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County fortunate to have Matthews

Posted: February 21, 2012 10:38 a.m.
Updated: February 22, 2012 5:00 a.m.

I recently watched the YouTube video rant by a member of Elgin Town Council and a friend of his who criticized Kershaw County Sheriff Jim Matthews and his department for “doing their job.” To compare modern law enforcement to Nazis during World War II is an affront to the men and women who put their lives on the line for Kershaw County citizens.

I am a retired assistant director of SLED who has known Jim Matthews for more than 30 years. Everyone I know considers Jim to be an honorable, hard-working and professional law enforcement officer. He’s a “straight shooter” who does what is right even if it costs him.

Out of respect for Jim, I must address a couple of the issues raised by these critics.

 1. “Police state” -- The creation of a four-person traffic unit does not turn Kershaw County into a police state. Actually, in your county, the ratio of deputies to citizens is far below the national average.

2. “Only four lives saved” -- A decline in Kershaw’s DUI deaths by just one person is important and meaningful. To know the numbers have dropped by four is remarkable for year one. I would like to see the critics tell a mother or father their one child isn’t important. If I lived in Kershaw County I would want this extra protection for my family.

3. “Cooperation is bad” -- After spending 30 years in law enforcement, I find it refreshing that Jim has mutual aid agreements with the adjacent counties. If something bad happens in Kershaw County, Jim has resources available that he would not normally have and at no expense to Kershaw County. These critics make cooperation sound like some sinister plot for the federal government to take over the county. That is just plain crazy.

4. “Check points every day” -- There are clearly not traffic check points every day in Kershaw County. No one in his or her right mind would do this, especially your sheriff, who has a history of disliking traffic check points. Jim told me his department is required by a federal DUI grant to help the S.C. Highway Patrol once a month with a DUI check point. Given your county had the highest DUI rate in the state last year, I’d say a once-a-month DUI check point is a pretty good thing, regardless of who leads it.

5. “Former DEA agents are taking over our county as sheriffs” -- If you’re shaking your head in bewilderment, join the crowd. Jim is the only former DEA agent serving as sheriff in South Carolina. But if we could find more like him who are willing to serve, let’s elect them. We benefit from their experience and exceptional training.

In closing, let me say that Jim Matthews is a great American and does not deserve these unwarranted claims against him or his department. I hope the fine citizens of Kershaw County will rally around your new sheriff. When you do, you deal a powerful blow to the criminals who surely hope he fails.

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