Guest speakers at the Municipal Association's Fall Managers Forum gave attendees some fresh perspectives on familiar issues: law enforcement hiring and training, as well as road ownership.
Jackie Swindler, director of the SC Criminal Justice Academy, drew attention to the challenges local governments face in keeping their police rosters full, stressing that cities and towns should always make sure their officers arrive at the Academy prepared for their tests.
In 2017, he said, the Academy graduated 856 people, but in the same year, 881 officers in South Carolina left the profession.
“There’s probably not an agency right now that does not have an opening. Everybody does, and some of them have a lot,” he said.
While agencies must be creative and dedicated in attracting and holding onto officers, he noted that aptitude tests and pre-academy training can help ensure that candidates will be able to pass when agencies send them to the Academy. In doing so, agencies can save time and money.
“Please, take the time on the front end, to hire well, to vet, to test them academically, to test them physically, and then send them there with a chance to do well,” Swindler said.
State Secretary of Transportation Christy Hall came with an update on the SCDOT’s transfer program, which gave local governments a chance to apply to take ownership of roads while also receiving maintenance funds to go with their new acquisition.
“It’s not a devolution or a transfer of roads without money,” she said. “It’s not a unilateral mandate. It’s not the state shedding its responsibility to local governments.”
Hall said ownership by local governments can help roads receive attention faster, and governments can pursue specific desires for the roadways they take over, such as speed humps or landscaping.
The SC Department of Transportation reached out to cities and towns through the Municipal Association earlier this year with information on the pilot program. By the deadline, 21 local governments had applied, requesting to take over a total of 293 roads. The SCDOT is now evaluating the requests and comparing the costs involved with funding available, Hall said.
She expressed hope that the program’s first year will show policymakers that local governments are willing to take over some roads as long as funding comes with them, adding that SCDOT will continue to communicate in partnership with the Municipal Association as the process moves forward.