Police Department Reacts to Officers' Arrests

A Low Country police department is dealing with the arrest of two of its own. Beaufort County deputies say the Bluffton officers scammed an elderly Hilton Head Island couple out of almost $5 million. Now, the ten-person police department is reeling.

In a police department with less than a dozen full-time officers, everyone gets to know each other better than you might expect. So when Lisa Cramer and Benito Reyes were arrested Wednesday in connection with a $4.5 million theft, everyone was caught off guard.

But the chief says he's committed to making sure it doesn't become a distraction that would affect how they do their jobs.

"When you're small like we are, you tend to be a family among the police department," said Chief John Brown. "So when something happens like this that you're not aware of suddenly, it's a real setback."

Chief Brown says he knew something was going on, but didn't know how bad it was until the actual arrests were made. He says it took everyone else by surprise, and the department wasn't handling it well at first.

"I had a meeting with the other officers yesterday and I've got the morale back up," he said. "We'll continue to do what we need to do."

For the most part, Bluffton's police department hasn't had to handle much of the investigation of its own officers. They've left that to the sheriff's office and the State Law Enforcement Division.

"We've been kind of stepped back, let them do what they need to do," Chief Brown said. "Assist them with anything they need."

Chief Brown says Cramer has been with the department a couple years. She's a reserve officer and is accused of actually stealing the money from a couple she was doing housekeeping for. Reyes, who's accused of taking a $15,000 check with the victim's signature, has been an officer in Bluffton for about a year.

Reported by: Chris Cowperthwaite, ccowperthwaite@wtoc.com