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Bethune residents upset at lack of police protection

Posted: May 10, 2013 7:24 p.m.
Updated: May 13, 2013 5:00 a.m.

Thursday evening’s Bethune Town Council meeting became a platform for concerned citizens to express their discontent with the council’s decision to dissolve the Bethune Police Department (BPD).

“There was no discussion,” Bethune resident Tanya Eubanks said. “This is a really big decision that affects everyone.”

Bethune residents said council’s decision to not hire another police officer after the death of the former officer was not made in public view. They said that they found out about it only after reading an article in the Chronicle-Independent.

“I read about it in the paper. I wish I had heard it from you,” resident John Fulmer told council members.

Both Eubanks and Fulmer took the opportunity to voice their opinions during council’s public forum. Bethune resident Herman Newman, however, tried to speak after Mayor Carlisle Davis asked council members if there was any new business to discuss.

“I have new business,” Newman began, “Where’s the ordinance that says that I have to sign up before in order to speak? I want to see a copy of this ordinance.”

Davis told Newman that there isn’t an actual ordinance and that they followed the guidelines that the Kershaw County Board of School Trustees uses for its meetings.

“All I can tell you is that you’re out of order and if you want to speak you can’t speak,” Davis said.

“Do you have an ordinance that says that I cannot speak in a town council meeting? If you don’t have one then what’s the authority to denying me to talk? What’s the authority?” Newman demanded.

“My authority,” Davis answered.

According to Newman, Councilwoman Gayle Beasley told him he didn’t have to sign up prior to a meeting in order to speak. Bethune residents Chover Baskins and Cooper Seegers said they heard the conversation between Newman and Beasley take place.

Newman said all he wants to know is why there is no police protection and who made that decision.

“How can a mayor interrupt the democratic process?” Newman asked. “I don’t stand behind some piece of paper.”

Council members have said the reason behind dissolving the BPD was due to a lack of funding and must now rely on services from the Kershaw County Sheriff’s Office.

“I don’t understand why all of a sudden there’s no money there,” Eubanks said.

Newman also said he doesn’t understand why after Bethune Police Chief Larry Davis, Mayor Davis’ brother, passed away in 2012, there was no longer money to support the BPD.

“We’ve had a policeman here since I’ve lived here,” Baskins said, “and I’ve been here 55 years.”

The issue of sheriff’s deputies being responsible for Bethune’s safety also troubled citizens mainly due to the distance.

“Do you know how long it takes an officer to get out here? They told us it would take about 45 minutes for the sheriff’s office to respond to a call from here,” Newman said. “And what about all those little old ladies? Who’s going to protect them?”

Newman claimed it’s “a family thing” in reference to how Bethune Town Council operates.

“It’s time for some new leadership,” he said.

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