Lowcountry deputies partner with security guards

Lowcountry deputies partner with security guards

BEAUFORT COUNTY, S.C. (WTOC) - A Fripp Island security guard was involved in a deadly shooting. WTOC reported the story back in October.

The case remains under investigation.

The shooting sparked many questions including why Beaufort County dispatched the security guard to that domestic violence call. In the end, a man with a gun ended up dead.

The WTOC Investigative Team wanted to learn more about armed security guards in South Carolina and the relationship they have with the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office.

WTOC’s Amanda Aguilar found out that security guards answer calls often and they must meet certain expectations to hold the job.

Beaufort County covers almost a thousand square miles. This includes several islands with gated communities.

When it comes to protecting and serving, time is of the essence for Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. With a little extra assistance, the sheriff’s office has been able to do just that, even for those farther out in the county.

While they may not look like a regular law enforcement officer, a private security officer’s role remains the same.

“Protect lives, protect property,” Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office Maj. Bob Bromage said.

The Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office has worked with private unarmed and armed security officers for decades, mostly when responding to calls on the islands.

“The first responders and the first ones there will be private security, while we are on the way,” said Maj. Bromage.

He added that the sheriff’s office doesn’t see the partnership ending anytime soon.

“Quite frankly, they’re very helpful,” he said. “Activated alarm calls, whether it be an alarm at a residence or business within that community, they can get there fast and secure the scene and determine whether we need to respond or not.”

At Harbour Island, Chief Lonnie Golden said it’s common for his unarmed officers to get dispatched by the sheriff’s office to medical calls.

“We’ll follow them and we assist. We stand back, they do their job, and we keep onlookers away and take notes so they can do their job,” Chief Golden said.

It’s also common for these security officers to respond to dangerous situations, such as domestic violence or homicide calls.

Security officers don’t share the same powers as law enforcement officers in the Palmetto State, according to Maj. Bromage.

“They don’t have the investigative authority, if it’s a criminal offense, then we or a municipality, police department, would have to step in and take over at that point,” he said.

However, security officers are required, by law, to be trained and certified.

“South Carolina Law Enforcement guidelines, for a basic security officer, unarmed, is a four-hour class. That four-hour class, basically, is just the license that individual is a class 1 officer,” former SLED certified security instructor, Charles Huggins said.

Huggins worked for the South Carolina State Law Enforcement Division, or SLED, for 22 years as an instructor. SLED regulates and certifies security officers in South Carolina.

He said an additional eight-hour class is required for armed officers, which includes firearm training and certification.

“We cover the less than lethal force, lethal force, as far as when to actually shoot and when not to shoot,” said Huggins.

According to SLED’s Primary Plus Training manual, posted on its website, use of deadly force by a private security officer is, “authorized only to defend himself, herself or another person against loss of life or serious injury at the hands of another.”

Maj. Bromage said: “Private security, within these communities, arrive to, sometimes, very dangerous situations and have the right to protect themselves and others at that scene.”

Crime happens everywhere, which is why the sheriff’s office believes the partnership with private security companies has been beneficial.

“It’s very important to get somebody there quick in a lot of these cases, whether it be a domestic situation, violence, to get somebody on scene to try to secure that area, whether it be for emergency medical services or until we get there to assume the investigation,” said Bromage.

According to the sheriff’s office, these private security officers are not employed by the Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office. They are hired by private security companies, which again, are regulated by SLED.

According to Beaufort County Sheriff’s Office, there are no plans to add substations on the islands. However, deputies patrol the communities throughout the day.

Dispatch takes hundreds of thousands of calls annually, the sheriff’s office said security officers respond to only about one-percent of those calls.

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