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Elgin councilman: KCSO safety checks unlawful

Council passes resolution supporting sheriff, EPD

Posted: February 23, 2012 5:16 p.m.
Updated: February 24, 2012 5:00 a.m.

Elgin Mayor Brad Hanley called a special meeting Tuesday of Elgin Town Council in response to a YouTube video featuring Councilman Larry Risvold.

The video was taken during a breakfast meeting of a group calling itself the Cayce Mafia and features both Risvold and Jeff Mattox, the former co-chair of the Kershaw County Republican Party, discussing what they claimed are problems with the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office (KCSO) conducting traffic stops.

The Cayce Mafia has been meeting for breakfast to discuss current events since 1988, according to a 2009 Columbia City Paper article. The article referred to the group as an “unofficial think tank, with grits on the side.” Risvold said the Cayce Mafia is not a branch of the Tea Party, but a conservative group that meets each Friday to talk.

“We’re always welcome there. Usually they are talking about issues in Lexington County, but since I was there, they asked me to speak about Kershaw County,” Risvold said in a phone interview Wednesday.

Risvold said he and Mattox were not there “as a team,” but just as two concerned citizens from Kershaw County.

“I was just telling my story,” he said.

Risvold began his presentation in the video discussing a letter to the editor he submitted to the Chronicle-Independent in 2011 in response to Mattox being denounced by other public officials. In July 2011, Mattox clicked the “Like” button for a link on the Kershaw County Patriots’ Facebook page to an article entitled “When Should You Shoot a Cop.” The article’s author suggests that the next time readers hear about a cop killing to consider the possibility that the officer is the “bad guy” and the “cop killer” is the “good guy.”

“The article was not about killing cops,” Risvold told the Cayce Mafia, “It was a thought-provoking article to make you think, ‘when is enough, enough.’”

Mattox’s “Like” of the article triggered a high-alert response from the KCSO as well as the Camden and Elgin police departments and ultimately led to Mattox being ousted as co-chair of the Kershaw County Republican Party.

Risvold’s main complaint, however, was not about Mattox’s situation. It was about traffic stops he said are conducted by the KCSO.

“We have random road blocks somewhere in the county every day, called ‘safety checks,’” Risvold said. “We’re stopped for being a good citizen and not doing anything wrong. I have a problem with that.”

Risvold said he believes “safety checks” are in violation of the United States Constitution.

“What happens is your car stops, an individual officer comes up there and says, ‘Can I see your papers?’ Sound familiar? Sounds like another foreign country, doesn’t it?” Risvold asked Cayce Mafia members in the video. “The other cop walks around, peeking in the windows to see if you have anything they can arrest you for and if they can’t find anything there, then they let you go. In the meantime, you were stopped for being a good citizen and doing nothing wrong.”

Mayor Hanley said his main concern with the video is not that Risvold “has an opinion and wants to voice it,” but that he did so while representing Elgin Town Council.

“He was introduced as a councilman and he didn’t differentiate that his views are his and not that of the council’s,” Hanley said.

The resolution Hanley drafted in support of both the KCSO and EPD specifically noted that council supports “highway safety checks and other traffic enforcement activities in order to stop DUI and other traffic or criminal violations.” The resolution passed Tuesday night 4 to 1, with Risvold dissenting.

“I’m all for upholding the Constitution,” Hanley said, “but I don’t see a violation of individual rights with traffic stops. We just want to make it clear that Councilman Risvold is speaking on behalf of himself, not the council.”

Hanley said while he hasn’t asked Risvold to step down from his elected position, he “doesn’t know how effective a councilman he can be if this is his main focus.”

Risvold, who is a veteran with 28 years of service in the U.S. Marines, said he plans to continue his term as a councilman, which will be up in 2013.

“I haven’t done anything wrong, and I will continue to speak up when I feel our Constitution is being threatened,” he said.

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