will serve to improve turnaround time and reduce red tape needed to make critical decisions in a timely manner. Sheriff Lewis graciously accepted our offer to interview him and highlight some of the improvements he and his capable staff will be implementing in 2017.
Sheriff Lewis, after a grueling election process, how does it feel to be sworn in as the new Greenville County Sheriff?
It’s very, very humbling to be in this position, and I’m here by God’s grace. There were five very experienced candidates running for this office, and it’s humbling beyond words that our community chose us.
Can you provide a few examples of how your administration will differ from the previous Sheriff’s approach?
The management style that we’re implementing is a Servant Leadership style, and we allow a certain amount of discretion to be used by the officers and staff members in their daily operations. I believe in a five prong approach toward our interactions with our citizens: 1) Is it legal? 2) Is it moral? 3) Is it ethical? 4) Can I justify it? 5) Is it fiscally responsible? Our job as members of law enforcement is not to fill up the jails. We can each use discretion to determine if an arrest is really necessary, or if a ticket/warning will suffice. There are certainly some laws and guidelines that require a mandatory arrest to be made, but we also understand that once in a while everybody has a bad day, and we can show a little compassion in those situations. This office is not a dictatorship, and our goal is for our leadership team to serve the men and women in each of our departments, so they can better serve and protect our community.
During your time serving in the U.S. Military, what did you learn that you’ll be applying to your new position?
I served in the U.S. Air Force as a Crew Chief on various aircraft including the C141 Starlifter, the C5A Galaxy and other large transport aircraft, and traveled around the world. Looking down on a major storm in Alaska from 6 1/2 miles in the air is still one of my best military memories! One of the critical lessons I learned during my military service, is to treat everything as a life lesson, both successes and failures, and not just the ones you make, learn from those around you too. In other words, learn from your buddy’s black eye.
Two of the larger issues in our community that you’ve spoken about previously, is the growing gang problem and also internet crimes against children. Without giving away specific tactics and methods, how can those issues be attacked and drastically reduced?
There are many well proven technology tools available on the market today that just haven’t been employed as they could be, and we’re actively pursuing some of those high-tech solutions, and hiring the necessary trained experts in those fields. We’re also expanding our relationships with other agencies across the state, and even at the federal level to improve communication and secure solutions to these problems. It’s important to emphasis though, that our focus is in our own backyard, Greenville County.
As a concerned citizen interested in helping the Sheriff’s office accomplish these goals, what can I or other members of our community do to help?
Become involved in seeing and reporting crime, especially in the case of critical time sensitive issues like Amber Alerts when a child is abducted. Open communication between citizens and officers helps to make our streets and communities much safer. The Adopt-A-Cop program is a great way for a local business, civic group, family or individual to assist new officers coming into the Sheriff’s office with the expense of their necessary safety gear like individual body armor for example.
The Mazur Foundation named after Deputy Sheriff Andrew John Mazur who was killed in the line of duty on August 17th, 2003, at the age of 24, is also a great way to donate money to assist our officers with funding programs and equipment that would normally come from tax dollars or not be provided at all. Specific programs like K-9 police dogs, or uniformed officers can be donated directly to, from the public.
The newly formed competition shooting team cannot use tax dollars for ammunition and other necessary items, but donations from the public are welcome. Simple gestures like a handshake or ‘Thank You’ to law enforcement and other first responders are very much appreciated.
Body cameras for police officers has become a national issue. How is Greenville County dealing with this issue and the incredible funding required to support and maintain the equipment and the data?
We are very fortunate in this area, because we have an incredible Information Technology department here with Lisa Adams and Dale Rice and they knew this issue was coming. As part of their fore-site, they began pre-planning and putting funding in place for servers and other necessary hardware. Most of our uniformed officers will soon be completely outfitted with new cameras, and we’re looking at grants, funding’s and the private sector to keep from going to the County for additional funding for long term maintenance of the program.
Greenville County has a ratio of officer to residents below the national average. Can that ratio be improved?
Our County Council has to balance a fine line on this issue, as meeting the national average would require significantly more taxes on the citizens, and as a resident, I sure don’t want to see the taxes go up. The Council has approved new positions for uniformed officers and our dispatch/communication department over the next two years, which is extremely helpful and appreciated. As soon as the next graduating class joins us, we’ll be almost completely staffed with only 4 vacancies.
Do you support citizens getting their Concealed Weapons Permit?
As a Constitutional Sheriff and defender of the 2nd Amendment, I absolutely support our citizens right to legally own a firearm and encourage them to obtain a permit to carry. Our Constitution is the GO-BY document for policing and if followed correctly will result in all people being treated fairly.♦
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